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An Interjection

On Knowing the True Taste of Water

"You may know that I believe it takes a village to raise a child. Well sometimes it takes a volunteer to raise up that village- to give that village a feeling of what is possible." Hilary Clinton

It also takes a little free will of a volunteer to illustrate how caring and sharing could evolve into action. The mere presence of a volunteer, I believe is a way of giving partners not only a feeling of what is possible but also the positive thought of yes, we can do it. I always believe in the value of volunteers who opted to do something even if it is only quantified to be a little. Edmund Burke once said: nobody makes a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little." This was my inspiration and I didnt want to commit that greatest mistake because I fear to help for I only have a little to share. The little thing that I shared has resulted to a life changing experience, when I came to know the true taste of a water. In 2006, a year after I came back from my volunteer work in Pakistan, I was sitting in my office after a frugal lunch when suddenly I felt an abdominal pain.

In the past three days I have been busy assisting street children for their health needs. As a social worker, I look for different medical institutions which can provide free medical check-ups for these homeless kids in Kalaw St. and Luneta Park. The pain gradually progressed in the evening and I started to suffer from a fever. The result of my laboratory the next day suggested that my liver is inflamed. My SGPT is raised above 50, indicative of a liver disease. My terrible condition has brought me back to my memories of a Pakistani boy who taught me one important lesson of kindness and love. I vividly remember my encounter with Asad Muneer who I met in one of the sweetshops I visited in Sialkot District. In my way to Sambrial, a village in Sialkot, I could smell an acrid odor coming from the factories. Sialkot District of South Punjab is considered the export doorway of Pakistan for leather, sporting goods, surgical instruments etc. That day was my schedule to visit the various shops for surgical instruments operating in the villages to see the extent of child labor problem in Sialkot. Through an interpreter, Ive got a chance to interview Asad Muneer: What do you want to become in the future? I asked him. I want to be a doctor he replied with his head bent down. Why do you want to become a doctor? Because I want to help my family since my father died of illness.

Joltz B. Meneses

Knowing the True Taste of Water

In what ways are you going to achieve your dream of becoming a doctor? Ive got a silent reply. Asad dreams of becoming a doctor to help his family after his father died of hepatitis three months ago. But realizing his dream is different from just dreaming. For Asad dreaming is a priceless way to get a costly reality, and he knew he would never be a doctor because of his present circumstances. He is only a doctor in his dream. I decided to visit the house where Asad lives so I could spend quality time with his family. Asad appeared on the doorway carrying his youngest sibling. After the usual exchanged of greetings, he led us into the house. The house is unkempt, furnished only with one stand fan and two steel beds. Asad is 9 years old and the 8th child of 11 children of Abida Muneer, the mother. Abida is maudlin of their condition after she was widowed. Two days ago we have nothing to eat and often our meal is simple roti and water, my family is very poor. the mother explained her familys wretched condition. She did not want her children to work in the sweatshop but there was no other choice; this hapless situation forced Asad and his brothers Kamran and Shoib to work in the surgical instruments shops. The mother lamented that their life became more miserable when her husband died of illness. He died of hepatitis because he was never brought to the attention of a medical
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doctor due to fear of the high cost of hospitalization and treatment. The death of the head of the family had left a dent on their economic life. .We only survive through the help of our neighbors by giving us tael (lard), cheny (sugar), masala (spices), ata (flour) and gandam (wheat) Looking at the teary eyes of the mother, I realized how the spell of hepatitis has infected the family. One child also died of hepatitis a month after the father passed away. The poverty condition of Asads family is dehumanizing. It has fallen into the trap of deprivation and vulnerability and the only defense left is the hope that life could be better in the next life. In spite of their condition, Asad is active in attending his Non Formal Education class which BUNYAD has to offer to combat child labor. The hope in his eyes kindled as he chirruped the Naat-Rasool-E- Maqbbol, a song of praise for the Prophet Muhammad. He is optimistic that their life could be better with having an education and that he rests his dream on the mercy of Allah. It was one humid weekend when I visited the family again. Abida was delighted when she saw me visiting them again though I saw the contortion of hardship on her face, which reminded me of the familys distress condition. My presence was what I could offer in solidarity with the family. I have proven it many times that this little way called apostolate of presence could bring glimmer of hope. I thought that my time and my presence were the greatest things that I could do to sow hope. I know that villagers will remember me by coming into their homes no matter what they have and who they are.

Joltz B. Meneses

Knowing the True Taste of Water

The humidity at noontime had caused me to perspire a lot. It was an uneasy feeling doing fieldwork during this kind of season. I already used up all the water in my bottle and I badly needed for a few more drops of water to quench my drying mouth. Water is gold during hot season. Potable water is scarce in the villages. Asad seemed to understand my needs. Without uttering a word of excuse, he went into the kitchen. After one moment, he came back with a half-full glass of water. He offered it to me. He was smiling as he was giving me the glass of water. I hesitated to receive the offer because of a reproachful thought: The water is dirty. The glass is contaminated with hepatitis virus. But I knew that the offer was a sincere gesture of kindness and love. To turn it down means turning down the work of love. I closed my eyes. I sipped the water. That moment, I am not sure enough if the water is clean or the glass is free from hepatitis infectivity. But one thing I am sure about, that moment when I drank the water, it is the freshest and sweetest water I ever tasted in my life. Yes it was, knowing that the water was the last dip from the water jug the family have for that day. It was given to me by
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Asad who has less to offer. It was the greatest act of kindness I ever received. It was indeed an experience of my spiritual awakening when I came to know the true taste of a water. After a year of settling back to the Philippines, I continue to live my passion in volunteering by working with the children found in the streets of Manila. The faces of the street children remind me of the condition of child laborers in Pakistan. And being infected with hepatitis, I fully knew well and share the pain and suffering of these disadvantaged children. And in 2008, I left again for a volunteer work in Mongolia. I served as volunteer social work adviser of Save the ChildrenUK Mongolia Program. I was assigned in Dornod Province, a more or less 20-hour drive by land from Ulaanbaatar. I encountered Asad again with those Mongolian street children I have encountered in the "holes" nestled up to hot water pipes which they consider a home during the long winter season. Those Mongolian children from very poor families I came to visit in a temporary shelter they called Anna Home, and the children I came to live with, with their families in the ger. They were happy in spite of their condition. They were even happier than the most of the children in well off families. Having everything does not guarantee happiness. Having less in life makes them free. Indeed it was an irony. Free to live with less dependence on money. Free to live life without obsession for fashion, without gadgets and advance technology and without luxury. All these are true taste of water, inspiration for life and life full of inspirations.

Joltz B. Meneses

Knowing the True Taste of Water

Part One
The Will to Volunteer
By etymology voluntary or volunteerism means in Latin as voluntarius from voluntas which refers to as will. Will is the faculty by which a person decides or is regarded as deciding on an initiating action. It is a disposition towards others by showing goodwill. It instigates or compels by the exercise of power-not to dominate but to share.

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Chapter 1

An Act of Freewill
Life is like a game of cards. The hand you are dealt is determinism; the way you play it is free will. Jawaharlal Nehru

I was born to be a volunteer. I was home in on to be such. The direction of my life seems to head there, whether I like it or not. It started from singing in the homeroom class. Since I have the voice, I always raise my hand to perform an acappella. I didnt know that this was an act of volunteerism. When you know that you have the knack and you have the courage, raise your hand and sing in front of your classmates. I gained respect by the dint of always volunteering to perform. I became a cynosure- the center of attraction and inspiration. My favorite song was anak. I sang it with feelings and with my eyes closed mimicking the way the songwriter does when singing his piece. But my voice could not sound like that of the timbre of Freddie Aguilars since I was still young. Aside from singing, I was apt to shout my name for future tasks to do. Like sweeping and scrubbing the concrete floor of

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our classroom with banana leaves. It was a complete work and play so it was exciting. Sometimes with all my sagacity, without being told, I pick flowers of santan and gumamela and arrange them in a vase. Unfortunately, my work of art was not given much attention for either it was not properly arranged or that santan and gumamela were not good combinations or red and yellow did not yield a lovely color. Or simply the teacher was not appreciative of it and just let the flowers shed its parts without saying a single word of recognition. However I am so pleased of having done that. I learned to read colors and their proper combinations. I was too little then when I started first year in high school. My height so slow to move the way I desired to be. I thought maybe I was too scared to have circumcision. This mans ritual is a must to avoid a mockery. Aside from being unhygienic, I heard from grownups that an uncut foreskin of my penis was the reason why my physical growth was retarded. I scuffled against my fear. And believed that it would not take a lot of hurt, its just like the bite of a red ant as the adult usually say. Am I being man enough after this ritual? I asked myself. Would all my peccadilloes be forgiven by God after I offer to Him my foreskin? I examined further. Oh, what a God that is who is so addicted with foreskins of men. It was full moon. The moonlit provided us a cool breeze of the clear night. The ritual was along the riverbank. Pablito and Dennis, two of my best friends came along with me for the ritual. The master told us to soak our penises into the water -9-

for at least 30 minutes. This is to make the foreskin softer to smite. By doing this we could reduce the expected time of completion. While busy soaking, we made some banter on the sizes of ours. It was like comparing who got the biggest asset and biggest future. Mine is the titchiest then, but mine has the perfect frame. To take the lead I said size doesnt matter. I heard that its all about performance. Uncle Fidel- the mangngugit was waiting. We also were waiting who should throw his on the wooden form. Pablitos tactic was delaying. He went farther down the river. Dennis was whey-faced, frozen pallid to take the first turn. My knees were shuddering, until all of me was shaking when I volunteered to do the taste test of circumcision. The mangngugit instructed me to start masticating the buds of guava leaves while the ritual was about to start. I was senseless due to nervousness, and I didnt feel anything until the ritual was over. To the surprise of Uncle Fidel, I swallowed the guava leaves, which was supposed to be put on the incision as medicine. Thats why I say that volunteering made me the real man that I am. I did the first taste of the pain of circumcision for my friends to survey how much it would hurt before they also do it. What if I died or what if I fainted? Then they may recoil and live. What is at stake in volunteering is personal safety. I aspired to be a priest while in my high school. I became so fanatic in living my Catholic faith. I was a member of the singing ministry with a consummated ability to sing the second voice. The sound of the Gloria iti Dios blended with my

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tenor voice was angelic. Though, it took much confident to do that. Before I was singing in the classroom and in a sudden shift I was singing in the church. The difference was that my classmates were playing while listening thus inattentive; the churchgoers were praying while worshipping thus very attentive. If I commit mistake on the lyrics probably my classmates would let it pass for they are innocent; but for the churchgoers to hear me out of tune it is scandalous- a big sin that may generate gossips. For in the church people hear mass for self-praising and de-praising others; seeing mistakes of others. The faithful were carping instead of truly worshiping. I learned to worship God by speaking many tongues. In a way I was a polyglot during the worship. Our elders made us to believe that God could understand the different languages we were uttering during a hypnotic stupor. My faith became so ritualistic. I developed the attitude of holier than thou. It was true to the practice of Christian faith that believers established personal relationship with Jesus Christ and faith becomes so personalized; even salvation becomes so personalized. It becomes so rigid. It becomes so exclusive. And worse it is cleistogamic. I saw a dichotomy of faith and life among the believers. The faith is confined only to ceremonies, rituals and religious get up. The practice of faith is only to please other people in the name of a god. Life of believers is totally detached from the faith. Believers treated God as a very far away being by the manner of their worship. Believers still believe miracles as magic. They wait for the coming of blessings from God
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without doing something that could bring about human development. Believers were conditioned by the presuppositions of a somewhere out there theology or exegeses of Christian faith by the very people who enjoyed being the head of the flock. The church is also an instrument of social injustice. Most often the themes of sharing in religious meetings depict how apathetic the church about the plight of the poor. In the truest sense the stressed point is on personal blessings. The motivation of being so religious is purely for material gains, if not, an assurance of space in heaven after they die. I stopped my reading of philosophy and I went to Vigan, as a youth volunteer of Integral Youth Ministry (IYM), in-charge of youth formation in the interior parishes of the Archdiocese of Nueva Segovia. It was here that I began to raise my consciousness. It is not only through priesthood that I can serve God. It is to remain a lay or an ordinary person as long as committed to serve the people of God. It was on this juncture that the Third Look at Jesus was introduced to me by Fr. Albert Rabe. According to Fr. Carlos Abesamis, the author of the Third Look at Jesus, there are at least three ways of fixing our gaze upon Jesus. The first look is how Jesus looks at himself. It was a look at Jesus through Jesus own eyes. The second look is how the Western theology has looked at Jesus. It was the way the Greaco-Roman and the Western eyes later regarded Jesus, his life and his work. It tended to make redemption of souls as Jesus concern rather than the total wellbeing of the total human person. While Jesus liked to talk in terms of food, the

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second look spoke in terms of sanctifying grace. This look is the predominant frame of mind of the born again Christians. The third look is how the poor look at Jesus. It is the look at Jesus by the poor and oppressed, the awakened, struggling and selfless poor, who want to create a just, humane and sustainable world. This look has greatly influenced my theological underpinning as I came to associate myself with the suffering of the poor. Then I took social work as I believed it is a noble profession. Indeed it was. It led me to the path of service, though social work had earned a bad reputation as a profession of relief goods and sardines- active only during disasters. But I ventured on community organizing believing that work for charity must be coupled with work for justice. On this that I took further studies. I thought of a study that I could link my experiences to theories. I took my masters in community development as I believed it is liberating and empowering. Indeed it was. It prepared me to be critical and analytical. It debunked the conventionalities of helping the poor. It emphasizes dignity rather than charity by teaching a man how to fish rather than giving him the fish. It is not only enhancing social functioning but also instilling social accountability. It is not only teaching the person how to fish but also to clarify the value of sustainability so that the person will not get into overfishing the fishes. It was a significant moment to embrace the people-centered philosophy of development from the mentoring of Dr. Angelito G. Manalili, known to many as Ka Lito. Community development is serving the least and less in life. Community development is
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Christianity in action! It was then that the idea of volunteerism appeared clearer. Volunteerism is turning away from erudition and spending time among the poor persons in the community. It is a need to move from cloister to the grimy arena of those who suffer everyday and throughout their lives. Volunteerism is not at all a grand act of heroism; it is a small act of kindness by the act of free will. From small act of picking a candy wrapper, or assisting the blind crosses the street, or landing to a job that works for the betterment of society especially for the poor are ways of acting ones free will. Volunteerism is a choice we made over voluptuous opportunities. When I could be safe at home but I chose a place stereotyped as dangerous. When I could earn more at home but I chose to earn less abroad. When I could chose a profession that brings heavy pennies on my piggy bank but I chose social work and community development to bring radical changes into the lives of the disadvantaged. All of these are in the ambit of volunteerism. Volunteerism is choosing the less over plenty, weak over strong, poverty over opulence, hunger over glut, and discomfort over comfort. For volunteerism gives me the true taste of life. There were pains it brought much more than joys. Physical pains like getting bitten by insects and got an infected skin or run over by a reckless rickshaw driver and damaging my

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sensitive nostrils because of bad body smell circulating in an air-conditioned Daewoo bus bound for Islamabad. The emotional pain is much excruciating. I heard a volunteer in Bangladesh who needed to hide the knife away from his sight to avoid committing suicide. Or of instances volunteers got killed of vehicular accidents in Africa and got drowned in the beach of Maldives. Though it did not happen to me, but I was thinking of surrendering because of loneliness. The fact that I realized I was losing my sense of self because of intrusive hospitality. But pain was temporary. It was normal a feeling as a foreigner set to live in a completely different milieu than my own. It was like a bang of discomfort in my ears diminuendo as I got used to it. The joys are permanent. I already forgot the feeling of discomfort it brought. The feeling of irritations due to extreme weather condition- burning temperature when summer and freezing when winter has gone. Even the scars caused by insect bites were also forever being gone. But I will never forget the taste of water that nipped into my thirsty tongue. It was a half-full glass of water offered to me by a young boy whose family is infected with hepatitis. A halffull glass of water for it was the last water from the jar. But it was and still is the sweetest water of all time. I was not so sure if the water was clean, and the glass was contaminated.

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I was very sure it was life giving water. Volunteerism is an act of free will- doing something for somebody for which one knows will not be recognized.

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Chapter 2

Crossroads
When you cannot make up your mind which of two evenly balanced courses of action you should take - choose the bolder. William Joseph Slim

Crossroad 1: Work I only have short stints in the academe. I cut my long hair against my will. I am obliged to be a model for my students by being neat and presentable. After my hair has been cut, the next rule I must follow was the dress code. Slacks and polo shirts are the standard attires and a pair of shinning black shoes- so to speak of diffidence by the norms of the school. The first time I wore the slack pants tickled me. I was so uncomfortable with its soft texture. I was so conscious on how do I appear in a formal fashion. I am not like that - I am so ragged to show my personality by means of dressing up. A pair of canvas shoes or mojo or sandals with a denim and Tshirt would do for my everyday use.
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In short I am simple as I am informal. I gave up my nonconformist stance in favor of formalities. My teaching style is an experimentation of mixing the various methods of education such as problem posing or coding method of Paulo Freires and the Meautic process of Socrates. It was so tedious work for me as a teacher-animatorfacilitator to bring my students to the community for immersion into the realities of life outside the four corners of the classroom. I tried to be a good educator by looking at the strengths of my students rather than cursing their weaknesses. I take time in helping my students overcome their scapegoats and scapegods of sorts which I see as deterring factors for their learning. I took pride to doing this to present an alternative teaching methodology taken from the University of Life the community. It was the only non-conformist in me that has not been seen as against the morality of the school. My short while in teaching ended up quite substantial. My first and last semester in the College of Education of the University of Santo Tomas was marked by split feelings. It was July 3, 2003, my 32nd birthday, when I attended the assessment day at Bahaginan. This is a moment to discern. And a time when I was brought into being. What a coincidence or fate that I was born to volunteer?

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I am not totally decided yet that time to volunteer but in any case I was signifying my possible disengagement from my work in the Office for Community Development and in the College of Education. At the end of the semester, my non-formal education class section 3E1, invited me to be their guest speaker on the topic about how to be a good teacher. To all of my surprise it wasnt a symposium or any other type of workshop but a farewell party for me. They have cherished my teaching style. They felt sad on not having me again as their teacher for the next semester. Sincere notes of friendship and farewell from my students on the card made me assessed my feelings whether I will go or I will stay. To stay was somehow better than to go. My work right now being in the Office for Community Development and College of Education is a handsome opportunity for me as I eke for a living in the costly life of the city. I am earning twice than I was with NGO. Economically my work at UST may ensure my upkeep and my future family. But if I go, I dont have any idea of how much is a decent and comfortable life in the country of my placement. By economic considerations, staying is in favor. Ka Poroy my officemate and a classmate gave me a strong reminder of the context of paglilingkod. His word of wisdom was to intently dissuade my desire to volunteer. Obviously for all reasons, I knew he wanted me to stay for somehow he has loved my company, as we both speak the language of -19-

community development. Why do you have to go somewhere or abroad to serve, our people need you here at home Ka Poroys advice as an older brother with an authority of having eaten more rice than I am. Ka Poroys comment kept on echoing in my ears for weeks. I knew what he meant. How could I leave my work with the Aytas in Sitio Mabilog. Major development works is about to unfold in the next school year. Whos going to assist them? I served as a community organizer among the Aytas of Sitio Mabilog in Tarlac. They were the Indigenous People who were dislocated during the Mt. Pinatubo eruption in 1991. They lived in the evacuation centers in the lowlands where they experience a lifestyle different from their culture. They decided to settle back in their old community but ended up in Sitio Mabilog, a resettlement nearer to their farms and farther from the lowlands life. It is a place seemingly a resemblance of their pattern of life before the eruption. I integrated with them. I wore bahag the way they were wearing it. I ate snakes and other bizarre foods when they offered during dinner. I even have to go behind the bushes to urinate or defecate unmindful of high-heeled mosquitoes biting my exposed ass. But the feeling was so free- so free that no moral template was guiding me on what I ought to do. I lived their way of life too. Like that of genuine katutubo.

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I danced the talipi. I sang the dororo. And I listened to their stories on supernatural beliefs like the kamana of a dead relative coming back in the form of spirit and drag one member of the family, especially his favorite child, alive to his grave. To avoid this to happen, the family should destroy the house and shift to another location. All of these had helped me understood their lives. It also enriched my wisdom on working with the community. I started from where they are. I help them bring back the glory of their past. It was a bygone, which they describe as katsighawan an abundant life emanating from the blessings of their ancestral land. I didnt define the meaning of development for them; we defined it altogether. They soon set up their community organization and responsible for setting the direction of their community building by formulating a development plan for themselves. They are the people who need me at home whom Ka Poroy was referring to. He exploited this to change my mind. It is a way to soften my heart. But after so many times of perturbing me, he noticed of my determination to go, he clutched on to my shoulders and said Kung saan ka masaya, doon ka It was as if at last he is letting me go. If you love someone let him go if he comes back he is for you, as the famous aphorism on letting go goes. Another important person who is responsible to my entry at
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University of Santo Tomas is Jose Cruz III or informally called Sir Joey. After my NGO stint, he gave me the opportunity to work with the Office for Community Development. Working with NGO unfortunately could not afford to give brighter future for its workers in terms of monetary gains but charge it to experience. I accepted the offer. I was told to try for one year. But a year passed, I renewed the contract, until I found my life attached with the kind of work Im dreaming of. Sir Joey was bothered a bit when I announced during our meeting of my intention to leave OCD for volunteering work with VSO. Perhaps thinking of how to proceed on the development project in Sitio Mabilog was his primary concern in my absence. He gave me time to think it again. Like of Ka Poroys advice, I knew he was telling me the same. Why do you need to go there? We need you here. The very next day he started to scout for my replacement. We went to the University of the Philippines to post the opening announcement for community organizer at the Office for Community Development of the University of Santo Tomas. A week after the assessment, I received a call that I was selected and short listed for deployment on cycle of September to March in Pakistan.

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Crossroad 2: Love Affair At my age, 32, I am still single. I want to get married at the age of 25 but no girl would dare to march with me down the aisle. Now my age is no longer in the calendar. But I am baby face, though. Why did I come to this age without marrying? Well, it is a sort of sacrifice again. Jhen was still young. She has lots of dreams. She has many responsibilities after she graduated and landed a job. How can I force her to marry me? As a good sister, she took the responsibility of sending her sister Jonalyn to school. Not until Jonalyn finishes her schooling, wedding plan would not proceed. Besides, Jhen has an ambition to become a pastor. It will take another four years to finish divinity degree. By then, I am too old to start a family. I am too old to have my first baby born. I am even too old to wait for my children to finish their degrees. But I need to respect her decision for I always tell her, that no matter how, no matter what, I will always understand her. For I believe, understanding is the essence of a love relationship. For understanding does not divide, it creates a spirit- to- spirit connection. Understanding is the energy of a good relationship. Understanding is to stand
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under to see the angle when you are looking up. The first time I opened up to her of my desire to volunteer, I received disagreement. She brushed off all my explanations. She had had worries- a proven habit of the mind of a woman when a man leaves. She was afraid shes going to lose me. The anxiety in her made her so persistent in discouraging me to go. Why do you need to go? she asked me one evening. Are you going to leave me? Is there anything you want to prove to yourself? We started our formal relationship four years ago. Although, we have had close bonding years back before our formal relationship. She was my friend. She was an ading (little sister) to me and I was a manong (big brother) to her. I have been involved in different relationships prior with her but always failed with different reasons- the main one was misunderstanding. Jhen was always there as an ading, comforting me like a real sister. Until we found out we could go beyond our friendship. Until she was there not as an ading anymore but a sweet, so sweet lover. And we finally established our intimate relationship. It was hard for me to go. My intimate relationship with Jhen was the greatest hurdle I need to overcome in favor of volunteerism. Our intimacy made us one. But sooner it created a feeling for both of us to give space- a distance that would eventually determine if we are meant for each other. Volunteering was the distance and the space we need to know how much and

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where our relationship would take us before we finally marry each other. My volunteering work would be a test period to know if the feeling will remain. Then, finally she understood me, she knew that I am going to serve humanity- and she is part of this humanity our future family will be part of humanity. I will volunteer as my service to humanity of which I knew I will heed to this calling for Jhen and for our future familys sake. She realized and understood my simple philosophy and finally she gave me her blessings and prayers: I know that you have to go somewheremiles away from me. I love you so much and I just cant let time and distance end the wonderful feeling we both share. Its really difficult for me to let you gobut I know and must acceptthat you need to go. As you take another path of your lifes journey, I want to give my blessings and prayers for your work in Pakistan. Also I want to say sorry for my being childish and stubborn girlfriend. I hope that your being away from me will mould me into mature, understanding, sensitive, honest personand will be enough time for me to learn at least simple cooking. Whatever happens dear, my heart still and will always belong to you. Jesus loves you more than I do. I love you so much .
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Volunteering was a sacrifice for both of us but a sacrifice that would surely bear fruits of a stronger love relationship and a concern for humanity.

Crossroad 3: Family My mother was quiet when I told her I am going to Pakistan as a volunteer. She is silent for she did not understand what is volunteering. She knew that I am going abroad like our neighbors working as domestic helpers. Ever since I started to work for a living, I carried my own decisions without consulting my parents. For every time I consult them, the usual response was a bit silence and then questions leading to how I could send money regularly. The concept of abroad in my hometown means becoming rich. And if someone from abroad comes back, he is obliged to be rich or somehow appear to be rich. By this he is going to spend half of his savings from hard work as domestic helper or factory worker, to unending feast and celebrations. The more he spends, the more he becomes popular. It is quite funny to be true that success is relative, that the more success the more relatives. At the end, he will realize that all his savings has seemed to vanish into thin air. Two years of working abroad is wasted and he will go back to repeat the process all over again to save for another round of happy festivities back home.

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My mother has this picture in mind. She took pride of having her son working abroad. For it really means status, means source of compliments from the town folks. What my father knew was that I am going to work with the United Nations. He shared my mothers pride of having one of their sons working overseas. I was a little bit worried about the concept of being abroad, about becoming rich or appearing to be rich after going abroad. The people will expect you to return home rich not what you did or the kind of job you have done but who you are now - an abroad man. It was an easy decision for me to leave my family in favor of volunteerism. My volunteering work would mean a higher status for my family in our community.

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Part Two
In the Land of the Pure
Pakistan means the land of the Paks - the spiritually pure and clean. It symbolizes the religious beliefs and the ethnical stocks of the people; and it stands for all the territorial constituents of their original Fatherland.

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Chapter 3

Desert of Sacrifice
The important thing is this: to be able, at any moment, to sacrifice what we are for what we could become. Maharishi Mahesh Desert 1: The Placement The weather was breezy, and there was an occasional drizzle. I arrived at the International Airport of Islamabad. The international airport is like a domestic airport I saw in Bacolod City. Bacolod airport is even more systematic. It was early morning in the country of my placement, April 31, 2004. I have just greeted by an unknown co-passenger, who sat beside me inside the service bus. He told me of his opportunities having Filipino companions in Saudi Arabia. Filipinos are hardworking! he complemented as we part ways at the immigration counter. Pakistanis seem to dont know how to toe the line. This was my first observation of Pakistanis social behavior. They want to finish first and so breaking the control line. There was a lane for foreigners. But since foreigners that time were few
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few for we were only around seven. They encroached in our line and pushed us to the end. I found myself totally disoriented not by jet lag but by frantic chaos. I want to register a complaint. But hey Im a new comer- absolutely a new kid in town I cautioned myself. Then I play dead to what was going on to save the string of my patience from breaking. Islamabad is a well-organized urban capital. It has a pleasant weather. The wind dried and torn my lips. Gulzar a VSO staff came to fetch me. He recognized me from the rest of arriving passengers by my long hair. Since I disengaged from my academic work I started growing my hair again. Its so long to express my freedom, so long to show the artist in me. I met with the VSO staff with full of vigor, pleased to welcome me. But I was jet lagged and I wasnt aware of having staccato talks with them. My tongue ran out of vocabularies. I became conscious of my English grammar. I realized that I was right in front of non-tagalog speaking people. I could not remember their names. Their names were hard to pronounce- foreign words to my tongue. And I was sure that my name was also a hard one for them. The first smile I received was from Khalida. She was petite with a delicate body frame; having the power of her humility like that of Mother Teresa. She was so generous to assist me to place a call back home, to inform Jhen that I was already in my second home. Khalida loved to be the granny to all the volunteers in Pakistan.

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My meeting with Arif Jhabbar Khan, the country director of VSO Pakistan, was decorous. He was serious and deepminded. Everything we discussed was all about security in Pakistan. Then probably as a test on my expertise, he asked me about what do I know about strategic planning. My one week stay in Islamabad was marked by selfdenigration. I became curious about my accent. It was so nincompoop I appeared in front of the British volunteers during our conversations. This was my first time to have chats with the English people. It was a nightmarish experience to me, having been so limited with the English language, I preferred to be precise and speak a few. I became deaf in their presence: Have you got your box? Alison asked me. Yup, I got 3 books I replied Oh I mean its a box of medicine she repeated slowly using the American accent. It was so ridiculous requesting them to speak slowly every time they speak to me. It was a nightmare daunting my selfesteem, as I could not imagine how I would manage to present myself by the use of a language I put less priority to learn when I was in college. My angst was focused on the thoughts that perhaps the British were pernickety about my syntax and I might be goofing. This was the repercussion of my despise to the English
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language at home, now haunting on my ability to communicate effectively with people having different language from me but more or less understand and speak English. I have no choice but to brush up my English. Necessity trounced my activism against the imperialist language. I was a loser then at this time. But it was when I lost that I learned to appreciate the language. I was deployed at Bunyad Literacy Community Council or BLCC based in Lahore. There was no comprehensive orientation on the programs and services, structure, procedure, culture and politics about my placement when I arrived. I spent almost one month to familiarize these things after building rapport and integration with the staff. The initial information I gathered from my daily conversations with them made me situate my presence and role as volunteer. I formulated my proposed activities for the first 6 months in my placement as the executive director instructed me to do. The proposed activities include my integration and fieldwork to different project sites of BLCC like Sheikhupura, Sialkot and Multan and facilitating training for the Social Mobilizers according to their needs. It was emphasized by my supervisor that the main goal of my volunteer service is to form a Community Development Team (compose of selected social mobilizers), train the team to become facilitators to handle trainings in the Institute for Community Education of BLCC, and prepare training modules, and sourcebooks for community development trainings.

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I consider my first month in my placement as the strongest moments of wrestling with my nostalgia. I was invaded by the fear of the unknown. I felt loneliness enveloping me from the time I wake up until the time I close my eyes. My nights were sleepless due to the burning temperature reaching as high as 42 degrees Centigrade. My thoughts were in a tug of war between coming back home and staying. I thought of cancelling my contract; or shorten it to one year, and pack up and leave. I began to live my life in a great shock. I reacted by encapsulation and a tendency of flight. I withdrew social intercourse with Pakistanis and spent my free time in painting, writing poems and composing songs. But I am a loser for I could not mix. So I could not learn to understand, and consequently cannot appreciate the things, matters and people of my host country. My encapsulation did not bring the right integration. In this helpless situation my only recourse is to accept and to think that two years away from home is just a few ticks of time. My acceptance gradually lowered the degree of my fear. I began to muddle through from the dragging feeling I have earlier. Regular Urdu greetings of Aap ka kyaa haal hai? from the people I meet everyday also helped diminish my thoughts on surrendering. Until I finally made up my mind to stay and fulfil the very
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reason why I am in Pakistan. I came to know that Pakistan is a land of pure people. The people are warm and accommodating. People in all walks of life, men and women, young and old except for some are all wearing their national attire the kameez shalwar. I admired their sense of nationalism and patriotism but I am not a bit comfortable with their religiosity. Men shake hands more often than women. Friends embrace. Some embrace both left and right. The greetings were inwardly hearty and honest. They do it regularly before goodbyes and on every arrival or every time they see each other. In Lahore although once a British center, the people maintained their rich culture. Hospitality is one expression of their culture. It is highly regarded for guests. Hospitality is expressed by offering cold drinks and food. I was easily fed up by the taste of this hospitality because many times I was given food beyond my capacity. It seems that they have no notion of enough, that when I tell them its enough, they give me more than enough. In a way that I was culture shocked as well as suffered from stomach shocks. I began to see the negative side of their treatment. I started to find ways on how can I get out from this guest image. I learned to say no. I learned to show them my eating habits. I started cooking adobo and pinakbet and share also with them. Some liked it and exclaimed masidar as tasty; some did not, suspicious maybe of pork ingredients on the dish.

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In a daily basis Pakistanis eat the roti (bread made of wheat) with saut spicy vegetable or meat. I grew up in a culture which rice is the primary routinely food. It is quite hard for me to get use of spicy foods until I discovered some Pakistani delicacies that suit my taste. I came to like the mouth-watering aroma of basmati rice cooked in the local style called biryani flavored with chicken or mutton. After office timing, along with friends in motorbikes we drive to the city, in the busy road of Lahore and enjoy eating spicy samosas and sweet gelebe. My first accommodation was a hell. It was situated at the commercial building and obviously it was a mini-classroom before for computer classes. The comfort room was shared with the other classroom. It was filthy, and tiles were tarnished. My accommodation was absolutely not intended for a living quarter. For there was only one window but permanently locked. Book selves were offered to me as a cubbyhole for my clothes. The worst thing was it has no kitchen, I have to go to KFC or Mc Donald for my meals, and it was so expensive a life of a volunteer. One evening at 40 degrees Centigrade the electricity stopped. I dripped like an ice cream in the sauna. Hot air comes out of my ears. Every spoon I touched was hot, extremely hot. I woke up ten times in that night because my neck was bathed in perspirations. I divested of all the clothing I was wearing and I was totally naked but the hot spell pestered me the whole evening.
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In the morning, I woke up frazzled. At 42 degrees Centigrade there was no single drop of water in the shower. There was no water in the flush. I only have 1000 ml Nestle mineral water to wash my face and brush my teeth before I go to the office. This kind of a bane of my existence lasted for three days. And before I go kaput, my employer instructed me to transfer to the Bunyad office. The Bunyad office is located in the outskirts of Lahore. It is situated in the middle of the fields. I came to like the place because I love rustic life- a life free from the chaos of the city. I was given a spacious room that serves as my bedroom and my office but lacks the facilities of a decent and comfortable accommodation, a far cry from what Ive expected. With all my creativity I tried to live with what I have particularly in the set up of my office and bedroom. But then I found it difficult to live without a partition to hem in my bedroom from the rest of the space in my office. I used the computer table and an office side table to jam my clothes because my employer did not fulfill his promise to provide me a locker. The kind of a reflective life I am dreaming of was daunted by disturbances from the people so eager to be with a foreigner like me. This was another kind of hex recurring everywhere I go. I felt so useless by their too much generosity and kindness. As if I didnt know the basic of life with the kind of treatment they have for me. They always said nai as an expression of disagreement in any process that I do particularly in performing some chores, which do not conform to their standard of doing things.

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I remembered one time when I was cooking pinakbet, somebody started telling me what to do and even try to grab the wooden spoon to do the cooking himself. I could not imagine a Pakistani teaching a Filipino like me how to cook a Filipino dish called pinakbet. Again this is hospitality working at the expense of losing my own sense of self. Establishing friendship with them was guided by some standards. I am a laconic person and I love the solace of being alone reflecting on my life after a days work. It seemed that this kind of life is a lonely life in the eyes of my immediate friends. They wanted to chitchat with each other after office hour. Many times I tried to be with myself but they kept on intruding. I interpreted it as part of culture, perhaps due to lack of recreational activities they have developed the habit of grouping together, talking and laughing together. There were nights in the middle of my sleep when they woke me up just to offer something to eat or enjoin me to their conversations. They were so pleased to doing it while I left questioning myself if they understood the meaning of courtesy and respect. My privacy was under attacked and invaded. But, it seemed that they have no concept of privacy. I knew that they were trying to be good and kind to me, but they could not sometimes distinguish the demarcation line between pure kindness and intrusive kindness or pure hospitality from disturbing hospitality.

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I needed to cultivate patience and understanding to survive from this situation. Questions aroused in my mind on volunteering. Do I need to give up my ways of life in favor of integration? As a volunteer do I need to give up my culture in exchange of the culture in my placement? Is volunteering a sort of self-sacrifice in disguise? If it is so, it is true that selfsacrifice is the cruelest form of tyranny. Undermining hospitality again was prodding my thoughts on returning home to the kind of life I am completely in control. It brought me the dingbats once again that prompted me to look for another accommodation. One unpleasant common experience of volunteers in Pakistan was the Pakistani promise. In my case in my placement, for instance, I was given a room to sit in for my paper works without knowing that the room was also my accommodation after I left the first accommodation in the city. I started to see the things, which were lacking to make a decent accommodation - a cupboard for my stuffs, a partition to divide my office and bedroom, dining table, fridge to stock my food etc. And for my work, I needed a computer unit to work on modules and sourcebooks. I received a promise to act upon my requests and expected it to happen. A month of waiting for my requests later, I noticed that action was so snail moving. I made a verbal follow up. The employer promised to give the computer tomorrow. I waited until tomorrow. I followed up again after tomorrow did not bring the computer. Then he promised me another tomorrow, then tomorrow, then tomorrow and more tomorrows. Until I realized my contract will be finished and tomorrow never ever

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came for my computer. The sad thing was, I knew there were new three computer units in the storage kept unutilized. Nora- my co-Filipino volunteer deployed in Narowal suffered the same fate under a Pakistani promise. She asked for an electric fan to cool her room from burning temperature of summer. She said her boss instead promise to provide a cooler-a local device better to ward off hot weather, to her joy and gratitude. She was promised a one-week time to install the cooler, to her joy and expectation. Then one week passed without any action to fulfill the promise. The boss promised next week, another next week and next week and more next week but next week never ever came neither for the cooler nor for electric fan. Until Nora realized that her one-year contact was finished without having a cooler. She hurried to go back home in March to avoid suffering the spell of hot season in June without a cooler. My British co-volunteers also have stories validating the Pakistani promise. Only that they were more assertive enough to make the promise happen otherwise it wont happen. Or if it did not happen after all peaceful means were exhaustively used and failed, the banging of the table followed, from a disgusted volunteer to protest the inaction of employer to the important request of a volunteer like what Peter did on behalf of her wife Ann demanding for new curtains in her office at Ali Institute of Education. Written contract between VSO and my placement was not at all basis of understanding on the course of my volunteer -39-

work. Many items stipulated therein were not followed. The contract was breached, if not, there was no referral to it, to clarify any matter concerning the volunteer. My experience of having a not-so-decent accommodation showed the lack of concern of my host placement to my comfort. I even thought that the placement was not actually ready to take or did not need a volunteer, for I felt there was no effort to provide basic necessities to have at least a decent and comfortable accommodation. I made all the effort to look for a new accommodation. Accommodation rates varied from 5,000 to 20,000 rupees per month within the city of Lahore. There were no rental laws as the landlord would exhort the prospect leaseholder for a year deposit and three months advance. It was so expensive a life to take a room with kitchen and bath around the vicinity of Defense Housing Authority. And a poor volunteer like me could not avail of. That perhaps with this reason why my employer did not attempt to offer one for me. I felt like a ball being passed from one person to another. I went to the administrative officer who told me to go to the executive director and from the executive director who told me to go the senior director and back to the executive director. It was like a vicious cycle of poverty of decisionmaking. It was my first experience on the hierarchy and bureaucracy of power within Bunyad. It gave me an inkling of what kind of decision -making process the organization has to offer for me. Verbalized justification was not enough. After it was spoken, deemed it was forgotten. So I needed to present in writing the

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circumstances of my transfer to another accommodation at Defense Housing Authority: 1. I expressed satisfaction when I was transferred from my 1st accommodation to Bunyad office. The feeling was true, as I love rustic living. But I gradually realized that staying at the office in the long term would bring health hazards on my part. I put prime concern on my health, as I believe that I could not do my functions if Im not in good shape. Lately, I became so vulnerable to insect and mosquito bites, which brought skin infections and irritations. There is no better way to prevent this to happen again in the future than to get myself out of the place. 2. I see the onset of rice season as another problem. Expectedly, during this season insects, snakes and other dangerous animals would be abounding. The best way to get rid of them is to get myself out from their natural abode, incidentally, the Bunyad office is found within their dwelling premises. 3. With all my creativity I tried to live with what I have particularly in the set up of my accommodation. But then I found it difficult to live without a divider to separate my bedroom from my office. Furthermore, I am using the computer table to pack my stuffs in because I have not provided with a locker. My belongings always get dusty and dirty after the sweeper cleaned my two-in-one room. I want somewhere to live having the basic set up of a decent accommodation. 4. Lately I felt the importance of my access to communication such as e-mail, fax and personal postal address. VSOIslamabads monitoring mostly depends on e-mail and
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mails and I need to inform also VSO on my conditions through these lines. I understand that due to its location, Bunyad could not probably offer the access that I need. 5. I live in a country, which has no winter season. It will be my first time to experience such climate and I dont know how it will go. I could not imagine my life at the Bunyad office without proper contraption for winter season. 6. I was so impressed with the way the Pakistani people build friendship. I was so blessed having with me Bunyad staff at the office. But as a foreigner, I cherish my privacy. Privacy is my only way to be home within myself especially after a days work. I am impressed with the all -out hospitality and warmth of the stay-in staff at the office but I felt disturbed with their way of showing me their friendship, to the extent of undermining my personal life. There are scores of incidences, which made me feel disturbed and undermined. I know that I am dealing with cultural differences, but I see it not necessary to give up my own in favor of the lifestyle of these staff. These circumstances impelled me to shift to new accommodation for the 3rd time in a row. Volunteering offered me this situation to struggle. I asserted. Then the approval came after 3 months, when it was supposed to take a single day to decide since it was stipulated in the contract. It was a reality, I thought, of every NGO to delay decision-making, I sighed- to never again will I request such kind of important concern of a volunteer.

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Maybe the organization regretted too on taking a volunteer. Maybe they felt a volunteer was an added burden to the organization, particularly on the financial matters an NGOs primary concern is how to gain fund and the least concern is how to fritter. I presupposed it was true a feeling of Bunyad towards their volunteer. I regretted too on their regrets. I could have volunteered to Africa instead, I thought again. There I can live in discomfort for I only have less to expect and they have only less to offer. Here, though I only expected less but I found out that they have more than to offer but they were not providing. My assertion was not to live a comfortable life then, it was meant to seek justice and attain what was due for a volunteer based on the agreement. It was a way to promote justice and fair dealings. At first, I did it for myself then the act itself egged on the staff to speak their grievances and started to seek fair dealings in the workplace in terms of benefits, staff development and compensations. But I was so fortunate enough to find a Filipino family in DHA, who was living in Lahore for more than ten years. It was a boon. They invited me to share with them their flat upon knowing my condition. The father of the family is presently the president of the Filipino Community in South Punjab. My being with the family provided me opportunity to meet
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kababayans and take pleasure in the usual Filipino pastime such as karaoke. Three months was surviving moments of my life as a volunteer in Pakistan. I must go on and surpass this Angelitos syndrome on volunteering characterized by nostalgia, fear of the unknown, stomach shock, invaded privacy and intrusive hospitality. The prayers of my love ones, whom I left at home hoping for my return, would keep me strong until the end of my contract as a volunteer. I am in the land of the pure but my rice culture will never fade away.

Desert 2: Long Distance Love Affair It was not easy to manage love relationship away from Jhen. With loneliness of being away from home prodding along the way, miscommunication with her added to the grief. The demand of time and constant communication were somehow hampered my work. We are so engrossed with each other, having four years of trying times to get through all the odds and pains of being in loved together. That there was imminent regret on my volunteering. Why do you need to go? she asked me many times to dampen my triumph. The presupposition of a relationship being broken because of distance has caused insecurities, on a greater weight to Jhen. Distance in a relationship means to a girlfriend: finding

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another woman, broken communication lines, and developing a cold shoulder with her. But the three greatest insecurities of a girlfriend are: finding another woman, finding another woman other than the other woman, and establishing relationship with the third woman found. I would have to do my part in sustaining this long distance love affair to show her that I am different from the rest of the men. I could make a difference wherever I am in this respect. But of course it was worth trying. To ensure her of constant communication, the first thing I did was to get a mobile phone connection, though it caused me much at 2,000 rupees to purchase a sim card. Text messages were cheap way to communicate, but too impersonal and it could not contain facial expressions, intonations, and mood of the voice that sometimes almost ruined our relationship. Nonetheless it was a channel of good morning and good night. The distance begets my longing for her. Longing begets my eagerness to see her soon. And eagerness sometimes tempted me to shorten my contract and go home permanently in her heart. She suffered the same as much as I did. She woke up crying in bed for many mornings. There was no day in her life that she did not long for me. She thought of ending our relationship: Its better to have our relationship ends I could not really make itthinking of you without for two years is very
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difficult she told me on the phone. She was sobbing and snivelling. I thought shes going to lose me because of that. It was an indirect way to demand me to go home. Now! I was down. My adjustment slowed down also. But I knew it was not a true feeling and she didnt mean it. It was a reaction to her true feeling of loneliness. It was a way to get rid of the sufferings of a madly in-loved. The time and space put an acid test on our relationship. I felt the situation dragging me into the abyss of perplexity, tearing my heart apart, and breaking my nerves down. It was like I was in deus ex machina. It was really hard to volunteer when you left someone back home; who needs your affection. The fear attacked in my inner consciousness. I was all alone. Darkness was all around me. I was trying to figure out what I was thinking. Something strange was going on. I dont know what was happening to me. It was a strange feeling standing in the middle of nowhere, nowhere that I dont know if I am in a dark alley or in a cabin submerged into the heart of the sea. It was unexplainable and inexpressible fear. It seemed as if I was afraid of my own self. I felt haunted from the fact that I could not escape these thoughts. She was holding others man hand. She was weeping while she gaped at me from time to time. She could not say goodbye. I was standing there listlessly waiting for a word. But no words came out of her lips. She was leaving. She was with the other man. Suppressing my fear I stepped forward but there was no

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place to run. Then shes totally has gone with the man. I was petrified by my fear again. And I started crying over the loss of my girlfriend. Suddenly I felt a jolt and got to know that it was only a dream. Whether it was an oneiro or a nightmare or whatsoever, I didnt know and that really scared me. For I dont want to lose her. Not now, not tomorrow, not even forever. For I want to live with her longer than forever. My fear of losing Jhen was expressed in my dreams. And I found an antidote of this recurring bad dreams, it was assurance. No distance, no time and space and circumstances that would ever break our covenant. I assured her. To assure her of my sincere love, I wrote a song for her. I will come home to permanently be home in her heart. I know its hard For both of us to part Two years is long enough To miss you day by day The distance will separate us But my love is always there I know how painful To leave you all alone But faith is burning To come back from you to soon So wish me good luck God bless to both of us
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So far away, I need to show you How much I care for you So far away, I feel so lonely Without you in a day So far away, someday I will be home in your heart The time will pass so fast So wait for me till tomorrow I will be home for you And wont leave you again And I wrote my deepest regrets: May 30, 2004 My dearest NANAY, Its been one month now that I am away from you. More that I discovered deep emptiness in my life without you. This is the strongest moment of wrestling with my homesickness and longing for you. Day by day, as in every second of the day, as I blink and sigh, I want to pull the point of time into the end of my service. Many nights that I want to rant, of my big regrets into throwing my decision to such as this. But I realize God I know has a very modest plan for all of this. Without you in my side is a great sacrifice, in my part and in your part, its like the end of everything. But one thing that this experience will teach us is to keep the love burning behind time and space. Honestly I learned to value your childish tantrums, your material demands and your being you when you start showing me your true self. I miss them, how I want

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them to happen again here. Your pictures are displayed on my office table, in one way or another they help shorten the distance we are in. But as I stare at your smile, it brings pain because I know that the owner of that frozen smile lives miles away from me now. It will take two years for the smile to become real. I grapple against my loneliness, living without the girl I used to live with. After this, you are right. I will never leave you again. As I promised, I will stay forever in your heart. I will live forever in your life. I will come back. What we can do now is to endure the sadness by making ourselves busy of what we are called to do. Never say the things that cultivate surrender. We cling to the trust we have for each other and we will survive this test. I must thank you, thank you for always praying for my safety. It works, for how many times I almost meet disgrace but its like a magic hand shielding me away from it. I know it is your prayers working. I want to come home alive and kicking for you. I want to enjoy life by being with you. So much to tell you about my work here but I opted to tell you my feelings inside. Only the songs of Gary Granada, Joey Ayala and Asin connect me so closely to my own land. They make me feel good while listening to them in a foreign land. At least I have my own style to preserve my own sense of self and culture. Most of all I can go on because I know you are always there no matter how painful it may take, no matter where it may lead. And I will keep telling you that you made my life complete. You are my inspiration here and I know that I can surpass this enormous challenge. Two years is just a few
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breaths away. Tomorrow I will be there again with you. I honestly love you nanay.

Loving you, Tatay

Dessert 3: The shock I dislike feeling at home. The Urdu language was incomprehensible, the people dressed differently, the food upset my stomach, and I couldnt imagine staying here for two years. I was totally disoriented. I was like a fish out of water, or a bird inside a cage. I lost my familiar signs, symbols and surroundings. I plunged into a totally unfamiliar environment and into a precipice of suffering. Playing of music did help but worsen my homesickness. I thought of selecting the music to play for my diversion from grief of being alone. The songs of Gary Granada, Asin and Joey Ayala made me feel homesick all the more but in some way the music kept on connecting me to my roots and culture. I started to set aside the CDs of John Denver, Kenny Rogers, Lionel Richie and Don Mc Lean, which only perpetuated the feeling of loneliness. The mementos I have such as album and

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photographs before were displayed on my table, but like music they were there to retard my adjustment. It was the hardest decision in my life to put those photographs of Jhen and my family inside my traveling bag to not to see them each day, for everyday Ive been missing them. I t was a strategy to overcome my melancholy. Although I felt guilty of doing that. But when I let it be. And felt it. I let it be within myself. I quit fighting the loneliness. I realized that the more I fought loneliness, the more it occurred. For the more I was somber the deeper the fear resided in my heart. From that moment on I knew that I already surpassed the difficult stage of shock when it was let be and not fought. The Mullahs voice over the loudspeaker system at 3:30 in the morning woke me up. But when, I got used to it, I turned to the other side and sleep on. It then became like a sound of lullaby. I no longer say these people and I bristled with embarrassment when I heard other foreigners use the terms. I stopped seeing things and people from a visitors angle and stopped being amazed of ordinary things around me. I did not wince anymore when I saw a woman in purple shalwar, blue kameez and yellow dupatta. The burquah-clad woman in the street no longer strikes me as something absurd but was a normal part of the street scene in a Muslim country. In conversation, I did not compare my host land with my
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homeland and highlighted the better conditions and advantages of the latter. When I heard the word yes tomorrow I was able to stretch my mind to anticipate any length of time up to a maximum of a couple of years or after my contract is finished. Then the photograph of Jhen was not reminding me of our past good times anymore but telling me of good times in the future to come. There all the framed photos hanging to give me smile everyday as I go out for work. These were how I survived the shocks and gave me a fruitful integration and at last I was already feeling at home. It is mostly on small issues that the sting of cultural differences was felt in my daily life as a volunteer, only that my negative reaction did matter to treat the differences a very great deal. The lack of punctuality, unreliability, promises broken, the concept of tomorrow, dishonest dealings and intrusive friendship truly affected my volunteering work. I resigned myself to them and accepted what I alone could not change. But I did not condemn, as the people, even in such actions, live out their own truth- their own sense of selves. I learned to place myself in juxtaposition with them. Then sharing and learning started to spin off. It was the real beginning of my integration.

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Desert 4: The Integration In my integration, as a Christian with ecumenical respect to all beliefs, I took heart to understand the exegesis of Islam from the very people who practice it as religion. Although for some, I found contradictions, but the greatest that I could do was to pay an appreciation. I did not only understand the people in their religion but also understood them as people in their own culture. Pakistan was founded in the name of Islam, it is a state religion. The devout Muslim is bound to pray five times a day, observe the strict fast of Ramazan, refrain from eating pork and drinking alcohol or food considered as haram, and one day in his life should make the pilgrimage to Mecca, known as the Haj During the month of fasting, all restaurant are closed until sundown. People will not say anything but frown if, during this month, you should smoke, eat and drink in public. Once I was in the village, I witnessed, as a guest, the ceremony of circumcision. Circumcision is an important ceremony in the life of a Muslim boy. I could relate my experience to this, not as a boy but as a youngster, under a moonlit night along a river bank when I had the ritual. The ceremony was traditionally performed when the child is 2 to 5 years old. The whole family or village was invited to witness the ceremony. My experience was done privately. A huge meal was prepared and the child was dressed with best clothes especially for the occasion. We gathered together
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then the child was brought out by the father. In front of the entire gathering, the man known to be a barber performed the ritual. After the ritual, the barber wrapped up the child with a blanket and turned over to the mother for solace, while the guests were invited to partake in the feast. As I depart, being guest in the ceremony, I handed 500 rupees to the child as customary part of the circumcision rituals. I learned to appreciate their food and their manner of eating. Left hand is unclean. No food is to be touched with this hand. Since it is a strict rule that cleaning after defection must be done with the left hand. I enjoyed eating those pieces of mutton that are put on a skewer and roasted over on a charcoal grilled called tikkas during our stop from a long trip to the villages. In functions, I always go for paya- an either goat or cow trotters that are cooked in thick gravy and served with nan. Paratha became my favorite meal for breakfast especially chana, egg omelet and chay. I must train my stomach to fight with oil and spices as I eat Pakistani style, and suffer afterwards. Food preparation do not pass the standard hygiene test. Snacks hot, sour, spicy, sweet, very sweet are on carts at every corner of the streets. I risk my health to taste these foods to know if they taste good as they look. It was really an interesting style of eating the Pakistani food tear a small chunk from my roti, form it between the fingers of my right hand into a small open container and dip into the oily viand. In the villages, tea mixed with milk was the regular offer. As a foreign guest, I was always deemed something that is very special and where my host will glean a prestige among

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the villagers for having me as a guest. My host enjoyed seeing me enjoying his culinary entertainment and even asking me for more of this or that. I learned to wear the Shalwar Kameez. It is comfortable but quite tickling wearing it without underwear. It was like the first time I wore slacks pants when I taught in school. I learned to travel without map. Road travel, whether by car, wagon, or bus is extremely alarming. The buses and wagon race each other abreast in blind turns to pick up waving passengers before others can collect them. It was quite familiar a scene in the streets of Manila. Ordinary bus was jampacked with passengers especially during rush hour and in the weekend. I always find ways to avoid sitting on the aisle, by the window side fresh air is always at reach especially when the bus is suffocated with human body odor. It is also very common to see the whole family of 5 to 6 people on a motorbike with the mother holding the baby and seated in a side-saddle position. It was like those habal habal or skylab I saw in Mindanao. Pakistani drivers are generally offensive. It scared me death every time I take a taxi or a bus or a rickshaw. Their concept of the traffic lights differs from what is the standard: green means go, red means stop and yellow means drive faster. Drivers enjoyed beating the red light. It seems to be an added pride for them. They share the same psychology with the drivers in Manila. Every outing is a potentially dangerous one. Some rickshaws are powered by gas which sits in a canister next to the driver -55-

emitting acerbic smell of smoke. It was no different from smoke belching jeepneys plying in the thoroughfares of Manila. My co-volunteers pay twice what locals pay for they are British. It is known as the white skinned tax. I learned the act of negotiating when riding a rickshaw. Negotiating that polished my Urdu language: Bhai muji S Block tin saoo athawan main jana hai. when telling to rickshaw driver where I am going. Ketna keraya lay gay? when asking how much should I pay. Sirf 20 rupee when the driver asked for more because I am a foreigner. Aap chaleen gay when I ask if he can go with the negotiated fare. I learned to live with the weather. July and August were humid. It is irritable. The weather steam has 90 to 100% humidity. I dripped from eyebrows to knees, and to go to field was already a suffering to my nerves. I used a punkah, a hand held fan, made of reeds, which every villager can afford and which are also used to kindle the cooking fire. My room was not air-conditioned, the punkah was the only means of surviving the dreadfully hot nights. Electricity supply often goes off during summer and winter. It goes off till my patient is put to the test. I was wrapped in darkness, as I profusely perspired.

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I learned to go to the market for my stuffs. The Friday bazzar reveals the countrys unimaginable riches of fruits and vegetables. Meats of beef and goat are hanging outside the butchers shop in the side streets. It was a perfect diet for me as a flexitarian. I learned to appreciate their bad smell. The smell of dust, and the smoke mingled with sweats. Body odors were treated normal. When you enter a shop where meat, fish and live poultry are sold your first reaction might be to flee or cover your nose because of the stench. The spices are beautifully piled up into pyramids in wide baskets showing the innate artistic leaning of Pakistanis to attract consumers. The market scenario was a world in itself: from highly aromatic herbs, to intoxicating fresh fruits and giddying pungency. I appreciated their practice of religion even in the manner of preparing their food. For instance animals are invariably slaughtered by cutting the jugular vein and uttering the words Allah-u-Akbaar (God is the Greatest). Meat that is not treated this way may be refused by strict Muslims. I learned to see the world of women. The world over women talk about their daily concerns: children, illness, servants, income, prices, cloth, cooking or the whims of their husband. It is only natural that women must find an object on which they can unload and express their personalities. It was thus one of the motivating factors by which the turn- out of enrolees for NFE classes in the villages were high. NFE class primarily is seen as venue to express their personalities as
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women often restricted at their very homes. Women must keep their heads covered with dupatta, the fine, mostly beautiful veil, particularly in the presence of elders and keep their eyes cast down, and only speak in answer to a question. When going out, many women wear the burquah, the black or white cloak that totally shrouds the ladies. I learned their poverty. The extreme poverty, contrasting starkly with neighboring extreme wealth was present. It was accepted as status quo in Pakistan. This was partly because rarely has anyone in authority acted to improve the plight of the poor. Partly too it is the result of the religious outlook whereby a poor man accepts his plight as kismet the will of God. I was inspired to write a poem on the subject of poverty: Oppression My eyes must be lowered all the times My feet keep running to the many economic destinations I pull the cart of heavy loads to all corners of the market I work hard for my masters survival and convenience I endure the pain of working like a machine In an unending battle with subordination My fiendish master whips the cat-o-nine-tails For the little wrong I caused while serving him I only have a catnap in the evening to rest my exhausted feet A time to ululate on the hardship of my toil The peewit of suffering and pain of doing

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The donkeys work while my master enjoys the hatchet job The dawn when my father wants to get pregnant He formed me in the womb of a man I was brought into being by passing through The vagina of my father and attached his name to my name When I gape at myself as I gain consciousness I was reared to be lowbrow woman appended to the ribs of a man My veil of submission seems to be eternal My soul is a delicious commodity My body is a cheap property My will is nothing but a doorbell It rings when pressed by my husbands finger My land was taken away By the lord who doesnt create but accumulate I work with land which was grabbed from me I give my lord all my labors I get a piecemeal in return My lord takes the lions share I till the dryness of the soil throughout history I was desiccated with tear and blood From the chasm of relationship which is never equal I sweat to produce the grain for the earth to live Yet my stomach is empty and no food on my plate Im dying of hunger but my feudal lord shrugged For I dont deserve a decent funeral

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Integration is like a snow, the softer it falls; the deeper it penetrates into the realities of life.

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Chapter 5

Extending the Self More


I keep six honest serving men. They taught me all I knew. Their names are What and Why and When and How and Where and Who Rudyard Kipling Extension 1: The season of change My survival took gradually. It took smoothly when I stopped wasting my time on regrets. In summer, I wake up with the sun pouring heat on my bed through the wire gauzed window, finding my armpits and neck sodden with sweat, my body refusing to get up and my mind stubbornly demurring to rest. In winter, I wake up with the chilling breeze greeting me through the same wire gauzed window, numbing my feet and hands with the ice-cold climate, my body refusing to get up, so afraid to freeze. Yet Im freezing in spite of so many blanket and warm-providing gadgets. I preferred to cocoon in the weekend and opted not to play with the fogs outside my accommodation. My life during summer and winter was frigid
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and so anoetic a life spent in both summer and winter solstices. The anorak I was in summer and winter started to wane in the offing of autumn and spring. I loved to see the green vegetation that begins to appear during the spring. Spring was life in itself-it reminds me of a life that is a robust existence. Autumn was another life in itself. The fruits of spring are being gathered. The leaves fall, this reminded me of the importance to return from the soil. Volunteering is like a tree shedding its leaves and fall to the ground, it is a natural change process of sharing what it has to make the soil a fertile ground to live in. The tree loses its leaves; the leaves endure detaching and decomposing in order to give a better life. Oh how I loved these two seasons, which invigorated my life as a volunteer in my placement.

Extension 2: Weaving relationship Establishing relationship also figured significantly in surviving the loneliness of volunteering away from home. On my first month in Pakistan, I found myself alone cultivating my lonely feeling with the lonely music of John Denver. I was so really affected by my nostalgia at that time and initially thought of just serving a quarter of my two-year contract. In that span of trying times, it was so fundamental need for me to get connected with people with the same culture as I have so to bridge the distance between home and placement. So my homesickness would cease to bug me.

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It was when I and Nora were invited by the Philippine Embassy to celebrate the 106th anniversary of the Philippine Independence day in Islamabad that we met the Filipinos in Pakistan. Through the embassy I got some contact numbers of Filipinos living in Lahore. I met Leonardo and Carmelita Sionzon a couple of their late 50s. They were of the same age with my parents, perhaps a good substitute to my parents while Im away from them, I initially thought. Then I addressed them tatay and nanay. Then they treat me as their anak-anakan. Tatay Nards is working at textile industry as executive director. He is small but got the authority stance of a leader. He was the president of the Filipino community in the South Punjab. Nanay Millette talked about her children more often every mealtime, on how she raised them with pride, of all the successes her children got were due to her positive parenting. Nanay Millettes sharing was a real course for me as pre requisite of starting a family. I envisaged my future family how it would be like: seeing my four children growing to be painter, singer, dancer and writer-the talents they inherited from us- their parents. I will be a good husband and a good father to my four children; it will be so soon after my volunteering work, I excitedly imagined. Finally, I found a home with them. It was a home that extended myself as a volunteer. It was then that the Filipino community was preparing for a newsletter and they were looking for someone who has the knack to lay it out. I volunteered for I have experienced making a layout of a newsletter when I was with KKFI and Office for Community
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Development of the University of Santo Tomas; besides I was inclined to such type of work. The melancholy in me gradually petered out. It was swapped by cheerfulness. Gone were the nor'easter of nostalgic life, and I began to feel a normal life again - a feeling that slowly made me felt at home to the country of my placement. My integration with the Filipino community however exposed me to the same problem of the Philippine society. It was an interesting subject of research on Filipino sociology dealing on how Filipinos live a Filipino life outside the Philippines. How do the locals of the host country perceive the Filipino people? How do the Filipinos project their image in the country not their own? These were the problems I formulated in my mind as I mingled with my kababayans. The reality of such Philippine social realties was eventually revealed. It was a natural tendency for Filipinos who meet abroad to become close as if they have known each other for a long period of time, though it is their first time to see each other. It was the same fundamental need I experienced- to establish human relationship especially of birds with the same feathers. That was the reason for being of a Filipino Community in Lahore- an organization to have something to turn to in times of tribulations. It was the concept of damayan and at same time sosyalan. It was something true at home and more than true away from home. That was a true Filipino spirit. Filipinos come to Pakistan with different purposes, with different interests, with different images, with different

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values and different motives. They are managers, engineers, chefs, nurses, and maids serving affluent Pakistani families.

Extension 3: Risking life and dignity It is not easy to be away from home. It means risking life and dignity in order to support the family back home. My being with the Filipino community made me understand the difficulty of working abroad. I remembered the concept of my parents which may also represent every Filipino parent that when a member of the family goes and works abroad means a road to success or an escape from economic impoverishment and deprivations. But what they dont know is the real condition of their sons and daughters who deal with all sorts of danger every moment of their lives in their workplace just to send money. Most vulnerable of all these dangers are the maids. At first, I could not believe that Filipina housemaids are present in Pakistan. I could not imagine that a country with almost weaker economy than the Philippines is importing human labor to work in their kitchens. The positive view is that our OFWs are known in the world as good for almost everything. But the negative view is that it
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reflects the very unstable economy and the lack of employment opportunities in the Philippines. So the sad stories of maltreated and abused Filipina maids continue. I witnessed this story of an OFW: The room was in quietude. The patients were in array situated within a cubicle of white cloth divider. Periodically there were squeaks of the suffering patients that kept breaking the deafening silence in the recuperating room. She appeared distraught sitting on her hospital bed. She was sobbing but no more tears. She was in a terse flight to her problem by attempting to end her life. Evelyn was in the Intensive Care Unit after the operation, waiting to get a private room in the Doctors Hospital in Lahore to further her convalescence. She attempted suicide by slashing her wrist with a knife. In that Saturday evening, I agreed to spend my night in the hospital to attend to her needs. I sat down beside her as I gestured an affable approach. I extended my hand for a handshake and asked her condition. Her wretched face started to alight. I clutched on for a friendly rapport to open up a conversation. It was a go signal to talk about personal life. My concern was to know the bottom of the story why she attempted to end her life. I served her a cup of coffee and some biscuits while sharing our personal circumstances. She risked her life going to Pakistan as a maid to a wealthy Pakistani family. As a good daughter and sister to her siblings

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she courageously claimed the responsibility of changing the familys future for the better. She came from the province of Samar, in a barrio where going abroad was perceived to be the only remedy to escape from poverty. She was greeted with kindness and trust when she arrived at her workplace. She was entrusted to alluring obligations such as cleaning the masters room and keeping big amount of money to the safety vault. It was the beginning of her problem. She was accused by the masters wife of stealing. Evelyn was just human. She was trapped into her wants. Eventually she was tempted to take small amount from the money entrusted to her by her master. Then she wanted more and more. She was caught by the clever trick of the master. That everything was pre-meditated by the master. For what he wanted was hers. Ginagamit niya ako (he is using me) Evelyn disclosed. kapalit ng dollar (in exchange of the dollar) kaya di ko ninakaw ang mga perabinibigay niya ang mga iyon (I didnt steal the money, he is giving them to me.) The conspiracy that played havoc with the circumstances was a trauma that would linger in her heart wherever she goes. She didnt have any idea of this fact that her masters wife downplayed her termination from service. And the family driver was actually a bait and accomplice to ruin the credibility of Evelyn and to weaken any counter argument to prove that she was innocent of the very act. The wife was too
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wary about the relationship going on between Evelyn and her husband. The truth behind was that the master had concupiscence with Evelyn and got what he wanted by exploiting the vulnerability of Evelyn. The master did his sexual desires by the guise of trust; by too open to trust Evelyn to keep big amount of money on his behalf. The pieces of jewellery including the diamond ring were also missing and the wife suspected Evelyn to have stolen them. The wife claimed that no one except their maid would get interested on those treasured items. The driver confessed that he was being asked by Evelyn to send money to the family in the Philippines which was concurred by Evelyn. But the master knew it. The wife also knew it. The wife had to do something to get back the attention of her husband. She conspired with the driver to take the jewellery and make it looked like a thief committed by Evelyn. The driver deposited the jewellery to a safety vault, which was an idea fed by the wife. Evelyn suffered the accusation. She wanted to end her life to prove her innocence. After three days of recuperating, the Filipino community assisted her to go back home. There is no safer place to stay than home. I wonder if the family of Evelyn can give her real home after what has happened. I remember those festivities when an abroad man comes home. Are the town folks willing to change their concept of an abroad man? that it is not at all times a happy story and a coming home from paradise with big sum of money to pour on to the family but it is also a sad

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story and a coming home from hell. And that there will be no pouring of blessings but of tears and pains. This real story gave me a deeper understanding of a home. At home, you dont have to risk your life and dignity. A home is not for money. For sure it is for love.

