Despite the Obstacles My Family’s Philippines Perseveres 

Rosario Green

© Copyright 2024 by Rosario Green

Photo by Umesh Soni on Unsplash
Photo by Umesh Soni on Unsplash
Let me offer a little personal history. I come from the poorest of families where we lived in a rural town in the Philippines called Dumalag. I have 11 sisters and brothers which sure made it more difficult for us to get by.

Because we had such a large family, we struggled to meet the most basic needs, such as clothing, food, and shelter. Some days we didn’t eat at all, or subsisted only on rice. All the older children in our family had to quit school for one or more years to help take care of our younger siblings while our parents worked.

One of my sisters had to interrupt going to college for five years to help our family. When she resumed her education, it was very difficult for her to reacclimate to studying and passing exams and she almost dropped out of college for good. But she persisted and received her college degree and became a successful accountant.

I’ve always been aware that my parents had progressive views when it came to their children and preparing them for their future occupations.

My parents allowed us the most precious of things--education. That was one of the best gifts they could give us. Education was not a gift coming in a gilded box complete with wrapper and ribbons, but a gift allowing us to have a better future.

Despite their hardships, I’m very proud of how my mother taught us to be honest, strong, hardworking, and loyal to our job. She worked as a housekeeper from Monday to Sunday where she left home every day at 5:30 a.m. and didn’t arrive back until after 8 at night.

My father drilled in us the importance to be patient, honest, resilient, and to have a love for education as the means to a better life, even as he was a farmer who toiled in the fields every day where the temperature outside often reached 95 degrees or more. My parents guided us, not merely by words, but by the example of their own hard manual labor striving to give all their children a better life.

My siblings and I had to contribute too by working in the rice, sugar cane, and corn fields for us to grow the basic staples of food. We also had to do our own part-time housekeeping jobs.

While going to college, my older siblings worked housekeeping jobs in Manila, the capital of the Philippines, 200 miles away from our hometown. Everyone did their share to survive and go to school.

This next part of my story might come off as funny, or as morbid humor to show how my family tried to make ends meet. Sometimes I paid our tuition fees for school with coins or change made from my father’s earnings from the Filipino “tuba” (a word from the Philippine Visayan dialect which means the liquor from the coconut tree) and put it in the “alkansiya” (piggy bank), made of bamboo. He kept the piggy bank atop the coconut tree that he climbed every morning and afternoon to gather the tuba.

In discussing my family’s challenging situation, another story I remember from my childhood reached almost depressing-comical depths involving my interest in playing volleyball with other kids my age. This occurred when my uncle retrieved some sneakers from the trash can because he didn’t have the money to pay for a new pair. He proceeded to paint them white because that was the color the sneakers were required to have in order for me to join my elementary school’s volleyball team.

I promised my mother when I was in my third year of high school that I would help uplift our family from poverty. I promised her this, not because I was embarrassed to be poor, but because my mother didn’t have the chance to enjoy us, her children. She was always working for somebody else’s family.

It was as if she didn’t know her own kids. I used to see my mother hugging and holding the children of her employer and even now, I still remember feeling sad and confused and asking why my mother seemed so happy holding and taking care of them and not us.

I made this pact with myself that someday my parents would enjoy and spoil their own grandchildren. I would give my parents the opportunity to experience the happiness of being parents through their grandchildren because it was too late for them to be caring parents of their own grown children.

I don’t pray to a higher power to give me a great job and to be rich and famous, but to give me strength and guidance to earn a living so I can send my younger nieces and nephews to school. I want them to experience what I have experienced in earning a college degree and getting a good job.

In spite of the worst external circumstances that we in the Philippines have been forced to experience--war, famine, abuse, societal collapse, natural disasters, ecological devastation, and to quote what someone once called “the soft bigotry of low expectations”--human beings can get through anything as long as we’re all in this together. As Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, declared, “We must all hang together, or most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.”

Whenever I travel from America where I now live to visit my family in the Philippines, I encounter the trees with green leaves and flowers blooming all over the country. I believe that the recovery process, after the Philippines is regularly hit with natural disasters such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, landslides, deadly flash floods and typhoons, surely becomes successful because of everyone’s effort to pitch in to make the best of the situation.

It only proves the theory that the smallest help counts. If I can cite a metaphor, it’s the image that if everyone will light even a little candle, the whole world will be brighter.

Rosario Green was an elementary school teacher in the Philippines. She now works as an administrative assistant for an insurance company in Washington, D.C.

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