Here’s some Sunday Inspiration for you. I wrote this blog in June and just haven’t felt urged to publish it until now. Manila was hot and stifling. Worse than anything I’ve experienced thus far in my life and travels and I lived through several summers in New York City. The heat is one thing, but the humidity really takes it out of you and Manila has humidity in abundance. Granted, we were there in June—not exactly prime time for beautiful weather. We decided to take a walk around the city as opposed to a guided tour. On foot, you see so much more—the real things. You may have to come to some conclusions on your own, but we got a chance to see the real Manila. Everywhere you go there are signs in Tagalog saying drugs are prohibited and the penalty if caught is death. Presidente Duterte is known as a bit of a tyrant having ordered police to kill more than 3,000 persons caught with drugs in possession. He also told his soldiers recently, “I will go to jail for you. If you happen to have raped three women, I will own up to it.”
It is the eighteenth most populous city in the world with some 12.7 million inhabitants. James and I both love churches and we knew there would be some magnificent cathedrals in the city due to its Spanish and Catholic influence. We wandered away from the port toward the city center. Manila is the type of place where you become exhausted from saying no. There are taxis, rickshaws and Jeepney’s everywhere trying to sell you a tour or a ride to The Mall of Asia-the largest mall in all of Asia. You have to say no about every five seconds. It’s really difficult if you’re a person with a soft spot for those in need.
There’s an old song from the 90’s that’s really just a collection of colloquialisms. The lyrics say something like, “Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard. Live in northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft.” Having lived in both, places for several years, I’m lucky to be able to change the surface of my emotional exterior when I need to. At least I thought so until I was walking around the streets of Manila. We walked along a main road beside the gates of a country club On our way to see San Agustin Church. The sidewalk was treelined and the area was plentifully shaded. It was really the only place you could walk without feeling like you might faint. Only problem was, there was immense poverty and homelessness along this street. I’ve seen homelessness on The West Coast of the United States, in New York City, Vancouver, Las Vegas, El Salvador and South Africa, Mexico, China and India. Most of these places have issues with adult homelessness. In the developing countries listed above, some of it is due to sheer poverty and government corruption, but most of it is related to drugs use and mental illness. However in Manila, I saw something I’ll never unsee.
James and I were walking a middle-aged couple back to their cruise ship. They were in town and had gotten lost after they were dropped off in the middle of the city from their rickshaw tour. An incredibly polite man as he is with an excellent sense of direction, James offered to escort them back to their home base. We walked back the same way we came. There were two young girls who pulled down their pants right in front of us to relieve themselves on the sidewalk. What other choice did they have? They are homeless. Their mother, made of nothing but skin and bones, eating a bowl of white rice looked on as they did their business. A few meters up we walked past another family with beaming smiles on their faces. We smiled back. As we passed them a young girl about four or five, shoeless, unkempt with dirt on her face and unkempt hair dressed in her dad’s dirty, tattered yellow polo shirt came running up to me and pointed to my water bottle. I figured her parents asked her to get it for them so they could recycle it for money for food. That’d be what some could do in Western countries that have recycling programs. Manila did not as far as I could see. She pointed again to the water bottle and I handed it to her and turned back to see what she would do with it. Walking a few steps away from her I heard the cap of the water bottle drop to the ground. I looked back and the little girl was guzzling what was left in my bottle with all her might. She was just simply thirsty. My heart was broken. I ran up to James and asked him if he could part with his bottle of water which was three quarters of the way full. He handed it to me and I gave it to the girl and she looked at me as if Santa Claus had just given her the dollhouse of her dreams. Think about it-most places we live, you can drink water right out of the tap if you need to. And that is generally our last resort. We all have a few bucks lying around to grab a bottle of water at a convenience store, pharmacy or supermarket when we need to. Most of us are only ever dehydrated by choice. This little girl was absolutely parched and her little precious life depended on a drink of that water. I’ll never forget that moment. A woman recently said to us, “you must travel with an open heart if you want your mind to open.” The more I travel, the more I realize how grateful I am. Take a moment to allow some Sunday inspiration into your life. There is nothing more gratifying than gratitude. God Bless.