Extension 4: Infusing sense of community Filipinos in Lahore are plagued with controversies. There is a strong power playing. Pride breaks the unity. Competitions are up. The small community of around 80 Filipino members broke up into two groups. The main reason for the split up is the differences of values. So I wrote an editorial entitled A Sense of a Goose: One thing that distinguishes us Filipinos from the rest of the world is our strong sense of community outside the Philippines. Our concept of kababayan encompasses our value of damayan in which we share our pains and joys while away from our native land. During the damayan we ferret out our meaning in a foreign land and start to establish relationships and friendship among our kababayans. Eventually we saw the need to establish a community of Filipinos in our host country. But the downside of being in one community is the onset of awayan as a result of differences of ideas and interests. We face the conflict by creating -69-

another faction. Our concept of kababayan had turned to be a kababawan (shallowness) for we dont face our problem objectively and squarely. We lose our strong grip on our sense of community. Maria Rilke has a meaningful analogy on geese and sense of community that we hope to glean moral lesson from it: The geese when heading south for the winter fly are in a V formation. As each bird flaps its wings, it creates uplift for the bird immediately following. By flying in a V formation the flock adds at least 71% greater flying than if each bird flew in its own. Whenever a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of trying to do it alone, and quickly gets back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird immediately in front. When the lead goose gets tired he rotates back in the wing and another goose flies to the point. Finally, when a goose gets sick or is wounded by gunshot and falls out of formation, two geese fall out of formation and follow it down to help and protect it. They stay with the goose until it is either able to fly again or until it is dead, and they launch out on their own or with another formation to catch up with the group. If we Filipinos who are living abroad have a sense of a goose, we share a common direction and a sense of community and we can get where we are going quicker and easier, because we are traveling on the thrust and trust of one another. If we, Filipinos abroad have as much sense as a goose, we will stay in formation with those who are headed in the same way they are going. If Filipinos aboard have the sense of a goose, we will stand by each other supporting especially during the lowest moments of ones life. Nature and other living things on earth live a life in full of unity. The ants

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do their work collectively. The bees, too, have the sense of solidarity to make a beehive. Even other species that exist in the natural order have this method and style. Lets learn from them. Its nature that teaches us the beauty of being united as one community. If only we have a sense of a goose, as Filipinos in Pakistan we can illuminate an image of a united Filipino Community journeying in a V formation with pride and dignity.

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Chapter 6

Risk and Survival


At a time when unbridled greed, malignant aggression, and existence of weapons of mass destruction threatens the survival of humanity, we should seriously consider any avenue that offers some hope Stanislav Grof

Risk 1: On the threat of terrorism Men usually gather in one spot in the village. The men in the village had formed the habit of sitting to talk and listen, day in, day out. It is a way of discussing social issues affecting their lives as Muslims. They are fond of having tittle-tattle while sucking smoke from the hookah placed at the center. The hookah is a hubble-bubble or waterpipe, the traditional means of collective smoking. As foreigner I often was asked by the village men about my stand on the US invasion of Iraq. As an activist for peace, I assured them of my unchanging side of my strong disagreement with the idea of the US government to undermine other nations sovereignty by reason of terrorism. But as a volunteer, I need to be very cautious. I knew that the men gathered around here were likely to hear anti-American sentiments. My opinion might instigate strong emotion to cause hue and cry against the American foreign

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policies. So I brought the idea of self reflection and positive self-image that spawned terrorism: A few years back, I developed a tool of analysis on solving community problems, which I named the Fire-Water Analysis (FrH20 Analysis). The framework of the Fire-Water Analysis was developed upon the wisdom of the common people whom I worked with in the practice of my profession as a social worker and community development practitioner. It is based on non-violent approach to solve a problem that according to the common wisdom of the common people, one cannot fight fire with fire; one can fight fire with water. The Fire-Water analysis if applied to the problem of terrorism as faced by the American people simply goes this way: the war on terror launched by the US government as a solution to the problem of terrorism is like fighting terrorism with another form of terrorism. The Bush administration is trying to stop terrorism by terrorizing the terrorist. This is fighting fire with fire thus results to a bigger fire. A water solution to terrorism is simply the opposite: putting an end to war by genuine process of peace, to terrorism by magnanimous respect and understanding of the uniqueness and diversity of humanity. After the 9/11 Americans turned victims of the fiendish act of what they fondly called terrorism. The event stimulated fears and angers among the Americans. The fears and angers misted up the process of healing and the hating process started to fill up their hearts with hate and revenge against the terrorists. On the process, the victims are no more
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different from the terrorists for they want to kill the terrorists wherever they are and wherever they are breeding. Using the Fire-Water analysis, terrorism is not the main problem. It is only created from the problem, which is never seen as problem by the American people particularly the American government. The problem lies on the failure of the US to project a self that is respectful of other nations uniqueness and diversity. America is seen as powerful, egotistical and superseding by the rest of the countries of the world. As Socrates reminds us that the shortest and surest way to live with honor in the world is to be in reality of what we would appear to be; and if we observe, we shall find, that all human virtues increase and strengthen themselves by the practice of them. The arrogant image of the US signifies the lack of selfreflection. They are too busy throwing degrading labels against persons or nations who do not conform to their defined civility and democracy. They smudge the recalcitrant persons with black propaganda using their wide media networks. The lack of self- reflection is the inability to see ones self-image and the failure to understand others. This is the problem that US must face to solve the problem of terrorism. Their misuse and abuse of power spawn terrorism. For terrorism is the most effective weapon of the weak to fight back the atrocities of the strong and powerful. Most of the American people are confined in their backyard and dont know the realities outside of America. They prefer to remain in their well world seeing nothing but their lives and interests. This is the greatest enemy they must face to win the battle against terrorism.

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As a water solution to terrorism, the Bush administration should launch a radical revolution to changing their self-image vis-a-vis a change of heart and mind to overhaul the degraded value of respect and understanding. The American people should learn to understand that is to stand under which means to look up to the other nations ways of life, culture, ideology and faith as also expressions of freedom. That the American people realize that America is not and never be the center of the earth and that American standard of freedom and democracy is not the absolute standard on how to run a government. That American interest is not at all for humanitys sake and that they must start breaking their value of self-centeredness fuelled by the mindset of acting for the interest of the American people at any cost and at the expense of murdering innocent lives. The world is safer if the US becomes self-conscious of her wrongdoings. The world is at peace if America learns to change her heart and listens to her conscience. The world is a better place to live in if America learns to give fair and just dealings with her sister nations of the world. The world will live in truth if Bush administration learns to live outside of their palatial lies and apologize for all the atrocities committed in the name of self-interest. Terrorism will cease to exist if America learns how to radiate her power in full blast of humility and realizes that white men are not the only people who are people who comprise humanity. The best way to stop terrorism is to listen to the advice of Socrates: Do not do unto others what angers you if done to
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you by others. Finally, it is not intelligence and might that can be used to solve terrorism but wisdom. The world waited for the result of the US election of 2004. Whoever takes the White House will affect the affairs of every nation of the world. Four more years of Bush reign veneered on the (military) fight against terrorism, faith and trust or Kerrys fresh start of jobs, empathy and change? But the majority of Americans of about 55 million voted in the incumbent for four more years. I for one felt so sad for two things: that the good cause to peaceful solutions on terrorism was rebuffed; and that majority of Americans were too selfcentered although they claimed themselves to be religious. I never been heavily involved in partisan politics but these days were not normal times. If a volunteer would have politics, it would be politics for peace not for war. From the very start I did not like Bush policies on fighting terrorism. Bush insisted that terrorists hate Americans for what they area freedom loving people not what they do. They are freedom-loving people only at home. Outside the home they are arrogant in undermining the other nations practice of freedom, they are all knowing in undermining the others nations governance and sovereignty, and they are warmongers who use pre-emptive attack to maim any nation who does not conform. Bush claimed that his administration has created a faithbased presidency and that his administration has created a faith-based presidency and that the faith-based presidency

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is with-us-or-against-us model This is the kind of Christians America has today. The 55 million who voted for a president with a strong policy for war were Christians of a dichotomous faith and life. God for sure did not side to any human wars, for He wants us to love our enemies. War is creation of the devil. And the devil is overjoyed if there are wars Bush is happy for war. Bush must be the devil in human form. And the 55 million Americans are supporters of the devil in human form. Then war is not only the devils way to man but already become mans way to the devil. That US election 2004 was like a battle between two evils. Usually the lesser evil is a loser. The greater evil won based on popularity, as there were so countless evils or like to do evilness that would go for the greater evil president. But the lesser evil still won by presenting an alternative, which was a lesser evil but nearer to goodness.

Risk 2: In the midst of violence The war on terror spawned violent reactions from the militant groups. They resorted to hostage taking as counter weapon to this war. The kidnappings were on the hype. Hostage taking was from Iraq to Afghanistan to Pakistan to anywhere as long as there is an American interest. Filipinos were not spared
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from this wars mayhem. I was in the hands of the terrorists twice. They took me as hostage. Filipino hostages both in Iraq and Afghanistan were somehow related to me- in anyway by name. Angelo de la Cruz close to Angelito, a truck driver in Iraq was beheaded if not the Philippine government withdrew its small contingent. Then the next hostage victim Angelito Nayan a UN diplomat kidnapped in Afghanistan was already my name. They took my name in hostage. Am I the next victim of kidnapping in Pakistan? Since there was an intelligence report that Osama Bin Laden is hiding somewhere in the rural areas of Pakistan, I cautioned myself not to travel to those places. Just like what happened to the two Chinese engineers who were kidnapped in Wana, North of Pakistan. One of them died during the rescue operation. It was a reminder to me, that I was not after all absolutely safe in my placement. All this mess was due to the American war on terrorism. These were the imminent threat I faced in Pakistan. This was my concern too as a volunteer but I rest my security to the mercy of God who I knew is with me in every place I go and everything I do. My volunteer work here was taking the risk to do the noble task of sharing my skills and changing life. The nature of my volunteer work required travelling to the different parts of Punjab province where Bunyad programs are operating. Nora was deployed in Narowal where there is high risk of lawlessness and disorder. Filipino volunteers usually work in community development and expect a lot of

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visits to different villages- where lie the ominous danger. I always pray that this is absit omen. It was Friday. It was the end of my two-month stay in Sialkot. It was also a day for jumma prayer for Muslims. I decided to leave for Lahore earlier than what I originally set. I dont know what made me did so. It was a feeling of hurrying to leave Sialkot without any reason. That day I left Sialkot, a bomb exploded in one of the mosques killing 30 people and injuring a lot more. The day after was marked with violent protests by the militants. They burned down the district Nazims (mayor) office, they went wild and uncontrollable. All roads leading to and out of Sialkot were closed. It was the luckiest day I have for I was already in Lahore when the frenzy happened. But more than luck, I later reflected, it was the Holy Guidance of God at worked to ensure my safety. When I heeded to this call, I was aware of the danger that lies ahead but from the start I knew also that God will take care of me. A week later, I have to go to Multan for another assignment with the same work I did in Sialkot. But the day I was prepared to go was deterred due to sudden shift in the project management. The project coordinator had found a new job in the university and no one will assist me there. This little reason on my deterrence to go to Multan appeared to be Gods protection. For the day that I am supposed to go, Multan was rocked with another blast.

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Chapter 7

A Common Walk
All that is valuable in human society depends upon the opportunity for development accorded the individual. Albert Einstein Exegesis of Community Development I came to volunteer in Pakistan, taking with me the most important stuff my community development experience. It was a challenge for me to share the exegesis of community development with the people of different system of thoughts and way of life. Will the meaning of community development applicable to the Pakistanis? It was the question I have in mind. My volunteer work provided me a clearer interpretation of my discipline. In a way I was able to reflect upon the right action of community development. It was an opportunity for me to deepen my thoughts and understood the right direction of my life through my chosen career. All of these thoughts became ends of volunteerism.

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There are a hundred and one interpretation of community development in as much as it is seen by different eyes in different perspective. What is community development all about and how community development is to be practiced are the guiding questions that I will attempt to put into context in Pakistan. The meaning of community development changes every time it is viewed by people from different social locations. Like deciphering the color of the ocean, it varies as to where ones present position. We see the ocean as blue, maybe green and maybe crystal white. The distance and space are factors in determining the true color of the ocean. From a plane, one will see the ocean as blue, for the sightseers from a far distance it is green and for the fishermen it is crystal white. Looking at the true color of community development is like the ocean as well. Government officials may see community development as infrastructures or development of physical structure of the community. Sponsors and donors may see community development as a project as an act of mercy and kindness. Some institutions particularly charity or religious organizations see community development as provision of basic services for the people and a way to preach the gospel. And still a lot of NGOs see community development as livelihood projects for the people to improve their quality of life. As time evolves so as perceptions changes, community development is viewed by progressive groups and NGOs as a process of strengthening the capacity of people. And in
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solidarity with the poor together they give meaning to community development as a process of liberation for the people to map their own course of development direction. Community development is like looking at the goblet half filled with water, whether it is half empty or half full. Half empty viewers are most likely to be charity-oriented people. That people are empty, illiterate, uneducated, poor, weak, ignorant, unskilled, unorganized, unaware so there is an urgent need to fill up the emptiness by providing education, services, projects, skills training, awareness, information, formation etc. The half full viewers are most likely to be developmental and progressive. That people have innate talents, potentialities from within, capabilities, knowledge of life and wisdom that the moment these are drawn out from them will fill up the remaining space of the glass to the fullest. As a Common Walk Community development sometimes refers to as community progress. If we look at the etymology of community and progress, we will find ourselves into a common walk. Community came from Latin word communitas which means common and progress from progredi or gradi which means walk, or go forward, therefore community progress is a common walk. It is a common walk towards de-envelopment. Development as de-envelopment is a process of getting out from the envelope or any forms of enclosures like poverty, oppression, exploitation, manipulation, control and dominance. Community development as common walk has a common pace (process) and a common destination

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(outcome). It is a common walk based on common pace and common destination by the common tao (people). Cognizant of this common walk, community development practitioners should journey with the common tao in their own common pace and common destination. Sensibility on where to position ourselves is what is required of us. There are moments that we lead when taking a walk with the common tao because the road is narrow and the common tao are not yet confident to proceed; the time to walk side by side when the road is wider; and the juncture to let the common tao carry on the journey by themselves towards their common destination, and at last will say we did it ourselves. In this sense community development is a common journey towards a common destination where the common people become active participants in the development processes. My opportunity to work as volunteer was the best opportunity to journey with the common people in their common walk through common direction towards a common destiny. Volunteering is a common walk with the common people. I wrote this parable to further explicate my point in community development: A Common Walk After completion of a degree in the university, a young man decided to go back to his home village to spend a holiday with his grandfather. Twenty years ago, his parents had migrated to the city in search for a greener pasture. He was born and
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reared in a city milieu. This is his first visit to his parents home place and first time to see his grandfather. It was the longest trip so far in his life. Upon reaching the village he asked for direction to the house of his grandfather. An old man sitting in a bamboo bed passively looked at him while he enters the gate of the backyard. A small hut stood at the middle of the yard, furnished only with one bed, stone stove and few kitchen utensils. He thought how miserable his grandfather is with such a wretched condition. Until he spoke and introduced himself that his grandfather recognizes him then gave a slight pat on his head and broke a smile on his lips. The first night was sleepless and restless; he could not get to sleep because he is not used to lie on a hard and uneven bed surface. The night was totally dark and only the chirping crickets randomly break the silence of the night. He is bleary and his head is heavy when he woke up in the morning. He again thought how miserable life is in this village. The thought of bringing his grandfather to the city runs in his mind. He must enjoy life before he dies he thought. His grandfather was waiting for him at the dining table. The breakfast is steamed kamote (sweet potato) tops with bagoong (salted fish sauce) and boiled rice. He is really stunned by the kind of life the village have. To his mind, the village is destitute, poor, lack of basic facilities, no entertainments; people are ignorant, illiterate, no white-collar jobs, as he began to compare the village and the city.

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After breakfasted his grandfather gestured to move around the village. Every morning his grandfather always takes a walk to pay a visit to everyone in the village. He became curious why there is a need to do it. When he asked, his grandfather replied to be with my people. On their walk to the field, they happen to pass by a group of farmers under the shade of a mango tree; they are happily chitchatting while waiting for the clouds to cover the sun and that they could go back to their paddies. He thought that the farmers are lazy because they always rest and wasting their time. Then they pass by a group of mothers in front of a sari-sari store breastfeeding their babies. He thought that these women are illiterate and ignorant and just wasting their time. Then they pass by a group of young people singing together in a kiosk. He thought that the youth in the village are unproductive and they spend their time hanging around. Then they pass by a group of children playing hide and seek, to his mind the children are so piteous for they dont have any toys like robot, computer games and pellet guns. In every group they have passed his grandfather made a stop and joined the group for a while in their activity. The days walk made him felt the urgency to change the village situation. He is thinking of returning to bring technology. He told his grandfather about his plans but his grandfather disagreed and said: Why do you want to give us technology?
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Isnt enough that we live according to what w e have? You people from the city you always look at us very backward without knowing that life is not about speed and automation, money and accumulations but about making the best of what you have. Only then that he understood why the villagers are grouping together and seemed to wasting their time. The farmers under the mango tree while resting were talking about the fruits of their indigenous farming system, by strictly following organic farming so not to kill the soil with chemicals. The farmers taught him a life of co-existence with nature. The mothers in the sari-sari store in their tittle-tattle about the positive effect of breastfeeding to their babies had taught him the lesson of human attachment and co-existence. The youngsters in the kiosk singing kundiman (traditional love songs) had taught him the value of friendship and culture. The children taught him of a life of childlikeness, simplicity, and contentment. And the most important thing that he learned in that walk with his grandfather is the spirituality of life- knowing what life is all about and how life is to be lived. The common walk of life in the village is a symbiotic relationship among the creator, nature and human. The advances of a modern life had brought strife and war, but in the village the backwardness of life had cultivated love and peace. He saw a more civilized world in the village than in the city where he grew up. He received the best lecture in his life about the common walk of life.

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Self-determination of People I remembered three pointers the poor have taught me about their poverty. The first point came from a taxi driver I met in Islamabad. He said that every person is a born economist because each person knows his own priorities. And that no one should underestimate the economic capability of the poor. The second point came from a farmer in Sialkot. He argued that each person is obliged to fight for his own survival. And that no one should provide absolute solutions to the problems faced by the poor, for the poor know the solutions better than anybody else. The third point came from a Pakistani woman activist. She discussed that no state can remove poverty because every state depends on what the people give. And that no one in the political world should dare to work to uplift the lives of the poor. If there are efforts to help, those are intended to make their names- hence politics. When I came to reflect upon these pointers, I saw relations and truths in the practice of community development. I established the links: the taxi drivers view was the reality that every person, even a child, knows their priorities. When we go to the market, we find that each person with a certain
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amount of money would buy things within the value of his resources on hand. Now no expert can ever tell each person what he should buy and what he should not buy. Similarly no one should ever spend the money taken from the people and spend it according to their wishes. In community development, this point will tell us that each person no matter how poor he is; has innate talents to manage his own life. The idea of the farmer supported the view of the taxi driver: that no expert can teach the person how to get rid of poverty or how to survive economically. This is something that the person must solve for himself. Similarly, no amount of economic aids can help any country to get rid of poverty unless each person finds ways and means to eradicate his own poverty. In community development, this idea will tell us that no one should hand solutions for the people but pose the problem in order for the people to solve it. The woman activist analysis was true: that no state or even NGO or any Social Development Agencies can ever remove poverty because these institutions especially the states were never created to remove poverty but to help those in power to exploit the people and resources of a country or communities in the name of service. I practice community development to attain the value of volunteerism which is free will to work with the people for empowerment, hence volunteerism

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Chapter 8

Knowing the Essence of Volunteerism The essence of volunteerism is not giving part of a surplus one doesn't need, but giving part of one's self. Such giving is more than a duty of the heart, but a way people help themselves by satisfying the deeper spiritual needs that represent the best that is in us. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend

The summer gust smells acrid on the road to Sambrial. The unpleasant odor comes from the factories which busied Sialkot District of Punjab. Sialkot is considered to be the export doorway of Pakistan for leather, sporting goods, surgical instruments etc. It is no doubt that the exporting activities are bringing great pad on returns to the countrys economy, but behind its contribution to the economy lies beneath a harsh social reality on human life. What I witnessed on my way to the village Sambrial is a happenstance to what I saw on my visit to a young boy working in the sweatshop for surgical instruments.
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What do you want to become in the future? I want to be a doctor Why do you want to become a doctor? Because I want to help my family since my father died of illness . In what ways are you going to achieve your dream of becoming a doctor? I got a moment of silence before he replied: I will continue my reading. This was my conversation with Asad Muneer when I visited him in the sweatshop where he works. Asad dreams of becoming a doctor to help his family after his father died of hepatitis three months ago. But realizing his dream is different from just dreaming. For Asad dreaming is a priceless way to get a costly reality, and he knew he would never be a doctor because of his present circumstances. He is only a doctor in his dream. I was taken aback on my encounter with Asad in the sweatshop and a month later I cleared my schedule to spend quality time with his family. Asad appeared on the doorway carrying his youngest sibling. After the usual exchanged of greetings, he led us into the house. The house is unkempt, furnished only with one stand fan and two steel beds. Asad is 9 years old and the 8th child of 11 children of Abida Muneer, the mother. Abida is maudlin of their condition after she was widowed. Two days ago we have nothing to eat and often our meal is simple roti and water, my family is very poor. the mother recalled of her familys wretched condition. She does not want her children to work in the sweatshop but there is no other choice; this helpless situation forced Asad and his brothers Kamran and Shoib to work at their young age.

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The mother lamented that their life became more miserable when her husband died of illness. He died of hepatitis because he was never brought to the attention of a medical doctor due to fear of the high cost of hospitalization and treatment. The death of the head of the family had left a dent on their economic life. .We only survive through the help of our neighbors by giving us tael (lard), cheny (sugar), masala (Spices), ata (flour) and gandam (wheat) Looking at the jaundiced teary eyes of the mother, I realized how the spell of hepatitis has infected the family. One child also died of hepatitis and Kamran and the other siblings also have yellowish eyes indicative of being infected with the dreaded liver disease. The poverty condition of Asads family is dehumanizing. It has fallen into the trap of deprivation and vulnerability and the only defense left is the hope that life could be better in the next life. In spite of their condition, Asad is active in attending his Non Formal Education class. The hope in his eyes kindled as he chirruped the Naat-Rasool-E- Maqbbol, a song of praise for the Prophet Muhammad. He is optimistic that their life could be better with having an education and that he rests his dream on the mercy of Allah. In Pakistan many children are engaged in different kinds of work for paltry sum of rupees as source of the family income. As BUNYAD had observed, the children work in various forms from small and large cottage industries to the sweatshops,
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streets to the markets, begging to car cleaning, from paper picking to book binding, hawker to street vendor, from home sweeping to garbage collecting, from driving donkeys to bullock cart driving, from dish washing to puncture repairing, from dyeing to carpet weaving, as tailors, barbers, cobblers, welders, carpenters, potters etc. Often these works exposed the children from exploitative and hazardous labor. The national survey of child labor conducted in 1996 by the Federal Bureau of Statistics showed 40 million children of 5 to 14 years of age are working. Of this total figure the survey indicated 3.3 million were economically active children which mean that they are working for a living. In the province of Punjab alone there are 1.94 million child workers in different forms. In Sialkot, child labor is prevalent in the villages. Child labor became a normal scene in the sweatshops after the manufacturers introduced the scheme of subcontracting to minimize the cost of production and maximize their profit. In subcontracting the local sweatshop owner accepts materials for grinding and polishing. Sweatshops usually operate with six to ten workers mostly children. The shop owner is paid 18 rupees per 1 dozen of surgical instruments. The manufacturer will ship the finished products to Germany, Italy and USA and get big sum of Euro while the laborers get a minimal amount of rupee. The situation of Asad for instance, as child worker in the sweatshop for surgical instruments only receives 50 rupees a week or an equivalent of 350 rupees a month. Salary scale depends on the skills of the child worker. Skilled workers receive a salary ranging from 800 to 1500 rupees per month. Often times, the new unskilled child worker must undergo a

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probationary period for one year without any pay before he will be accepted to work as contractual in the sweatshop. Aside from very low salary, the condition of the workplace is obviously hazardous. The workplace is filthy, squalid and poorly ventilated. The children workers have no proper gadgets like masks and gloves to protect them from any harm. They work with their bare hands risking their health in exchange for small amount of money. At the end of the working day, their faces are filled with tiny metal particles from the instruments they have ground and polished. Child labor also is a solution to a problem faced by the family. The issue of survival forced the parents to send their children to the sweatshop no matter how dehumanizing it is. This is the only survival response they know and the culprit again is poverty due to unemployment. Around the world, many have found enjoyment and pleasure in ball games and many lives are saved through surgical instruments in the hospitals but people are not aware of the fact that when every ball is tossed and every surgical instrument is used to save lives, at same moment the sweat and blood of the children who made these things are being suck dried through child labor. In response to this dehumanizing issue of child labor in Pakistan, Bunyad Literacy Community Council, took the initiative to combat and eradicate child labor by establishing Non Formal Education Centers for the sweatshop children. BUNYAD tied a knot of partnership with ILO to effectively address the problem of child labor through collaboration and cooperation by the different institutions concerned on the eradication of child labor in Pakistan. At present BUNYAD had
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established 30 Non Formal Education Centers and successful enough to bring the children to the centers. The primary goal of the NFE centers is to eventually mainstream the children to formal schooling. To date, BUNYAD has mainstreamed 15 children to different grade levels in the formal school. BUNYAD strategy is to enlist cooperation on the part the shop owners, key persons in the community including the nazims (mayor) and the parents. At first the Social Mobilizers often encountered resistance and apathy from the parents and shop owners to the NFE project. The parents raised question on why BUNYAD is bringing their children to the centers. Asking what benefits could they get from it? But by persistent motivation and dialogue with the social mobilizers, the parents realized the importance of the project for their children. Although the project has successfully addressed the basic need of the children to education, it seems that only a shadow of the child labor issue has been treated. Child labor is only a symptom to a more dreaded disease in our society which is poverty. If we want to cure it we must dig deeper into the cause. It seems that one cannot just eradicate child labor by providing Non Formal Education to the children. As Mein Muhammad Yaqoob, a shop owner himself said I cant eliminate child labor; this is only possible through community participation. As a community development practitioner, I always try to raise the level of critical reflection among the social mobilizers to look into the holistic gamut of the issue of child labor. The sentence in a literacy class should be read Asad is in the sweatshop and start reading it beyond the mundane meaning of the sentence. The participants now

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try to unfold answers from the question what is the condition of Asads life, why is Asad needed to be in the sweatshop. A lot of NGOs and International Social Development Agencies saw it as child labor and there is a need to combat this. The strategy is to provide non-formal education to the children in the premise that education can prepare them for a decent labor. But in Pakistan, it seems that education or having a degree is not an assurance to get a decent job. There must be a critical reading of the situation of Asad if they want to formulate program to combat hazardous and exploitative child labor, even if it means going outside of their existing packaged programs. Child labor is an issue in community development, if poverty is the main cause then there must be alternative source of income of the family. The family should also be organized in order to take action to liberate them from the quagmire of poverty. The framework of any interventions should be treating the person who is in the situation then eventually treating the main disease. While the present program of combating child labor through non formal education is a relevant point of entry to somehow cure the disease called child labor which is a symptom to a more dreaded social disease which is poverty, it should not end there but should evolve into a holistic approach to provide dose of prevention to child labor by addressing poverty through community organization. And that the NGOs and other Social Development Agencies involved in the project should not only parade the how many centers have been established and how many children have been mainstreamed to formal education
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as a success but rather underscore on how the communitybased organizations acted together to prevent child labor through their conscienticized participation. Asad has a dream. Our duty is not to dream for Asad by providing highly- technically- crafted projects with predetermined goals, but let us facilitate his dream and dream with him.

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Chapter 10

The True Taste of Water


If water is too clear, it will not contain fish; people who are too cautious will never gain wisdom. Chinese proverb Water has no taste, no color, no odor; it cannot be defined, art relished while ever mysterious. Not necessary to life, but rather life itself. It fills us with a gratification that exceeds the delight of the senses. Antoine de Saint-Exupery I found the climate in the Land of the Pure so extreme. The summer temperature that is more than 40 degrees centigrade melts me down like an ice cream. It was a season of profuse perspiration. It was a moment of irritation due to painful skin rashes. It was like a season of hell. I disliked this condition. I complained. It dried up my soul. I thought of the winter to come immediately to relieve me from this hearth. I finally survived the dry spell. I was like a fish in relief after being brought back to the water from dry land. Heat waves were over. But I just could not pass this without cursing this hot
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season, I shrieked upon it like human on my annoyance to see the mark on my skin it left behind. I gave this season a bitter goodbye. It was in the middle of winter season when I came back from my Christmas vacation at home. Driving down the road from Lahore airport to my accommodation, I could feel the biting cold. I thought I would like to love winter season, but the comfort I was imagining was only good during summer. I was freezing. I hated to touch any flowing water from the faucet. It made me shiver to the bones. In the evening I would wrap my body with at least 6 thick blankets enough to provide warmth. My feet were so cold that made my whole body to chill. Then like summer, I came to dislike winter. Then like what I thought of winter during my summer, I came to think of having summer during this winter season. Then I realized, I came to appreciate the burning temperature when I was freezing. As well as I was longing for cold season when I was melting like an ice cream in the very hot season. It is only during hot season that one can appreciate the coldness of a winter. It is only during the biting cold season that one can appreciate the warmth of a summer. I learned to be contented on what I have and where I am. In my life I learned the value of a moderate living. Not to extreme. Not too poor and not too rich. It is a life that is only a lot. A lot is not more than too much and not less than a little. A life that is abundant. I came to know how dehumanizing it is when life is very poor or very rich. The poor lose their self-respect doing whatever means in order to survive and the rich lose their human emotions turning their

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hearts into stone in order to accumulate more and more material possessions. Spring and autumn are the perfect seasons of contentment and moderation. I have not recognized their presence until I experienced the dry spell of summer and the coldness of winter. I have not appreciated these until I felt the pain. Bitter experiences can become sweet. Indeed the wisdom behind it is true. The consequence was so sweet a fruit of bitter circumstances that can be reaped forever throughout my life. Like the weather, someone has taught me a lesson of life. It was Asad, that small, thin, child laborer who taught me a lesson of life that I would cherish for the rest of my life. My encounter with him brought to my senses the wisdom of knowing the true taste of a water. It was one humid weekend when I visited him in their house. Her mother was delighted when she saw me visiting them again. It reminded me of their distress condition when I saw the contortion of hardships that seemed to be smudged upon her face. My presence is my little way of bringing a smile to the family of Asad. I have proven it many times that this little way called apostolate of presence could bring glimmer of hope. Sometimes I think this is the greatest thing that I could contribute when I go back home. People will remember me by coming into their homes no matter what circumstances they might have. I didnt realize that my presence could bring hope. I didnt realize that my way of bringing hope by my presence is also a way of giving love. In fact the people had also given the same hope that I brought. I felt the love of God -99-

through the love exemplified by Asad. The humidity at noontime had caused me to perspire a lot. It was an uneasy feeling doing fieldwork during this season. I already used up all the water in my bottle and I started to grope for a few more drop of water to quench my drying mouth. Water is gold during hot season. Potable water is scarce in the villages. The thing the family of Asad is deprived of. Asad understood my needs. Without uttering a word of excuse, he went into the kitchen. He appeared on the door from the kitchen with a half-full glass of water and offered it to me. He was smiling as he was giving me the glass of water. I received the glass of water but a thought was speedily flashed on to my mind. The water might be dirty. The glass might be contaminated with hepatitis virus. I thought. But I knew that the offer of a glass of water is a sincere gesture of kindness and love. To turn it down means turning down the work of love. I closed my eyes. I sipped the water. I am not sure if the water is clean. I am not sure if the glass is free from hepatitis infectivity. But one thing I am sure of, that moment when I drank the water, it is the freshest and sweetest water I ever tasted in my life. Yes it was, knowing that the water was the last dip of water from the earthen vessel the family have for that day. It was given to me by Asad who has less to offer. It was the greatest act of kindness I ever received. There was no play of a magic here but it was indeed an experience of my spiritual awakening. It is only in the desert that one can know the true taste of a water. Life is the water and the deserts in my life represent pains, sufferings, difficulties and failures that only through them that I can know the true taste of life. The deserts in my

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life are bitter ingredients yet they bear sweet fruits to invigorate my life. I have tasted the true taste of life through this noble act of volunteering.

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Chapter 11

The True Feeling of Joy


Service is not as much about good actions, as it is about good feelings; creating them in others, and experiencing them within. It is not so much about 'doing', as it is about 'being'; being one's best, being one's higher self. Love, is the only true doer. Good deeds, like good works, are but priceless opportunities to experience and share our being's deepest nature: Joy." Author Anonymous It was Tuesday evening; the whole Village of Ogoke was covered with darkness due to power interruptions. The quietude has hushed the noisy roads. I was in the veranda with Malik and Khoker under the silver glow of full moon. The deafening silence was broken by three faces appeared in front of the gate. The knocks were persistent. Malik deigned to know their needs. The faces came from the gypsy community settled two blocks away from our office. The father kept begging for help. His two children were taken by a motorist because one of them accidentally threw a stone to the speeding car and broke the windshield. They came to the office because they have known that we are working for the welfare of children. But the case

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is not within the bounds of the program. It requires a legal action. Khoker was interested in the case. He volunteered to negotiate in behalf of the parents. Khoker was a big man, has a tall frame weighing approximately 150 kg. A good bet for boxing or wrestling, in case of scuffle. He has also some background of law. The most important quality Khoker has he was a joker a jovial big man, who could turn serious talks into a happy banter. Malik formed the party of negotiators composed of Khoker as head and 5 able-bodied social mobilizers. The party itself was strong contingent for any battle. It was meant to scare the motorist who got the boys. We planned our argument: The peaceful argument was: you release the boys, forgive them for what they have done, for they cannot pay the damages because they are very poor. The legal argument was: you have done illegal actions against these boys; the family could charge you of kidnapping and illegal detention. The last and the least means: Khokers prowess. After half an hour waiting, the face of the father lit up when he saw his two sons with the party as they loomed from a distance. There were smiles on their faces marked with jubilation. The boys were turned over to the party peacefully,
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without any single drop of perspiration. I did see how the poor gypsy family expressed their gratitude, genuflecting, and acting the Hindu way of paying reverence. It was a priceless act but the most worthy of all acts of paying the debt of gratitude, I ever seen. It was a sense of fulfilment for all of us too. Especially evident on the joy of Khoker who seemed to win his first case against a hundred cases lost. The argument used was option one, with the bluff of option three. That evening after our dinner, tea and burfee were served as a way to celebrate. The joy of helping could be felt when you know that the person whom you helped could not pay you back, but you hope for him to pay it forward. Volunteering is noble and joyful when you know that you will receive less by doing the task, yet you accepted it with free will.

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Chapter 11

Of Faith and Reason


Yet again it is demonstrated that monotheistic religion is a plagiarism of a plagiarism of a hearsay of a hearsay, of an illusion of an illusion, extending all the way back to a fabrication of a few non- events. Christopher Hitchens

I used to be a religious person. I stopped being religious when I learned to use reason and valued free thoughts. And the truth has set me free when I volunteered. Volunteering is not religiosity; it is not a ritual, a ceremony and a religious obligation. It is not even a divine call to do religious mission. It is simply a free will to serve humanity. On Culture I encountered significant dynamics in my volunteering experience. First is coping and amalgamating the culture in my placement. Culture is the entire complex of cognitions, beliefs, arts, morality, laws, customs, or any other capacity or habits acquired by man as a member of society.
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In Pakistan, for instance, while observing their culture on the road, when road courtesy means beating the red light, overtaking the other car in sharp curbs and parking improperly on road and refuse to give way. These are exactly the opposite of courtesy I knew. But those are the ways they live everyday. It was so normal life for them. It was a social habit that was formed when done constantly. I attempted to correct, however, I realized I was using my own context of discipline, and I refrained and I accepted the line of reasoning of any driver would have to say every time I air a suggestion: This is Pakistan, No problem. Culture is a collection of practices within the community and is lived normally by the people no matter what effects it may generate.

On Religion My lifes journey as a volunteer turned to be a journey of faith. I became deeply interested on the talk of god and the spirituality of everything I do. It gave me opportunity to rethink and re-feel the faith that I have been baptized to be in. (I did not choose my religion, my parents did for me. But I am sure my parents also did not choose our religion, their parents also chose for them and so on.) Through religion, societies define for themselves the most transcendent meanings of their practices and the destiny of persons and history. The vehicles of religions are powerful symbols, rituals and celebrations.

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The ultimate aim of religions is the purification of the soul, towards this end it urges and guides its followers. In Islam, the wearing of headscarf or a totally covered body among women for example is a sight so discomfort to me. How very discomfort a life of the women wearing such during hot season. This is, into my feelings, a form of suffering of women. Like any kinds of religion, I realized that, it has been created by man for man, not necessarily for a woman. I thought God, like what Karen Armstrong thought, had simply been a projection of human needs and desires by men. I already have a critical awareness that religion poisons everything. That it is a big fraud and lurking with lies and deceptions. And that god is man-made, a human creation out of fear of death as elucidated by Sigmund Freud in the The Future of an Illusion. All religions have the tendency to impose unreasonable restrictions to its followers. For instance when I was in India I learned that Hindus have that special adoration of the cow considered to be consecrated and invulnerable animal. The fact is cows are vulnerable to bouvine encephalitic or mad cow disease. The Muslims have the fear of pigs. That is why pork is considered haram. Almost 8 months that I have not eaten pork in Pakistan until one kababayan who works with Philippine embassy shared with us chunks of pork he brought from the Philippines. The embassy is exempted from the prohibition of bringing in and eating pork and drinking of any kind of alcoholic beverages as long as it is done in private. The fear of pigs was not usually known to have emerged in the ancient Judea and was one of the distinctions of the Jews
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from other races. Religion also imposes into the minds of believers many superstitious beliefs. The Shia fundamentalist in Iran for instance lowered the age of consent to 9 years old. It might be based on the age of the youngest wife of the Prophet Muhammad. My honest feeling about this prophet marrying a 9 year old and having 13 or more wives is preposterous and callous. It is deplorable. It is a violation of child rights. It is child abuse. In India, child bride as part of the practice of Hinduism are flogged, and sometimes burned alive, if the dowry is small. In India I came to learn that the family of the woman pays for dowry. Many Christian sects also have beliefs based upon superstitious like the Jehovah Witnesss refusal to receive blood transfusions even if it is a matter of life and death. Mormons who believe Joseph Smith was led to a set of buried golden tablets could marry underage girls. I have read Jon Krakauers Under the Banner of Heaven, a story that tells how faith could be violent. Ronald Watson Lafferty murdered his sister-in-law and her 15month-old baby because God commanded him to do it. I was terrified by this story and validated my previous awareness on the delusions of people they called religion to turn into violence and abuses. Often I encountered people, especially the devout Muslim, who attempted to proselytize me by presenting Islam as the true and best religion, since the last and final Prophet Muhammad founded it. But in my honest intuition, analysis and presuppositions, Islam is Muhammads version of Christianity. And the texts and verses written on the Quoran were somehow lifted from the Talmud and the Holy Bible. It

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might have been plagiarized, paraphrased, rewrote and interpreted based on the Judeo-Christian tradition and adapted in the context of the Arab culture. Christianity is also a rehash of older religions. The story of virgin birth, crucifixion and resurrection were common genres predating Jesus. Horus, Dionysus, Krishna, Mithra, Zoroaster, Zeus are myth gods in the neighborhood before Jesus. And I came to discover that the story of Jesus is a no different fashion. I started to see the truth about the doctrine which I came to believe for almost three decades. Jesus is also a mythical god. Jesus is the sun god or the personification of the sun. I met few Muslims who were interested in a dialogue like this. We shared similar concept of the creation of religion. Religion was created out of fear. Fear of those who might lose their social positions. Those who want to sustain status quo for their own convenience. It took a neurotic experience of the founders to bring into being what they call religion. Coming from the cave, after Angel Gabriel, the same angel appeared to Elizabeth in the Bible, instructed Muhammad to be the prophet. Islam was created out of worry of Muhammad that the whole Middle East would be converted into Christianity. Islam is too young a religion compared to other religions of the world. It is not logical to conclude that the last is the best, and that the final is the truth. Like the different sects of Christianity claiming to be the true religion. Islam was said to be a religion created out from Judaism, Hindu, Buddhism and Christianity. The use of rosary might be imitated from the Hindu, the way they pray was imitated from the Buddhist and the praying especially five times a day was from the Jew, and the religious hierarchy was patterned from Christianity. It is a
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ragtag belief based on different sources. I have not seen originality in Islam, but a Muslim so fanatic to believe that it is the best religion of the world by virtue of the last and final religion. That made this religion imperialist of some sort by tending to be so rigid; and ethnocentric. That produces believers who are extremists, fundamentalists and close minded. Well, this is also true in Christianity as it is also true in Hinduism, Buddhism and Judaism. In the name of religion war and killing was justified and rationalized. From the crusade to the Inquisition to the religious reformation to the 9/11, all events paved the way for millions of people murdered in the name of God. I really could not imagine considering war as holy. What is so holy about a land when it is bathed in blood day by day? What good is being a martyr when you kill other people and willing to be killed in an act of religious exultation. What sense it is to practice the suttee and shahid? What sense it is to glorify violence and torture as backdrop of faith to illustrate human sacrifice? It became clearer to me now that religion is indeed invented by men. Religion is a vehicle to exploit people. It is considered to be the most profitable business capitalizing on the concept of SALVATION and GOD. I saw similar neurotic experience by a person who was self-convinced, believed and lived on his lies and deception to advance his self- interest by establishing a charismatic group. Think of an engineer who does business in real estate and about to go bankrupt and has huge debt found refuge on religion. The neurotic experience or delusions occurred when this person claimed that he saw Jesus Christ, made a conversation with Him and ordered him

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to go and preach the gospel. From then on he became very rich by interpreting verses in the bible to the mob of people gathered every Saturday. They are the poor who are most vulnerable to this deceptive ploy since they are searching for a savior or any mechanism that would change their miserable condition. I remembered the film I saw about Marjoe. Marjoe confessed that his family used evangelization to collect huge amount of dollars to the believing congregation. Religion is business. There is no tangible stuff to sell only salvation of the soul. Religion teaches people to be self-centered. The Christian religion for instance assures its believers that God cares for them individually specially if they develop personal relationship with Him or accept Jesus as personal God and savior. If they are asked what they could do to help ameliorate poverty, they would pray and busy themselves on the errands of God by religiously attending mass on Sundays, midweek bible studies and prayer meetings. They worship God to ask Him to pour them more blessings and divine protection and guidance. At the end, I realized that it is not religion but humanity that makes the world a peaceful place to live. And that my spirituality grew more from within me. I started to believe on humanistic ethic that human can develop to the fullest without the divine guidance. Spirituality is to participate in the struggle for liberation. It is a quest to have a life full of dignity for all human beings. This is
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my commitment- the raison d'tre of volunteerism. Humanism as spirituality seeks to bind the world as one. This is another true taste of water that I came to know.

In solidarity with the poor From the traffic intersections, they impatiently wait for the traffic light to go red. Then they appear, knock the windshield of the car, and do the hand-to-mouth gesture. They look sick and handicapped, hungry and hopeless, but everything is false. They transformed themselves into a soiled, pitiful bad of the street urchins to elicit sympathy. The beggars capitalize on their sorry conditions, that the more they look wretched, the more people would be moved to dispense money out from their pockets. Poverty drives the poor to beg-a situation that dehumanizes the poor since they lose their self-respect. Behind the lavish private residences in some parts of the city like DHA in Lahore, which exhibit the wealth enjoyed by the very few, the chasm between the rich and the poor is so wide and is so scandalous to ponder about. But the very poverty I saw in everywhere I go reminds me to live a simple life. The driving spirit of my volunteering is my chosen disciplinecommunity development. My professional discipline was a product of my living and working with the people. In consequence, it enriched my experiences. And my volunteering work enables me to be poor. And through volunteering that I can bring the hope. To bring hope is the

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highest goal of being in solidarity with the poor. Volunteering is telling God loves you without even saying the word. Community development as a practice of my faith found its base on theology. Purposely, I feel that community development is also a talk of God a talk of a liberating and empowering God, who at all times sided with the poor because being poor means social injustice- a situation which is absolutely not godly. The orthopraxis or the right action of community development which I coined concurred with Gustavo Gutierrez theology of liberation: The theology of liberation attempts to reflect on experience and meaning of faith based on the commitment to abolish injustice and to build a new society; this theology must be verified by the practice of that commitment, by active, effective participation in the struggle which the exploited social classes have undertaken against their oppressor. Volunteerism as an action component of my faith kept abreast with liberation theology. I live my faith through community development to seek social justice, liberation and empowerment to attain an abundant life for all humanity.

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Chapter 12

Coming Home
There's nothing half so pleasant as coming home again. Margaret Elizabeth Sangster

The Christmas of 2004 had unfolded a new chapter in my life. It was how love conquers everything. It was the magic of love that brought me to my new home. I went home for 5-week vacation from my volunteering work. I did not expect that this Christmas vacation will permanently bring me home. After eight months of being separated by distance, we felt that our longing for each other grew deeper. I realized that time and space is necessary to nurture our relationship. I could see the trace of painful struggle Jhen has gone through on how to surpass the difficult times being alone. Her face turned ominous because of the emptiness she experience without my presence. A thought recurred. What do you want to prove for yourselfyou keep going Searching for a meaning? Yes, for so long that I tried to escape my footprints and shadow by running away, but as I run along more footprints appeared and my shadow easily kept up with me. Jhen kept reminding

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me to stay at home and find a home. To stand where I am and find meaning on what I am doing to experience a home. Now I understand what she had meant. That I should stand still so there would be no footprints. I should rest in the shade so my shadow would disappear. Why do I have to go somewhere to search for home? I should stand still. And find home within. There was an unexplainable feeling of joy when I came home. It was a feeling of being freed from a Gordian knot. It was a feeling of real home I found with Jhen. Our longing led us to exchange vows. I waited for so long for this most significant moment of my life- a ceremony to start building my own family. I composed a song of love for her: You are My You On this day I commit myself to you On this moment My heart belongs to you I walk beside you to the altar And submit our love to God This is the start To spend my life with you So take my hand Lets hold each other To live as one in one faith and love You are my you Now and forever You made my life complete and whole
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I am your you Together forever We will build a family in Gods love On this day I offer you my spirit On this day moment I wish to live with you more than forever But then again, I was torn between staying home for good and going back to my placement to finish my two-year contract. Again, I have to make a choice. My life is a series of choices. I remembered when I decided to go and left Jhen. And now I must decide again for the same situation. If I have to make a choice, I set my mind to choose my wife over my career. So I decided to finish my contract in one year. I have to devote my time to start building my own family in Gods love. I made a very painful yet cherubic decision. It was sad but I know I did the right thing. I could say that I finally came home in my wifes heart. The success and failure of volunteering does not depend on how much time you spend in the placement but on how you learned the lessons that life can bring that compelled you to do the right thing. My volunteering experience is a story of death and life. During my volunteering work, I feared about death. Death was my greatest fear. After I decided to return early, I realized that indeed I had died. My volunteering is the dying of my old

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self. Its like a process of moulting a complete shedding of my old skin, a sense of renewal. My paradigm re-affirmed, I have been through de-conceptualization and demythologization. I expoliated from the system of my thought, removing prejudices and stereotypes. The old self of doubt and restlessness had totally ceased and I learned how to unlearn, I developed a new self of probity. Assured and at peace. It is also life. I live as a volunteer to touch lives and give hope to live a life of love and justice. We live through something once, we feel something once, and we live this life once. Nothing we do can make us live through something twice. Going back in time is humans inability. Some moments in our life are too special to let go. My volunteering experience is not only a past but also the present and the future of my life. I am what I am now because volunteering gave me the opportunity to know the true taste of a water: I am out in the barren Walking barefooted upon The burning sand of the dessert I left everything I took nothing except myself I am naked of possessions I left my comfort zone My first step is doubting Resisting so feared and uncertain -117-

But how can I know without trying How can I search without going I am greeted by the sun so bright So bright to pierce my eyes I made a halt and saw Children without childhood A child was stabbed by the chest With a knife as he grapples to get the valuables And the blood smeared upon my face And realized how risky it is to work In the next corner of the street I glanced on a family without a home The mother is desiccated of milk The babys frail body lost its weight The father is lying down still and calm The body is cold, hard and listless The body surrendered from hardship I am hungry but nothing to eat I dont even have a single penny to buy my food I sat down and gazed at the sky So wide, so clear yet cannot dispense blessings Im tired yet no perspiration For the liquid on my body is totally out of circulation In a farther distance I saw an oasis But only have a blob to sip To quench my thirst And I remember the children without future The family that suffered from nothingness I realized when one has plenty The taste is ordinary and the life is lavish But when it is scarce The taste becomes so special and treasured

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My skin becomes so dry My throat start to long for water But alas I am in the middle of nowhere In the barren where nothing is a natural thing I started to panic My breath slowly expires My feet are heavy Cant carry me for more distance I drop on my knees I started to close my eyes Suddenly a soft palm touch my shoulder Extending a half empty glass of water A child without a childhood Wearing a sweet smile I drank the water I feel so strong and got up in jubilation The childs lips are dried So thirsty as I am But he sacrifice his own life For me to survive And the water he gave me Is the sweetest ever I drank For it is in the dessert that one Can know the true taste of a water For it is in giving when you are starved Can one feel the true joy of life For it is in serving in spite of being nothing Is the essence of ones existence The discomfort of my journey Is meant for me to know the true taste of a water
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Volunteerism is living the virtues of love, service and hope. The road to it is convoluted, but no matter how hard, no matter who you are, no matter what you have, i ts how you express your love that makes volunteering worth doing.

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Part Three
Land of the Blue Sky
The emptiness of a land with no fences and no privately owned land is awesome and at times it feels like you can see the curvature of the earth. Mongolia, the Land of Blue Sky is remarkable country where dense Siberian forests, rolling Central Asian Steppes, vast Gobi Desert, glacier-wrapped mountains and crystal pure lakes meet. It is an invigorating and exhilarating place to visit, and remains one of the last unspoiled travel destinations in Asia.

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Chapter 12

Volunteering Again
February 16, 2008. Saturday. It was 4 in the afternoon when KE 867 landed on Ulaanbaatar International Airport. My arrival in Mongolia brought me mixed feelings. My heart was heavy all throughout my flight from Manila to Incheon to this final destination. Ayats rendition of Tomorrow kept playing in my ears that made me somber. I was absolutely sad for it means a year of not seeing Jhen and Ayat, of not hugging and kissing Ayat, and of not seeing her development everyday till she turns three. The very day I arrived in Mongolia was also the very start of my countdown to be home soon. Duya, staff of VSO Mongolia and Gecca a Filipino volunteer fetched me and Rez from the airport. I started to feel the freezing temperature. I was wearing a sweatshirt which my wife bought from Baguio and no other winter gear I thought I was not unprepared for winter until Gecca handed down a very thick coat, gloves, scarf and bonnet- only then that I found out the temperature outside the airport is minus 20 centigrade. It means 20 times colder than a freezer. Seemingly dead trees and snowcapped mountains were the first things that I noticed while on our way to VSO office. Mongolia has

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always stirred up my visions of the exotic- Chinggis Khaan also known by Perisianized spelling of his name, Genghis Khan, camels wandering in the Gobi Desert and wild horses galloping across the steppes. My feet suffered a lot from that biting cold for I was wearing a pair of fake converse canvass shoes I bought from Baclaran. My face was exposed and started to numb. My nose was irritated with cold air that I breathed in. My ears were ringing as a reaction to the high altitude. Mongolia is 1,337 meters or 4,386 feet above sea level, lower a bit than Baguio City-the summer capital of the Philippines. Mongolia has an extreme continental climate, meaning that it is so far inland that no sea moderates its climate. Long subarctic winters seemed to be the norm. My first night was busied by an invitation to a dinner hosted by Joe, a former VSO volunteer from Isabela, who landed a job here as consultant after his stint as a volunteer. There are at least 50 Filipinos working in different fields like mining, IT, accounting, missionaries and UN and VSO volunteers in Mongolia. Filipinos have developed the sense of community away from the Philippines. The presence of Filipino community here lessens my vulnerability to a culture shock. All volunteers arrived in the February cycle got one month stay in Ulaanbaatar before going to our respective placements. Volunteers came from different countries like two of us from the Philippines, an Indian, a Dutch, an Australian and all the rest are from the UK. All of us struggle to learn the Mongolian language. Most of the time I am confused for I kept interchanging the words from Mongolian
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to Urdu. I learned Urdu when I was in Pakistan in 2004 only to find out that it sounds similar to the Mongolian language. My placement is in Dornod, the eastern part of Mongolia and a 20 hour drive from Ulaanbaatar. I will be working with Save the Children as a Social Work Trainer. I never knew what to expect in Mongolia. Besides an imagination of special white tents they call ger and chubby men wrestling, I honestly did not know what to expect. The curiosity to experience this unknown country was soon replaced by great amazement upon seeing the wonderful landscape and beautiful people. Having volunteered in Pakistan, I say Mongolia is different that is something I must inclined to discover.

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Chapter 13

Spirituality of Spring
"The beautiful spring came; and when Nature resumes her loveliness, the human soul is apt to revive also." Harriet Ann Jacobs It was unthinkable for a tropical person like me to experience winter in Mongolia. I arrived here just a month to go before winter ends. In the first time I was fascinated, feeling so curious about how to live in an absolutely frozen environment. I played with snow when they happen to fall at day time. I took photos of myself with the snow-capped mountain in the background. I took videos to capture every bit of mementos that I would have during this freezing moments. I was wearing two T-shirts, 2 sweatshirts and a blue The North Face windstopper jacket, denim pants with black thermal underwear inside, wool hand gloves, scarf wrapped around my neck and a Russian sou'wester. I bought genuineimitation stuff again- a made in China black Nike shoes from the shopping mall in Ulaanbaatar to replace my fake Converse sneakers I got after a polite bargaining from a Muslim vendor
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in Baclaran. I realized that shoes made up of canvass are not good for walking for this time, so the intention to look rugged and cool is not at all a trend. My cotton puma socks wont do until I added another pair of wool socks which was lent to me by Margies American boyfriend. It seems that every bit of this weather is spellbinding though it really makes me shiver to the bones. Until the curiosity in me being in this absolutely new environment has banished momentarily, knowing that I still have one more chance to experience the winter season, from its very onset to its end by next year. Then my fascination turned into a feeling of discomfort, tired and dehydrated then a sort of feeling annoyed and I started to dislike about being in the midst of winter. I began to be conscious of the bad sides of this sub-zero weather. It costs me almost 150,000 tugriks to purchase those basic winter stuffs and keep them in a locker to wait for the spring, summer and autumn to take turns. I hate to see trees to be dead again. There is no single flower in the wayside. Birds, if not hibernating were migrated to some place they find it warmer and liveable. Maybe some have flown as far as Pampanga in the Philippines and find refuge in the marshland. Rivers had stopped flowing. I wonder how the fishes could manage to swim down where they could find a sanctuary before every liquid turns to solid. I could not imagine how the dogs, cows, horses and other animals could endure the icy weather with nothing except their natural furred skins. Evidently so, I saw a number of carcasses along the streets.

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Human beings have various ways to survive. Sale for liquor and wine surged up. Smoking becomes everyones practical heater especially for neglected children who huddled inside the manhole and consider the underground as their home. The chilly air that I breathe is polluted. The water that flows out of the faucet is either too cold or too hot. The switch on for hot and cold in the shower is so difficult to balance to have just lukewarm water for my bath. It is hard to get myself awake at 7 in the morning to comply with the Mongolian office timetable. My body clock does not even work so I have to set my mobile phones alarm in a disturbing tune in its maximum volume to completely harass me to wake up. In the evening, there are times the heater goes off, and it is quite literally for me as a tropical person to be sleeping inside the freezer set below zero degrees. My trouble with the heater goes with the broken door in the veranda that allows icy air to come in freely into my room. To subsist, I need to be positioned 360 degrees to diffuse my natural body warmth with the help of a very thick winter blanket wrapped around my body. Thats why I say winter brings discomforts, annoyances, and irritations. Winter does not bring life. It causes me to die like the trees. But I would also say in a more positive outlook that winter presents to us the essence of preserving life. It causes death for us to have new life. And thats the onset of springtime- a season full of life. Leaflets of the aspen tree in front of my window start to
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sprout. The teenagers go out with their unfussy wear- a fashion to personify their western idols. Children in the company of their grandmothers play gleefully in the Russian style playground. Infants still meticulously wrapped with thick blankets take pleasure in sunshine. Disadvantaged children began to leave from the underground not to go back to their real home, but to go back to work by collecting empty bottles and plastics. They see a ray of hope to live longer at the onset of springtime. I am ecstatic too with spring. Spring is still cold but not frosty, slightly colder than the coldest temperature Baguio City ever had. I have lived in this summer capital for seven years so Ive got enough preparation for springtime. I like springtime not because its a fine climate but the kind of feelings it brings into my senses. It lifts up my soul. It is the perfect likeness of hope. I love to see trees come to life again. The birds finish off their hibernation, we hear them tweeting again from branches to branches of aspen trees. I frequent to the river to see its clear water flowing and rumbling. I join the crowd of Mongolians proceeding to the river in the late afternoon to deign to feed the fishes. Now I can doll myself up with casual wear. No Fear shirts, denim pants and Our Tribe sandals are my preferred outfit. It brings out the non-conformist in me, though all of these stuffs are branded. I like No Fear, not because its an American brand nor Manny Pacquiao, the well-known Filipino boxer, and Robin Padilla, the action movie star advertise this product, but the meaning it promotes and inculcates- No Fear. Be not afraid. I am more than willing now to march into hell for a heavenly cause as the song goes. But it is not true that Ive got no fear. I have fear and that is the fear to be idle

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when there is so much love to be shared. The pair of my Our Tribe sandals has no definite symbol it represents but it is being precious to me for I received it as a gift from my wife during our 3rd wedding anniversary. Besides I like it because it is designed in the image and likeness of the footwear during Jesus time. Whenever I wear it, I feel like walking on the footsteps of Jesus- proclaiming the good news of spring. For me spring symbolizes salvation (aside from resurrection). The aspen tree was dead during winter. It comes to life again in spring. Salvation does not happen when the soul meets the creator. I am skeptical about that old catechism. It happens when the soul knows how to come back home with new springs of hope. It is a pasch - a process from negative to positive or from bad to good. The aspen tree has to shed off its leaves because of the perceived force winter, with the hope of growing them back again with the nurturance of spring. Salvation then is when I put myself freely to the process of molting, to shed off my old dead skin in the advent of a fresh one. Old ways which are offensive to others will be gone, new ways that promotes love and compassion begins. After the long harsh winter season, spring comes along and replenishes the tired worn-out souls. The relief that winter is finally over brings much joy and happiness. People are glad and happy to go out and work on yard-work and gardens. Life has started a new. The spring was also a very light-hearted time. Accordingly, it is a time where people can forget about the hardships of winter and look forward to the sunny weather. There is no -129-

mystery why people on the prairie truly treasure the spring season. It is special to them. It is salvation in the real sense. And I came to understand spring as such. Spirituality is not an abstract theme of my faith anymore. It is commonsensical. Spiritual life is not being holy and holier, being detached from the sins of the world. It is not just a mere concept of belief. It invites me to act. It is not orthodoxy- the correct thinking about the doctrine. It is orthopraxis- an action component of faith. When a minister or a pastor or a priest preaches hope and love among the people, it is religiosity. But when the people share hope and love among themselves that is spirituality. Gustavo Gutierrez would say it: if the person is concerned about his own stomach, it is being materialistic but when a person is concerned with the stomach of others that is spirituality. I would like to conclude my spiritual springtime with a Franciscan Benediction: May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression and exploitation of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace. May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, hunger and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and to turn their pain into joy. And may God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make difference in the world, so that you can do

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what others claim cannot be done; to bring justice and kindness to all our children and the poor. And with the song I wrote about spring: Spring The brilliant colors of flowers The smell of their fragrance There is a new display of life There is glimmering hope The penetrating rays of warm sunshine Make everything rejoice As spring comes along Replenishes the tired worn-out souls Ref: Spring, spring, springtime You lift up my life and soul Spring, spring, springtime I feel Gods love and compassion Spring, spring, springtime Im coming back to life again (Ohoh its springtime again) Leaves on the aspen trees grow back It is a moment of a brand new start
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Out with the old, in with the new Spring is a time of new life The birds are singing praises The river flows in freedom All the earth rejoice in gladness To God the Springer of life

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Chapter 14

The Road to Choibalsan


There is a meaning in every journey that is unknown to the traveller. Dietrich Bonhoeffer Theres nothing spectacular. I thought when our driver warned us that the trip to Choibalsan will take 18 to 20 hours from Ulaanbaatar. I have been to so many places travelling long hours by land. My travel all the way to Southern Leyte to bring relief goods for the survivors of the Guinsaugon landslide took 32 hours and the only thing that pissed me off was the long stretch of rough road from Calbayog to Catbalogan. I thought that Choibalsan is a no different destination like Bicol or Laoag or Tuguegarao where I used to go. I was not preoccupied with excitement that day to finally reach my place of work as a volunteer for one year. It was a fine day in winter when we left Ulaanbaatar by the VSO vehicle, a Toyota Land Cruiser. I could see the excitement in the faces of my fellow volunteers who are travelling with me
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to Choibalsan. Raj, the volunteer from India wanted to position himself in the window so he could easily get pictures of the scenery along the way. Patricia, an English volunteer opted to stay in the rear jammed with huge pieces of luggage feeling that she was more comfortable than being sandwiched in the middle part of the vehicle. John, partner to Patricia also wanted a space beside the window as being couched by the binoculars hanging on his neck. I was left with the last space to sit in between Raj and John. Duya the program support staff of VSO Mongolia sat beside our driver Chuka maybe to have an easy relay of some instructions like stopping somewhere to pee. My thought about the trip gradually changed when my excitement was educed by the sight of the prairieland. Herds of sheep were dotting the icy steppe. Chuka made momentarily stop for us to glance at the drove of deer and other games from a distance. I sensed freedom. I just hope that wealthy families in the Philippines known for possessing hundreds of hectares of land will not come here to grab these uninhabited plains. The nomad shepherds are not used to owning the land with the use of land titles. They are not even used to the idea of building fences to draw demarcation lines and boundaries for

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they believe that land is free and everybody has the right to make use of it without owning it permanently and passing the ownership to the next generation of their family. The words of the indigenous people I came to talk to, echoed in my mind, they were right when they said that the land is sacred because land is life and life is land. But those who are called landlords could not appreciate the wisdom of the sacredness of the land. They will continue to mock the ancient truth about the sacredness of the land and advance further their voracity. The picturesque of freedom I saw on the road to Choibalsan reminded me of the misery of the farmers, urban poor and the indigenous people in the Philippines in their struggle for a land that is genuinely free, not possessed and owned by the few prominent families. Land as life became a basic human right as well. The sight before my eyes depicted a simple life unfettered by the harsh fashion and speed of economic progress patterned after technological advancement. And I understand what Albert Einstein had said that more and more I come to value charity and love of others above everything elseall lauded technological progress- our very civilization is like an axe in the hand of a pathological criminal. We had reached the equidistant of the sojourn when we felt the jolt caused by the rough and bumpy road. At this point of the road, it was estimated to be six to eight hours journey before we reach Choibalsan. But the condition of the road or the backwardness of travelling in the countryside did not bring discomfort in me. Unlike my journey to Southern Leyte where the infrastructures were built in the name of progress were damaged as a result of corruption of the sponsoring
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politicians, the rough and winding road to Choibalsan was far better to traverse. The landscape fascinated me as I grazed at the flock of horses galloping and camels wandering aimlessly on the extremely wide plains. The sight of the horizon before me supports the medieval theory which the church used to believe that the earth is flat. If Galileo happened to visit Mongolia before and saw exactly what I have seen, then maybe the idea of geocentric model of the universe has never been challenged. The weather was unpredictable. We encountered windstorm that made us stuck in the middle of the road. Chucka decided to stop the car due to zero visibility. The wind was so strong that sand and other fine objects went through inside. We were smothered by the smell of dusts, irritated our lungs and started coughing out unceasingly. I felt like we were all caught up and entangled into the huge twister. The tribulation had lasted for two hours and the situation was akin to the World Amazing Videos, the television show Ive loved to watch when I was in Pakistan. It was a metaphor of struggling and surviving for there was one good reason to keep living. That is, life is the most beautiful creation of the Supreme Being. And a beautiful life is worth living for. An hour of travelling after the sandstorm was rather a delightful one when we encountered snowstorm. It was like sailing on the clouds. It was like the way they describe heaven with the sight of crystal pure white mist swarming the ground. Snow was falling softly but was piling up so quick forming snow hills on our way. I felt elated by the sight of the surroundings draped in white. But I thought this could be heaven or this could be hell. Heaven as it appeared into my eyes but hell as it was to feel outside for it kills. My thought

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went further to think that it was another illustration of the yin and the yang. I never have a doze throughout the whole journey. It was such a physically draining and very tiring trip to finally arrive to Choibalsan at almost eleven oclock in the evening. My head was so heavy and my body was mildly trembling when I settled to my accommodation. I spent my first night in Choibalsan trying to cherish the thoughts I have on the road. It was not to reach Choibalsan that excited me after all. It was the spectacular experience of my firsts and the wandering of my thoughts that made me enjoyed the journey. And I keenly looked forward to passing through the road to Choibalsan once again.

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Chapter 15

Nostalgia
Nostalgia is like a grammar lesson: you find the present tense, but the past perfect! Owens Lee Pomeroy Today- 17th of September, as I write this piece, is exactly 7 months since I arrived in Mongolia and 6 months since I put down roots in Choibalsan. When I woke up this morning, there was an unsettling feeling clawing away at me from the inside and with the thought of ending my placement as a volunteer so soon made me even harder to ignore: am I homesick? It seemed it was just yesterday when I saw the aspen tree outside my window came into life. Its leaves are now turning yellow- they started falling intermittently to the ground. The wind is getting nippier day after day. The sensation of chilly air penetrating into my skin made me languid to go out. So for a couple of weekends now, I cocooned in my room doing desultory things from playing my guitar and mooring hoor to writing songs, to painting to watching films to reading

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novels and to trying to be a vegetarian, experimenting on dishes without a single drop of grease and a chunk of meat. Being alone in a 2-bedroom apartment away from my family was no doubt so tyrannical to me- a self-sacrifice of sort- the cruellest form of all tyrannies. But being away was likewise an opportunity to build a home away from home. I have built relationships and Im at home now. I could not avoid mawkish sentimentality about the obscure feeling going on in me. I just figured out that the feeling was nostalgic dilemma- a wistful longing for my love ones that gave me the feeling to hurry back home, and, a yearning for the comforting moments I experienced right here where I am feeling at home that gave me the feeling of extending my stay. I dont know whats going on in me. But Im cold again, so cold to prolong my agony and to feel that my heart was being torn between two homes. Its autumn, its a time of fall. How I relished on the feeling of coming back to life again during spring like the leaves of the trees budding, grasses greening, flowers blooming, birds chirping, the river flowing and even mice rambling on my room. It was, when there is new life at this juncture of season. How I got lost into the maize of love during summer like a sojourner without a compass in the middle of stormy seas. I was out of focus and confused but determined to sail through. It was,
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when there is overwhelming love at this point of season in my life. There it was the tinge of sadness wringing my heart to break with the constant turn of the seasons. I wont be seeing them again, not in the meantime but forever. I wont be encountering them again for sure. I fell in love. That is why I was so melancholic to never letting go at this point in time. And I was pre-occupied with the feeling of unhappiness when the time comes for me to go back to the Philippines. My days of stay in this distant place are numbered as winter is fast approaching. I remembered my winter when I first set foot on this country, spent in homesickness, countless weeping and eagerness to go home, tearing off the leaves of the months from the calendar. Until I stopped counting the months ahead and I was trapped in the reverie of slowing down the ticking of the time, wished that it should not pass so fast to serve my longing for the love I felt during the past two seasons. Kherlen - the river knew so much of that feeling. I frequented to the river every afternoon at the start of summer to unwind and to unleash my unpolished potentials. A walk by the river at 9:30 in the evening when the sun is still glaring on the unblemished blue sky always give me a feeling of refuge and acceptance. This silent friend, as I sat down on its side and cried out my problems, listened to me without the slightest sign of judgment. But the end came along with the onset of autumn. For the last time, I braved the frigid autumn prairie wind to bid adieu to

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the river and to bury a box of my secret memoirs along its shore to let my past stay forever into its womb. The river has been my confidant, I remembered: how it listened to me so affectionately during the loneliest moments of my life in Choibalsan and how I found myself comforted after spending the whole night with the river. Im feeling a little antsy about the idea of leaving Choibalsan my present home. Not so soon. Not so fast. But I must go when the set timeframe ends, to where I really belong, to my real home- into the hearts of the two most precious gems of my life: Ayat and Jhen. No one else could love me more. Nowhere else could I experience real home than in their midst, spending our time together in laughter and tears. And our love will carry us through thick and thin.

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Chapter 16

Gall Bladder Chronicle


They had me on the operating table all day. They looked in to my stomach, my gall bladder, they examined everything inside of me. Know what they decided? I need glasses. Joe E. Lewis In 2005, my liver problem seemed to be recurring after my volunteer work in Pakistan. I went for check-up and found out that my liver was inflamed again. The result of the ultra sound revealed also that I have new problem not with my liver but with my gall bladder. One stone had seen present in my gall bladder. My doctor calmly explained that the moment I could feel pain in my abdomen especially after meals, the stone must have blocked the bile duct and it needs to be removed. In 2000, five years before the diagnosis of my gall bladder, I was admitted to the hospital because of a liver problem. It was the result of unregulated diets; being a community organizer trained to face every risk at any circumstances just to be with the poor. So I ate what they eat. I drank what they drink. I did what they do. I lived in the kind of lives they have. Consequently, the lifestyle became part of me. I salivate when I smell and see calamares (fried squid), isaw (intestines), adidas (chicken feet), betamax (clotted blood of animals

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shaped like VHS), goto lugaw, tokwat baboy, balut, kwek kwek, bola bola, siomai, kikiam and every unimaginable types of food on stick being cooked in recycled lard and vended in the streets. I cant help stopping and picking one or two to satiate my craving. These street foods go with variety of choices of sawsawan (sauces) to suit your taste. The street vendor would ask you which sauce do you go with your food on stick and starts offering choices like maanghang (hot and spicy) creamy sauces, chili vinegar, soy and vinegar combined or feel free to say no and opt for no sauce at all. Juices are also available in vendors cart to complete the common taos street meal. There are a variety of very cheap juices like buko (coconut), orange, pineapple, iced tea, sagogulaman and many more serve in disposable plastic cups that appear to be healthy drinks. Sadly they are not prepared for health reasons but for profit. It is in fact a microcosm of capitalism. These juices-that-appear-to-be-healthy-drinks are full of dangerous-to-health ingredients like the miracle sugaran artificial sweetener known to cause cancer, artificial food flavors, and dirty water. Street foods are exposed to dirt and more likely contaminated because of polluted city environment and unhygienic preparations. . I was aware of the possible effects these foods may bring to my health but I did not pay attention to them seriously. I felt young and strong. I thought I was invincible.
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A departure from the street foods, there I go to dine in restaurants located inside malls trying to appear well off and decent. Fast foods chains had swamped the gigantic malls serving meals for tenths of thousands of city shoppers. Prompt services in these food chains are most valued by customers than the quality of food they serve. Fast eating is also the rule to give way to the next customer. Fast food chains like Jollibee, Mc Donald, Kentucky, Chowking, Tokyo Tokyo, Greenwich, Kenny Rogers and others have their unique ways of selling their products packaged by numbers. Just tell what number you like to order and in less than 5 minutes your chicken joy, jolly hotdog, ham and cheese burgers, noodles, French fries that go with softdrinks distributed by any of the two giant cola company Coke or Pepsi are served. Aside from these meals, there are also free mechanical smiles, good morning/afternoon sir and maam greetings and thank you and come again reminders. What I pay for at the end of my visit to these fastfoods are salt, saturated and trans fats, acids and calories. Going further down the ground floor you can find the mall s food court lined up with competing food stalls with salespersons barking at the customers to offer lutong bahay type of viands. There is no guarantee that foods are fresh for most of the time they appeared to be recycled more than twice. The dinuguan, sinigang, menudo, adobo, nilaga, afritada, bicol express, kinilaw, ginisang monggo , and other

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favorite Filipino dishes really taste good but it is because of vetsin and other artificial food seasonings. So I decided to cook my own food. But what groceries stores have to offer for less money are items that are instant and packed in sachets such as pancit canton, magi noodles, batchoy, arrozcaldo, instant coffee, sardines, magi sinigang or adobo mix- foods preserved in excessive seasonings, salts and waxes. In 2008, the call of sharing skills and changing lives (motto of VSO) appealed to me once again. So without a second thought and after sharing my thoughts and feelings with my wife, I responded to a placement offered in Mongolia as a volunteer social work advisor to the Save the Children-UK for the period of one year. The blood of a community organizer runs so deeply in my veins. Id really wanted to understand the people I am going to serve. The instinct of a CO is again on top of against every safety precautions: living with a Mongolian family in a ger (nomadic herders one room for all affairs house), eating what is prepared on the table like buuz (dumplings), hoshur, tsuveng (fried wheat noodles) all with mutton full of fats, abiding by the ritual of drinking vodka or areh (fermented horse milk) and savoring the very greasy Mongolian pasta soups. Not until I felt pain after almost a week of celebration of the Nadaam (Festival) in July 2008 that I was reminded of what my doctor told me that I should avoid fatty foods and eat not
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as if it is my last supper. I was guilty of not abiding to these two important reminders. When the pain became consistent and intolerable I flew off to Ulaanbaatar to see the UN doctor. The diagnosis pointed to the gallbladder. The ultra sound supported the diagnosis by revealing two stones and polyps. I underwent a medication to dissolve the stones but the series of ultra sounds showed nothing had changed. I tried the natural remedy of flushing out the stones by drinking 3-4 glasses of apple juice a day for five days. I encountered this remedy in one of the forwarded emails I received from a friend. I jumped to the presupposition that it has no side effects because it is natural, besides the information promised sure results. It seemed reminding me that if you have faith and just believe then you gain eternal health. It is like hearing a born again Christian promising me salvation and eternal life. This promise did not work after all. It worsened the situation. Apple juice is explained to soften the stones and the lemon juice to move the stones out of the bile duct to intestine and then to the toilet bowl. I realized that this natural way of flushing gall stones did not apply to a specific location in a very remote place like Choibalsan where no epsom salt or magnesium sulfate heptahydrate is readily available. Epsom salt is explained to open the bile duct so the stones could pass through. This is where the danger of natural method of flushing out the gall stones. My stones moved but failed to pass through the bile duct instead got stuck on its opening. I pretended to be well.

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I brushed off the pain and dismissed it as just an ordinary muscle stress. I enrolled in Yoga class for physical, mental, emotional and spiritual conditioning. Though the yoga exercises helped, the pain was still lingering. One Saturday evening in November, I was invited by a friend for dinner. As usual the food served was a fatty Mongolia macaroni soup. The following morning, I woke up fighting off the intense pain in the back of my body. I was placed in a perfectly helpless situation, living alone in a two-bedroom apartment away from home. For three days I kept the pain and never shared my body complaint to anyone because I knew what is going to happento fly off to UB or medical evacuation back to the Philippines. I did not want to miss the grand finals of the songwriting competition I initiated as an advocacy on child rights in Choibalsan. I practiced a lot to improve my timing in singing the Warrior is a Child, and to think that I would be evacuated because of my worsening condition was a nightmare I did not want to face at that moment. It was Thursday when I gave up the fight against the persistent pain. My defenses gradually were leading to selfpity and depression. I went to the Dornod Medical Center for another ultra sound in hope to find out what really is bugging my health down. I have to bear with the lack of training of doctors and surgeon here. At least four doctors gave their medical advice. The first doctors analysis was I got 3 stones and meat in my liver. Yes, meat as she said mah a Mongolian for meat. I was -147-

wondering why a piece of meat got stuck in my liver. The second doctor who is a surgeon said without looking at the ultra sound result that a stone had blocked the bile duct. The third doctor who is the father of the first doctor said that I got no problem at all only that I have 3 gall bladder stones. The fourth doctor by looking at my pain-wrecked appearance said I need to be admitted for some immediate medical attention then catch the only flight to UB the following day. I decided not to be admitted knowing the hospital ambience does not pass my standard and the doubt of the kind of medical services they will provide. Patricia, my fellow volunteer from the UK who by profession is a nurse supported my decision not to go for admission because of uncertainty of my condition and the medical attention the doctors will provide. I assented to her suggestion that I will spend the night at Judys apartment until I fly to UB tomorrow. The only flight to UB was fully booked. An alternative was presented by travelling by land. I can forgo the flight and wait for the next flight on Monday rather than buying the idea of going by ambulance. A lot of what ifs dominated my mind about the alternative. I cant imagine myself in pain taking the land trip by a Russian jeep ambulance with a sub- standard shock absorber for about 20 hours or longer. The long stretch of the road from Choibalsan to UB is very rough and bumpy. But still we proceeded to the airport for a chance. My employer started to talk to the passengers who are maybe

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willing to give up their seat for me. Chance of all chances, one passenger did not show up and I got checked in. I flew with a heavy heart. If there is one place so hard to leave behind that is Choibalsan. There was a kind of spiritual connection happened to me right here in this simple place where I experienced megabytes of solace. I knew I am not coming back. I knew my condition is serious enough to stop my placement, besides I only have 3 months left before the end of my contract. I said my abrupt goodbyes with tears welling from my eyes. A Bulgarian doctor at SOS in UB diagnosed and evaluated my worsening condition. He said I should be operated immediately for I will die a young man if not. I could not help but cry upon hearing those words from a doctor who is supposed to be psychologically fit to deal with patients. Anaara, my program manager, understood what my silence wanted to communicate, that if ever surgery is the top option, I want to have it at home. But SOS reported that I must not travel by a commercial flight which made the health insurance silent for a long while. It means that I should be evacuated by an ambulance plane to the country where my surgery should be conducted. At first, I overheard from my bed that I should be flying to Korea, but seemed not practical for I need a visa. Immediately means no longer than 48 hours. So Singapore was considered
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but I guessed it was least to be chosen by the health insurance because of its obvious high cost of hospitalization. Then finally, Bangkok, and SOS started to process all the needed medical reports and documents so by tomorrow I will take the flight to Bangkok via Beijing. I was allowed to fly by a commercial plane in the condition that a doctor should be flying with me. A Thai doctor was contacted to fly from Bangkok to escort me all the way back to Bangkok for my surgery. My way of prayer through the law of attraction seemed to be working when Dr. Baleva, the Bahaginan doctor in Manila called on the health insurance and argued in favor of my wish to have the surgery in the Philippines. And on that day, news erupted about coup de etat in Bangkok where rebel soldiers occupied the airport and shut down its operation. The next day I was driven to the airport by a Mongolian health insurance agent and handed to me a printed air e-ticket to Manila via Beijing. But delays seemed to be inevitable when you are in a hurry. The plane from Beijing was delayed for 8 hours because of zero visibility in UB airport. It flew back to Beijing after a number of attempts to land but failed. The Thai doctor who would escort me was in the plane and I guessed he must be very tired when he would manage to see me in the boarding area for another round trip to Beijing then to Manila.

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It was a long hour of waiting. My excitement to go home suppressed the pain. At least Ive discovered an antidote to ease the pain temporarily by thinking happy events when I come home. It was almost 4 pm when announcement for boarding was made. Dr. Sam, my escort doctor is a funny man like Patch Adams. He was trained to be an aviation doctor and according to him not many doctors knew about aviation medicine. He was delighted when I told him my job, telling me that social work is better than his work because doctors treat the disease and consider the person a patient while social workers treat the people and consider a person having innate worth and dignity. The delay caused us to stay overnight in Beijing, a favorable opportunity for me to set foot on China. The following day, since we still have ample of time before our flight to Manila, I asked Dr. Sam to take me the Olympic stadium. But the traffic situation in the streets of Beijing did not allow us to go. Instead, I asked him to go to the nearest place where I could buy an Olympic mascot for my daughter. I ended up roaming around in a very busy street having a taste of what China is all about in an hour. As usual, my CO instinct drove me to where the masses are; it came as an addiction to experience the life of the ordinary people. I was lured to eat street foods again when I saw the colorful foods coated with sugar syrup on stick being peddled by an urban poor looking man.
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I glanced at my escort doctor for approval; he nodded that I could eat them except if the food is fatty. Our business class flight from Beijing to Manila was comfortable but not at all better since I could not nibble on the food being served because of my health condition. At 10 pm Southern China Air landed on NAIA. I felt relieve being home again after 9 months. I felt calm knowing I would be having the surgery with the presence of my family. Our exit from the immigration was hassle free because of the assistance of my uncle in law who is an active airport police. That rainy evening of November 19, an ambulance in ala Joc Joc Bolante mode transported me to St. Lukes Medical Center. What if I am not a volunteer and not covered by health insurance? Would all the medical assistance that I enjoyed be still easily accessible and available? Ive got small few cuts as a result of the laparoscopic surgery along with a price tag of more or less US$5,000. It was all started when I learned the habit of saying to myself ngayon lang naman (only now) or konti lang naman (just only a small quantity). A habit begets addiction and abuse, and addiction and abuse result to dependency and irrationality. My gallbladder problem was caused by accumulated toxinsfrom those minsan lang and konti lang defenses. My negative emotions also harmed my gallbladder. All my fears, worries

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and anxieties were stored inside me because I used to keep them locked in for a long time. The gallbladder is the trash can for the liver. As a sewage receptacle for the liver, the gallbladder holds and excretes bile, which is a waste by product the body has brilliantly converted into an emulsifying agent, to assist in the digestion of fats. The removal of my gallbladder, though considered a minor surgery, brought radical changes in the way I look at life now. The absence of my gallbladder had taught me to give extra care for the other organs that are still functioning and in return they will sustain my life and existence. Thats new eyeglasses I needed after all.

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Chapter 17

Multiplying Connection
It is told that Buddha, going out to look on life , was greatly daunted by death." They all eat one another!" he cried, and called it evil. This process I examined, changed the verb, said, "They all feed one another," and called it good. Charlotte Perkins Gilman

I barely have three months left before my contract as a volunteer will end. But what made me decide to return to Mongolia after I was medically evacuated and underwent gall bladder surgery at home, is the question I am trying to figure out for an answer. I should have stayed home, recovered completely and enjoyed my time with my family especially to my lovely daughter Ayat who is turning 3 years old this month. I knew I missed a year of her growth and development, a vital time for the presence of a father. In spite of my absence, I knew that I did not unfasten the connection. The absence itself is a raw material to a stronger connection.

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I learned to believe in connection as the secret to a better humanity that if only we realize that we are all connected human suffering and misery would be overcome. I got the answer for finding what connection is in store on my return to Mongolia. I was called to home visit a family in the ger district (urban poor community) to see a young boy reported to have a fatal illness. The family lives in a prototypical Mongolian house with a kitchen and one room. I could feel the comforting warmth of the burning coal from the oven while the temperature outside is sub-zero and harsh. Beyond the comfort of the warm house in winter, a young boy plays his favorite game in his fathers cell phone while lying on the bed. He looks enervated and his face marked with pain. He seemed to be innocently waiting for an end, for relief, for being well again so he could get up to play and start his kindergarten education. Otgonjargal is so young to understand the nature of illness he is suffering from. But he is in bed for almost two months now since he was diagnosed to having cancer of the white blood cells or childhood leukemia in December last year. When I saw the boy, I saw the face of my younger brother Emerson in his childhood age. I was reminded of the health condition of my baby Ayat undergoing six months of medication due to primary complex. I remembered Charlemagne an active church youth leader from Botolan,
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Zambales who died due to blood-related disease in spite of our drive to collect donations for her medications. Otgonjargal is fighting off the pain caused by every needle pierced into his body to prolong his life for 3 or 5 years more. An expensive operation could save his life. The cost of saving the childs life through operation amounts to 80 million tugrik or roughly 75,000 in US dollars, a huge amount which the family could impossible to have but could be produced through connections. I believe that there are more than 75,000 people out there who are good hearted, generous and kind enough to be connected to this cause by donating $1 to the medication fund of Otgonjargal. Ayat is one of them. Our daughter is donating $10 to the fund for Otgonjargal. She said opo (yes) when I asked her through a text message, through her nanay (mother) if she wants to donate. She said that she is going to deduct the amount from her 50,000 savings in her piggy bank, and then ritually handed the money to her nanay. I knew as a father that by doing this Ayat would learn the value of kindness and love as what her name AYAT stands for: LOVE. Her nanay even commented about what kind of life Ayat would be like in the future- a life full of care and concern for others. We have started connecting the story of Otgonjargal to the local people and hopefully nationally and internationally with the help of my fellow volunteers from VSO and Peace Corps. The connection is having a ripple effect now as donations

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boxes were placed in schools and government offices in Choibalsan.

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Epilogue

A Little Water for Life


A little water clears us of this deed. Shakespeare, Macbeth, Act 2, Scene 2, 1.68 Hilary Clinton said: "You may know that I believe it takes a village to raise a child. Well sometimes it takes a volunteer to raise up that village -to give that village a feeling of what is possible." It also takes a little free will of a volunteer to illustrate how caring and sharing could evolve into action. The mere presence of a volunteer, I believe is a way of assuring the people not only a feeling of what is possible but also the positive thought of yes, we can do it. I always believe in the value of volunteers who opted to do something even if it is only quantified to be a little. Edmund Burke once said: nobody makes a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little." This little thing that I can do has driven me to volunteer. So here, Im happy to share a song I wrote to remind me of my spiritually-awakening experience as a volunteer:

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Sharing Ones Life I. It takes a little free will To start to build humanity That when the world is divided It takes a little deed to bridge the gap Ref: A light of smile can bring glimmer of hope An act of kindness is showing we care To heed the call of service is commitment And the greatest offering of oneself Chorus: In the spirit of sharing, understanding and of caring Is what can move the world to spin with love With small step to show that love indeed exist The spirit of volunteering is to touch others life II. People everywhere are dying of hunger Exploited and oppressed and suffering It takes a little humanity Amidst the horror of poverty To bring back in place the human dignity (Repeat chorus) Fade: sharing the skills Sharing the time Sharing the love Sharing ones life
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Sharing the skills Sharing the time Sharing the love And sharing ones life

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Hindsight on Volunteerism: Some Contributions A Paradigm of the Socio-Cultural Dynamics of Volunteering

Volunteers Culture

Placements Culture

Acculturation

Enculturation

Transculturation

Exculturation (inside to outside)

Inculturation (outside to inside)

Enculturation- also called internalization or socialization, is the process by which the members of a given culture assimilate their values, their codes, their habits, and their understanding of the world. Inculturation is the process which a culture assimilates another culture in terms of its own cultural matrices. Social integration is the effective means of inculturation which will
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result to a fruitful volunteering. Acculturation is the process undergone by a culture when it enters into contact with another culture, adapts to it, and assimilate its elements in terms of its own matrices. Acclimatization to the lifestyle, values, habits and understanding of the world. Transculturation is a forced acculturation by way of physical or symbolical violence. Transcultural- denotes the character of certain human values that permeate the culture and accounts generic meaning of human virtues of love, justice, peace and humanity. Exculturation a process of learning and adapting the culture of placement by the volunteer, then the volunteer subconsciously practice it as a replacement of his culture at home.

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Pakistan: Coping Mechanism on Volunteering 1. Adjusting the Attitude One reason why a volunteer cannot cope with stress in the placement is the inability to adjust the attitude. Sometimes a volunteer is like a well-frog who cannot imagine life outside of the well, nor a tropical insect who cannot conceive of ice. How then could a volunteer understand volunteering? It is through the right attitude. To get the right attitude volunteers should not restrict themselves of their own learning. If you want to make the wrong things right, if you want to set the world straight you have to get your attitude right. 2. Learn to Reframe A volunteer should know how to unlearn and reframe ones thoughts and perceptions. One way to change your thinking is to reframe the way you perceive the circumstances that surround you until you can think of them in their most positive and favorable light. 3. Make use of the volunteering spirit As my song goes The spirit of volunteering is to touch others life. Sharing skills, sharing time and talents of the volunteer would mean a lot in touching lives and giving hopes. It takes a little free will to start to build humanity, that when the world is divided it takes a little deed to bridge the gap. A light of smile can bring glimmer of hope. An act kindness is showing we care. To heed the call of service is commitment and the greatest offering of oneself. To make use of the spirit of volunteering means for the volunteer not to look for great
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tangible accomplishments in the placement. Small acts or the mere physical presence of the volunteer in the placement show that love indeed exists. 4. Walk the extra mile The volunteer should be prepared to be a generalist not a specialist. There are instances that the placement would ask you to do something beyond your function as a volunteer. It is either disgusting if you see it unfair or rewarding if you see it as an opportunity to learn. Walking the extra mile is the right attitude of a volunteer encountering such additional functions. 5. Burn all bridges behind I played Filipino music and I went over and over at my girlfriends snaps when I experienced loneliness due to homesickness in my placement. But those strategies to relieve my loneliness didnt help but increased my longing back home. When I decided to keep them away from my sight, and I tried to fake my feeling, I finally did make it. Those are bridges behind that entice us to always look back and go back. Volunteers should burn those bridges (anything that remind us of surrendering) in order to go forward. 6. Know the true taste of volunteering Volunteers are practically poor in the placement. The decent and comfortable life may be a far cry of what you have expected. The true taste of volunteering should integrity or being consistent to ones value . Think that your poor condition is not a punishment but a way of being in solidarity with the people you are serving. It is very true that it is only in the desert that one can know the true taste of a water. It is in solidarity that one can know the true taste of volunteering.

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Mongolia: Reflections and Learning Points My volunteering stint brought about lots of opportunities for my personal and professional development as well as to my spiritual awakening. Though, I am a bit frustrated for not learning to speak the Mongolian language in spite of the effort to learn it by heart, I am so delighted to think that I learned to play the mooring hoor- the traditional Mongolian string instrument. This, I considered to be one of my greatest achievements pertaining to personal development. In a placement like Choibalsan, I faced unimaginable feeling of nostalgia given that this place seemed to be deprived of the luxury of a city life. I was bored while fighting off the homesickness. I asked myself the question of what I am doing here that eventually made me to feel guilty about leaving my family in favor of this so called noble act of volunteerism. To move on, I did desultory things from playing my guitar and mooring hoor to writing songs, to painting to watching films and to reading novels. Then I found myself in place to finish my work until the end of my contract. Mongolia is one of the best places I ever come to work as a volunteer given some observable distinct peaceful ways of life of the people. I was amazed by seeing a gunless society. For the whole period of my stay in this country I never saw a single gun in the possession of the law enforcers that made me feel safe to stay in this country. Though I was a victim of pick pocketing in UB and intimidation of some drunken men in Choiblasan, I could say these are petty crimes compared to more violent crimes related to guns. I learned how to reframe my thoughts and mindsets to fit into
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the working style and customs of the people I worked with. I believe that to be professional one must always be on time. But the case is not always be true to the people I work with. I still come on time or before time whenever there is a planned activity to teach them the value of time but at the same time understanding their circumstances when they cannot come on time. Before, I considered waiting as the hardest thing to do but now it is the best teacher to become patient. Walking an extra mile made sense when I was invited to assist other agencies in Choibalsan. I expanded my volunteer service beyond the determined placement objectives to assist other local organizations. I am happy to share my professional knowledge and skills to help in the enhancement of capacity and capability of the social workers, students and administrators.

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Addendum
My Poems and Songs

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Poems
I spent my weekends in Pakistan writing poems and songs while I struggled to hold on till the end of my volunteer work. Oppression My eyes must be lowered all the times My feet keep running to the many economic destinations I pull the cart of heavy loads to all corners of the market I work hard for my masters survival and convenience I endure the pain of working like a machine In an unending battle with subordination My fiendish master whips the cat-o-nine-tails For the little wrong I caused while serving him I only have a catnap in the evening to rest my exhausted feet A time to ululate on the hardship of my toil The peewit of suffering and pain of doing The donkeys work while my master enjoys the hatchet job The dawn when my father wants to get pregnant He formed me in the womb of a man I was brought into being by passing through The vagina of my father and attached his name to my name When I gape at myself as I gain consciousness I was reared to be lowbrow woman appended to the ribs of a man My veil of submission seems to be eternal My soul is a delicious commodity My body is a cheap property My will is nothing but a doorbell

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It rings when pressed by my husbands finger My land was taken away By the lord who doesnt create but accumulate I work with land which was grabbed from me I give my lord all my labors I get a piecemeal in return My lord takes the lions share I till the dryness of the soil throughout history I was desiccated with tear and blood From the chasm of relationship which is never equal I sweat to produce the grain for the earth to live Yet my stomach is empty and no food on my plate Im dying of hunger but my feudal lord shrugged For I dont deserve a decent funeral

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A ruler without a conscience The whole being of a ruler is mere vacuity Dissecting his body you found no conscience It is not even domiciled in his heart or in his head The heart is livid pumping black bloods The brain dotes on seeing humanity being slaughtered The unending screams of pain and by the breaking of the bones These are music in his ears and lullabies of his soul Into his hands he smites the neck of defenseless lives And by the pre-emptive throbbing of his bombs and ammunitions He annihilates the habitat of civilization The conscience is laden with insensitivities and disrespect It puffs a hearth of death like a dragon rose from hell The tongue is so sharp to make the lies so true to live For he masticated the truth, he swallowed up the lies and never digested And his conscience began to vanish away from within himself He keeps his eyes shut in a dark room As his hatchet men glutted on the bloods of his war He kills his conscience in exchange of great profit His obsession of war brings him his bread and butter For if there is war there is business for the gadget of defense And a rare chance to bathe with the golden oil from the dessert of the earth This ruler will live in history - as a ruler without conscience!

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God is never on the side of war You sing your own praises in the platform Saying that freedom is not the American gift to the world But it is the Almighty Gods gift for all This is claptrap to gain your momentum You exploit the name of the Lord So to win the acrimonious election You claimed that you are born again through Jesus Christ And your war on terror is your evangelical vision Between good and evil, between your democracy and anothers political form Stop using the sacred name of God For He knew your ulterior motive God for sure never allow any form of war To handover democracy and freedom God showed you lately that He disagreed Through nature He warn your wickedness Sending you tornadoes and twisters Typhoons, floods and heavy rains But you never listen You are apt to say the warning is simply a wicked weather The God of love is never on your side For your brutality is handmaid by the god of darkness The God of mercy has never endorsed your war For you are an arrogant superpower Stop using the Almighty God For your god is the devil who love to see strife and carnage You are born again from the womb of the darkness To sow terror and fear and deception
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God said no to your war And never told you to strike and launch a pre-emptive war But instructed you to silent for self-examination For your heart is impure and tainted with hatred You are not free yet, for your self is your enemy Free yourself so that you can free others Not by war but by love, not by might but by respect The Lord hears the cries of your victims They will rise in heaven and no one can murder them again For the Lord will finally protect them God disagreed but you are blinded by self interest Deafened by the noise of profit from the war you created

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I rather go to hell I asked the caretaker Of the gate of heaven If I can enter the kingdom With no more suffering I asked him if cruel people Are also permitted to come in He said heaven is for all Who repent from sins I asked if heaven has preferential option As to nationality, color, and religion He said heaven is for all For no more discrimination I asked if there are many Americans That already settled there He said almost all of them Led by their republican president Then I said quickly as possible I rather go to hell The gatekeeper curiously asked me why I said if those people are there Heaven is no safe to live in If those people are in heaven Terrorism will reign They destroy you if you dont conform to their interest and will Someday heaven will turn into hell Because of their presence Is that sois that really so
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The caretaker worriedly exclaimed Before its too late I will go now in hell Than seeing savage people in heaven Wait let me pack up my things The caretaker startled Im going with you to hell I asked him why He said I am a bearded man The president might mistaken me For Osama bin Laden Besides hell is a lesser evil Than heaven inhabited by powerful Fiendish white men!

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To be great Great ideas collide As the battle of brains starts The duel is an unending bout As it creates a great divide Everybody claims the truth Everybody then is wrong and loser To use might is not right To sow what is seen as upright To love and care are stronger To show ones humble power For no one is absolutely great By knowledge, ideology and sect That greatness of man is in little deeds In a priceless act of kindness To be great one must be grounded Into the soil of the earth For the great act is selfless offering Of oneself to serve

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The true taste of a water I am out in the barren Walking barefooted upon The burning sand of the desert I left everything I took nothing except myself I am naked of possessions I left my comfort zone My first step is doubting Resisting so feared and uncertain But how can I know without trying How can I search without going I am greeted by the sun so bright So bright to pierce my eyes I made a halt and saw Children without childhood A child was stabbed by the chest With a knife as he grapples to get the valuables And the blood smeared upon my face And realized how risky it is to work In the next corner of the street I glanced on a family without a home The mother is desiccated of milk The babys frail body lost its weight The father is lying down still and calm The body is cold, hard and listless The body surrendered from hardship I am hungry but nothing to eat I dont even have a single penny to buy my food I sat down and gazed at the sky So wide, so clear yet can not dispense blessings

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Im tired yet no perspiration For the liquid on my body is totally out of circulation In a farther distance I saw an oasis But only have a blob to sip To quench my thirst And I remember the children without future The family that suffered from nothingness I realized when one has plenty The taste is ordinary and the life is lavish But when it is scarce The taste becomes so special and treasured My skin becomes so dry My throat start to long for water But alas I am in the middle of nowhere In the barren where nothing is a natural thing I started to panic My breath slowly expires My feet are heavy Cant carry me for more distance I drop on my knees I started to close my eyes Suddenly a soft palm touch my shoulder Extending a half empty glass of water A child without a childhood Wearing a sweet smile I drank the water I feel so strong and got up in jubilation The childs lips are dried So thirsty as I am But he sacrifice his own life
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For me to survive And the water he gave me Is the sweetest ever I drank For it is in the dessert that one Can know the true taste of a water For it is in giving when you are starved Can one feel the true joy of life For it is in serving in spite of being nothing Is the essence of ones existence The discomfort of my journey Is meant for me to know the true taste of a water

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Maybe in the next life Life for rabble is a labyrinth Akin to a coil without beginning and end And pain without escape It is vicious cycle in a continuous revolving Like history of confrontation and suffering Life motion is rachet up by the power Of those who determine the destination The struggle to achieve a brighter future For hoi polloi means death of an oneiro For until there is life that breathes The hurting chains wont ever break The only way to outstrip This deepening abyss Is by becoming a spirit For hurt is only a physical complain Give up the present life For there is no victory For life might be better In the next life

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Songs
At 9:00 in the evening the sun is still shining; this is summertime in Mongolia. Children were cheerfully playing on the Russian playground. I could not get my sleep so I busied myself writing songs.

This is a story of the journey of my love

Secretly It was Karens birthday celebration when I first have a glimpsed of this beautiful Mongolian lady sitting at the opposite corner of the table where I was. I started gazing at her in secret and shes a look alike of Toni Gonzaga. Then a face in the past becomes clearer. She is Johnnette, the girl I came to admire after I saw her in a picnic by the river. Then on I secretly love herbut I learned that shes a distant cousin.

I know I have the feeling When I first saw you in the party You looked so quiet in the corner But your silence so mysterious to me I have to find a way To make you closer to me I dont want to lose you girl Because secretly, I like the way you are

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Chorus: Secretly, I fall in love with you girl Secretly, I wish that you are mine Sharing the love together And youre in my arms forever Dearly caring each other till the end Secretly. It will be the beginning When we started going out for dinner Looking through your eyes I know, you know, what Im feeling This is the way I know To let you feel the secret I have for you I dont want to waste this chance To be beside you, to be with you

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It Might Be Wrong I saw her again at the youth center. She was wearing usual summer attire-a skimpy pants and a T-shirt with the navel totally exposed. There was a sudden rouse of a feeling of titillation the first time I glanced at her. My God shes sexy an honest instant thought my mind exclaimed. I bumped at her a couple of times in almost the same outfit at the stairway until I got the courage to say hi and asked her name. She smiled and said my name is Nida. I met you in the stairway You said hello and I said hi You looked so lovely With your beautiful smile Feeling alone and lonely I need a company You came in the right time But you came in the wrong way It might be wrong to say that I love you It might be wrong to show that I care It might be wrong to feel this way But theres no right and wrong When the heart feels so I long for you day by day How I miss you everyday But Im trying to forget the feeling I know its wrong to be with you It might be wrong to say that I love you It might be wrong to show that I care It might be wrong to feel this way But theres no right and wrong

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When the heart feels so If it is wrong to love you Then my heart will disagree But I belong to someone else Waiting for me It might be wrong to say that I love you It might be wrong to show that I care It might be wrong to feel this way But theres no right and wrong When the heart feels so Thank you for coming into my life Ill cherish every moment The time we shared in laughter and tears And your sweet kisses and caress It might be wrong to say that I love you It might be wrong to show that I care It might wrong to feel this way But theres no right and wrong When the heart feels so

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Truly, I love you so Last night I dreamed of Lowelle, I was asking her if she loves me. She said I dont know, When I asked her Did you love me? She said maybe, when I lifted her face, it was not her; it was Gladys, my first love who broke my heart intensely after she broke up with me for reason that I did not know. Lowelle is my past. You give me strength when I am down You bring a smile into my heart Nothing else more to desire To have you always by my side You are the music in my songs You are the sweet melody of my dream And nothing else more to wish for To hold you in my arms Chorus: I love you more than you know Though you always answer meI dont know When I ask you Do you love me too? You mean everything to me Though you always say maybe When I ask you Did you love me? Truly, I love you so You give me hope and inspiration I can stand against all troubles No one else could I long for To be with you forevermore

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Why Do We Have to End This Way? She said goodbye forever telling me not to bother her again. That was her reaction to the way I acted out my jealousy. It was over. It was meant to end this way. I knew that it will be the last time that I will be seeing her after she bids goodbye on the night of August 22. I wondered why Elnora has to say goodbye forever. I left San Nicolas with a heavy heart. Every night I think of the reason Why we just let go of our love so easily I asked myself so many times Where did we go wrong? Everything seemed just fine Suddenly you said goodbye forever Chorus: Why do we have to end this way? When our love seemed alright just yesterday Why do we need to hurt our feelings? After all those promises to love each other No matter what, and you said you love me till the end It makes me hard to let you go I want to know why you said goodbye I want know the reason why I sit all alone thinking about our memories Weve been through so many hard times I wondered why we have to end this way
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I couldnt think of any reason Not even a single hint that you gonna say goodbye forever

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You were Just a Dream I woke up one morning and realized that their coming into my life was just a dream. They started to fade out in my thoughts. After all, summer has gone when love was so mysteriously abundant. Dinah and Rofel were just dreams. Each morning Ive been waking up Staring blankly at the window My head so heavy Ive got sleepless nights Since you left and said goodbye You came so fast, I long for sweet smiles I thought you belong to me But your love was drifted away Refrain You were just dream I cant believe were through You just came into my life To make me feel alright Chorus: If you are a dream That is meant to fade away Well not see each other In my heart you will remain In my heart youre not a dream
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Im sorry I did not say I love you before I saw her YM address flashed in on line. Hi ading! I typed in. Hi manong! she replied. And there a vehement desire to talk to each other. We were closer than ever before. I could feel her virtual presence. From life updates we dig out our past. Do you know that I was so in loved with you before? she keyed in. No, I didnt I innocently keyed in back. I was and still I am Did you have the same feelings her honesty was stunning. I lie unforgivably if I lie to myself again at this time. I must abide by the beat of the heart now to heal whatever load I have in the past. I did love you I said after a deep breath. And Im sorry for not telling you I love you before Ive spent sleepless nights thinking about you Since the day that I chatted with you You remind me of the past being with you And I cant resist saying I miss you so Its been so many years that we parted ways But the love was true enough to connect Its been seventeen years I havent seen your smiles Since I said those lonely words of goodbyes Chorus: But Im sorry I didnt say I love you before I lied when I said you were just a little sister to me Now Im telling you the words I must have said before That I love youthat I need youI have loved you Bridge: Though were thousand miles away

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Living different lives now I wish that we will see each again someday And I will hold you And I will love you more

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A Love Story Liberated! That was how she described her feeling when we ended our conversation on the YM. We spent five hours chatting reminiscing the past. Ching Valdez was five years younger than I was 17 years back; when she felt the feeling many teens called it a puppy love. She was fifteen years old, young and promising intelligent girl. It was during the tubay agtutubo , a youth formation activity of the Archdiocese of Nueva Segovia in Stella Maris Resort in Ilocos Sur when we first met. Young as she was, she got a crush on me. At 20, I was so full of spiritual idealism and I still had the strong desire to be a priest. I met Ching with a special feeling which I could not exactly tell. It was a feeling of being close though it was the first time weve met. But I denied the feeling, and I convinced myself that she was just a little sister to me. Ching was in California now with her Spanish husband and 2 children. There was a love so discreet ages ago But what it takes to love a girl of 15 years old So nave, and I was five years older Love remained unsaid and unexpressed She was crying at Stella Maris Her young soul filled with spiritual vigor We shared those tears, we became closer Her young heart felt the love so sincere *A love story goes Of photograph, meditation and a cross The trust fall and youth formation The cards that said I miss you so

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And take a bunch of care Love has struck and so there was love There was jealousy to a girl in pink Her young heart was wailing Her love was obvious, but God shes just fifteen And so love was there remained unsaid *A love story goes. Of photographs, meditation and a cross The trust fall and youth formation The cards that said I miss you so And take a bunch of care Love has struck and so there was love

It has been seventeen years ago When I got her online on the YM I found that young love is still there That first love never ever changed Honesty was overwhelming Something was meant to open up Something must be expressed At last I said how I missed you so *A love story goes Of photograph, meditation and a cross The trust fall and youth formation The cards that said I miss you so And take a bunch of care
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Love has struck and so there was love We wished to remake our past Then on that day I proposed that love You held me into your arms So love was shared intimately between us *A love story goes Of photograph, meditation and a cross The trust fall and youth formation The cards that said I miss you so And take a bunch of care Love has struck and so there was love We live separate lives now But that love still binds us together It keeps connecting us forever It will always be there till the end *A love story goes. Of photograph, meditation and a cross The trust fall and youth formation The cards that said I miss you so And take a bunch of care Love has struck and so there was love Love has struck and so there is love

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I will be home in your heart This is the second time that I left Jhen in search for a thing, at first I was searching for a home and the next healing, until I found them not in the places I have been but in the place where I used to stay I did not notice then that there the things I was searching for reside in the heart of my soulmate. But I came to realize that the most meaningful part of leaving is coming back home with a renewed self to have a fresh start for the better. I know its hard For both of us to part ways A year away is long enough To miss you day by day The distance will separate us But my love will always there I know how painful To leave you all alone But faith is burning To come back from you too soon So wish me good luck God bless to both of us Chorus: So far away, I need to show you How much I care for you So far away, my life is lonely Without you in a day
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So far away someday I will be home in your heart The time will pass so fast So wait for me till tomorrow I will be home for you And wont leave you again Fade: Someday . I will be home in your heart.

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You are My You When this day comes, Ayat will be leading us to the altar to submit our love to God. On this day I commit myself to you On this moment My heart belongs to you I walk beside you to the altar And submit our love to God This is the start To spend my life with you So take my hand Lets hold each other To live as one in faith and love You are my you Now and forever You made my life complete and whole I am your you Together forever We will build a family in Gods love On this day I offer you my spirit On this day moment I wish to live with you more than forever

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A Journey of Love I've been in loved in so many ways, I've traveled so far to search for this mysterious thing they called love, but there's the feeling, I keep coming back to her. I found out that all the roads of love lead to Jhen.

After all those searching for love Ive traveled so far to find one that last I fell in love in so many ways But theres the feeling to keep coming back to you After all those promises of love Theyre all gone and faded away This journey so honest to show me the way That finally, Im coming home to your heart now Chorus: All the roads of love lead to you All that Ive been through were enough to show You are with me all the way and Im for you Your love always sees me through All the roads of love lead to you My journey of love begins and ends to you Youre with me through thick and thin Of ups and downs of this journey of love So many times that been hurt My heart was broken in bitterness

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All the love I found along the way They were just dreams, and yours is the love thats rea l

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Spring My first experience of spring was in Pakistan, but my spiritual experience with spring was in Mongolia. I could not describe the feeling of elation to see everything is coming back to life. It was during this season that I encountered God as a mother who is the springer of life, love and hope. The brilliant colors of flowers The smell of their fragrance There is a new display of life There is glimmering hope The penetrating rays of warm sunshine Make everything rejoice As spring comes along Replenishes the tired worn-out souls

Ref: Spring, spring, springtime You lift up my life and soul Spring, spring, springtime I feel Gods love and compassion Spring, spring, springtime Im coming back to life again (Ohoh its springtime again)

Leaves on the aspen trees grow back

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It is a moment of a brand new start Out with the old, in with the new Spring is a time of new life The birds are singing praises The river flows in freedom All the earth rejoice in gladness To God the Springer of life

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This Autumn Rain I woke up one morning to realize how I became so selfish. It was raining and the autumn breeze was biting. I promised to myself that when I come home, I will be a better husband to Jhen and good father to Ayat. In the morning I found myself freezing in the rain As I gaze on the leaves being blown by the wind I remember there were times I wasnt so true to you And I swear the doubts had vanished Because of this autumn rain And if there is anything I could promise That in my life I want to tell you now For it is you who made me whole Chorus: I may have some lies and Ive been hurting you many times Ive discerned that somehow I was selfish and wrong I am certain now to say that at last I found myself I found my way back into my senses Through this autumn rain The autumn breeze is biting I wish that you were here As I wait for the fall to end so well be together again I remember my fall; I let the time and distance to heal And I swear I feel good and better In this autumn rain And if theres anything I could tell you It is how your love had fixed my life And its you who gave me hope

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