Saturday, 22 December 2012

The Philippines

Has anyone been to the Philippines? I haven't. When Frank Williams (Xlibris) called me yesterday, he asked whether I have been to the Philippines. I said no and never will. He was probably startled and asked why. I replied I was intimidated.

I remember as a child, we used to get Sunday Times and inside was a magazine. I used to read the magazines because I couldn't read the big newspaper - I couldn't connect with news. One fine Sunday, this magazine featured a Filipino delicacy called manoq (or some other spelling). The photograph that I saw was manoq being sold at a marketplace, and people squatted to eat manoq. A close-up showed the nature of manoq. What is manoq? Manoq is a fertilzed hen's egg when the growing chicken had reached full term or almost that. That eggs are actually rotten but they are eaten as a delicacy, right there at the marketplace. I couldn't accept people eating manoq and I went to ask my mother who was cooking in the kitchen. I don't remember what I asked her. But manoq stirred me alot, so much so that it angered me (as a child).

Many years after that manoq incidence, I read about jai alai, a Filipino bat-and-ball game that I had never tried. The glove is made of rattan and fitted over the hand as a long extension, much like an elephant's trunk. It made me wonder why people needed to extend their hands while they can just catch the fast ball with their hands. That question was never answered.

My Malacca friend Mohaini's brother got married to a Filipino lady and I had the chance to meet her after the wedding, at a birthday party. She was great and asked us to make animal sounds - I had to make an elephant sound. When I studied at the University of California, Riverside, I met 2 Filipinos. They were fine as friends. Rizal was in business studies, and Rufina was in another study. Maria was another Filipino lady who came to work at USM as a lecturer and was my colleague. We shared our research on brain trauma. The Filipinos I met were fine. They resembled the Malay people in appearance but they spoke English with a thick Filipino accent. I also met some Filipino singers at a hotel in Kuala Lumpur/Penang and they sang fine. My late mother said Filipinos are great as singers. I have no doubt about that after listening to Soliano and also Lea Salonga.

The 3rd DG Tan Sri Dr Raja Ahmad Noordin had served in the United Nations office in Manila after he retired. He wrote about the community transformation that happened when he was there and he had brought back those concepts to have them repeated at Kuala Langat, and that worked out fine. My impression then was the Philippines was more advanced than Malaysia on community and health matters.

Volcanic eruptions, presidential turmoils, and rising poverty are recurring events in the Philippines. It is these that held me back from visiting the Philippines. I looked through some YouTube videos of the state of poverty of the Filipino people where children waited for leftover food from fast food chains - as dinner. That was the last straw I could take. I'm not going to the Philippines if the Filipino children have to eat from waste bins.

I was talking to some people about the plight and poverty of the Filipino children at the slums and graves, and consuming such "food" from waste bins. Nobody can tell me what we can do to help. We are the same race but divided by culture, traditions, beliefs, faith, and by distance. Did the colonials robbed the Filipinos? Now the US uses the Philippines for air base. We all know the USA is a first world nation (very rich). Why aren't anyone helping to get rid of the slums and feed the poor children and the homeless?

What is wrong with today's uncaring society? Don't they have eyes and hearts? Don't they have feelings for other people, not even for kids? I still cannot understand extreme poverty in southeast Asia. We are free nations but we cannot live without poverty. I don't understand why we want to keep poverty. I still think the rich nations must help the poor kids and not just rob their parents and their nations. It will be lovely to see happy kids smiling in their own homelands and not have to go abroad to find a means of survival. It will be a dream if all kids can be happy. I want to see happy kids.