[ Note : Vin is a thinly disguised nickname for one of the few Kiwis I know in the Land of the Long White Cloud. He is uniquely positioned, for he has been NZ-based most of his life, but he has been to the Philippines twice, and has known both its curses and blessings, unburdened by the homegrown praises and insults of its brown sons and daughters. ]
Dear Vin :
I say this with no small amount of karma awareness. I know how temporary my stay is here, literally. I realize that no matter how long I’ve been here in your beautiful country, I will never acquire a vested or inalienable right to keeping feet planted on New Zealand ground, as long as I persist in relying on my work visa.
At the same time, I have acquired familiarity with your country deserved by many of its permanent residents, a status I hope to one day reach.
But because I have stayed away from my homeland for more than two years, I have failed to see the small yet significant changes that have taken over the Islands. It had to take someone like you with fresh eyes to show me how long I’ve been away and how much I have come to appreciate the creature comforts taken for granted in Wellington.
At first I didn’t believe you when you said that your first trip back home, you hardly saw the sun and almost never saw blue sky the time you were there. How wrong I was. I saw more sun and blue sky in Wellington in one week than in all four weeks I was in Metro Manila, and despite the different months of our respective stays, it is no coincidence.
The truth is I had seen many sunless, cloudy and makulimlim days in previous vacations to the Philippines, but I based such occurrence on the weather. I now know better. There is a permanent miasma of carbon monoxide, particulates, and industrial strength pollutants, better known as smog, right on top of the metropolis. For the same reason, you no longer enjoy seeing stars at night, but the effect is more dramatic during daytime.
It wouldn’t be so bad if it had always been like this, a world of half-shadows, not-quite-sunny days and playing hide-and-seek with the sun. But the latter has always smiled on the Philippines, and we have always had an abundance of sunshine year-round, 24/7 every day of the year. Something like this, not seeing the sun when you open your window and come out the door, is a bit disorienting. And we have only ourselves to blame.
And I don’t know if this is related to the weather, but it’s even more humid now. The same smog that blocks the sun also keeps the air uncomfortably heavy , builds more greenhouse gases, encourages people to use air conditioning, which in turn burdens the air more with CFCs, and it’s a vicious cycle. Most OFWs like me come home and stay in rarefied, air-conditioned condotel rooms so it doesn’t matter much, but for the rest of Pinoys, especially those who can’t afford it, the only recourse is to seek temporary relief at the malls.
I actually deliberated between braving the clean cold air of New Zealand and the tainted warm air of the Philippines, and I’m ashamed to tell you my choice. At least there is still a lesson to be learned, and it is the fact that you can still avoid the fate met by my country.
The rich will continue to be richer, and the poor will continue to be poorer, but this happens whether you are in New Zealand or in the Philippines. What is irreplaceable is the purity of your food and water, the rivers you bathe in, and the air you breathe. It is probably too late now for the country of my birth, but definitely not so in New Zealand. For now it remains liveable, drinkable, edible and breathable. You would do well to keep it that way.
Save your country my Kiwi friend, precious little time remains.
- belated happy birthday Evelyn Cheng ! (ylbnoel.wordpress.com)
- NZ a better place thanks to the internet – report (stuff.co.nz)
- sorry Mr/Ms OFW but do not pass GO unless we COLLECT P2500 (ylbnoel.wordpress.com)
- on my last day as balikbayan: tips & tricks for the next time (ylbnoel.wordpress.com)
- Further immigration outsourcing considered (stuff.co.nz)
- why Mimi & Jarvis Laurilla and the KASAGIP Charitable Trust are my favorite kinoys* (ylbnoel.wordpress.com)