The Provincial Mind

Maintaining my blog updates are a chore to say the least. Tropical diseases aside, the provincial mindset has taken a hold of me and my enthusiasm for such things has dwindled to a standstill. I suppose I should elaborate on what I mean by ‘provincial mindset’. This is a difficult task to undertake without sounding demeaning but I’ll explain it in the standard stereotypical and ‘matter of fact’ sense. Being condescending is not the writing at hand and one should keep in mind that I have chosen to live here for the better part of a year now.

My first introduction to the provincial mindset was not via personal experience. It was an indirect introduction that came to me through the words and attitudes of my now ex-father-in-law [a Filipino]. He did not speak of the provinces often (usually in reference to his wife’s family) but when he did speak of the provinces, you could sense the exasperation and disgust that he possessed for these barangays buried in the boondocks. I would find myself here many months before I fully understood his sentiments. When I allowed myself to become poor here it was then that I fully understood his perspective.

Through no fault of their own, most Filipinos here are born into a life poverty and, if the cycle of their forefathers continues, they will die paupers. They seldom travel off their native island and, by virtue of the same poverty, they will never be educated beyond the basic primitive necessities that they have. Their occupations will consist of farming, gardening, carpentry, managing small amounts of livestock, domestic help, and tricycle driving. The fortunate ones will be able to afford a small motorcycle. Honest labor aside, many are quick to point out that the only riches to be made here are via one of the three famous Lords: The war lords, the drug lords, and the ever growing ‘Praise the Lords’ (aka churches).

While the standard fight for survival is hard enough, adding insult to the injury of poverty is the huge amount of corruption. Though it irritates the hell out of me, I somewhat understand the advantages that people try and take of me, an unwitting foreigner. What I don’t understand is the oppression that Filipino’s continue to show their own kindred. The local government oppresses the people with a myriad of abusive fees and taxes and the people in turn will manipulate their own pricing were they can so they themselves can stay afloat. Understand that when I say ‘manipulate’ I mean it in the sense of absolute corruption and bribery; not the standard price inflation that is everywhere offset by asking for a discount!

Allow me to insert a gentle reminder here that I’m not labeling the Filipino nation as being all robbers and thieves but what I’m highlighting here is absolutely commonplace and practice. I have many honest friends and only the honest get my business. It is the honest people that make this nation all the good that it is. But moving on….

With the heavy hand of poverty here weighted down by corruption and Government influence, the vast majority here will never make it to college. Those who do make it to college [here in the provinces] will suffer what can only be referred to as a ‘third world’ education. Thus the vicious cycle continues: Poor education = poverty; poverty = poor education. It has become an almost endless loop.

I should also take a moment here to define poverty as I can easily state that most Americans are clueless on the concept. In America, poverty means you can’t pay your mortgage, your SUV is probably behind in payments [maybe repossessed] and you don’t get to eat out. In truly horrible circumstances, you suffer the shame of having to use your welfare card at the grocery stores (although many Americans have made that a way of life). In the Philippines, poverty means you have dirt for a floor, your tin-metal roof probably leaks down the rotting bamboo walls and the only food you have is what you can find growing in your yard (you hope to God it’s rainy season and things are growing). Poverty here also means no medical care. The hospital here will watch you die at their door steps if you can’t go across the street to get the medicine they need and that debilitating disease you have will slowly rot you into a corpse because you can not afford the 300% markup that the pharmacies will charge [on a per-pill basis mind you].

Yes, being a provincial Filipino is a hard thing! But an even worse disaster than the harshness of poverty and corruption is the destruction of hope and enthusiasm. ‘Bahala na’ [whatever happens…] has become more than a cliche, it has become a way of life for many. In some aspects, you can’t blame the people. Who can worry about lofty hopes and aspirations when you don’t have any rice to feed your four children? What so many have failed to recognize is the necessity of that hope, that enthusiasm and the pursuits of the education needed to make a better life and it is that absence of hope and enthusiasm that my ex-father-in-law abhorred so much. He abhorred not the fact that so many people live a pauperish, dirty and unsanitary lifestyle but he abhorred the fact that they were contented with it.

I can’t help but recall the opening statements of Proverbs 1:22 – How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity?

The negative influence here is subtle but powerful. First you lose track of time by replacing the hours and minutes of the day with blocks of time based on the weather [can’t take that motorcycle-taxi to town when it’s raining]. Before long, you are thinking in terms of the season (wet or dry) and you’ve grown accustomed to the crowds at the local chengue spending their time in nothing more than cards or conversation because they have no work.

Sometimes I have to shake off the provincial mindset and remember that the world is much bigger than Panay island and you can accomplish any goal you set. Sadly, my greatest link to that reality is the internet and even that link has been shaken lately as Globe Telecom continues to muck up their service [This weeks fiasco: Sorry, you cannot have SUPERSURF with your other current registrations. You will need to stop your current promos to register to SUPERSURF when I have no current registrations!]. Mentioning the incompetence of Globe Telecom has nothing to do with my article at hand but I felt the need to vent. Back to my point….

As human beings, all we have is hope. Should we find ourselves so fortunate to obtain that hope then it becomes our self-obligation to pursue that which is even greater. We never stop hoping and we never stop working for that hope. The minute we stop, we’re dead and the provincial mindset owns us.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *