Yesterday, I trod the distressingly unfamiliar turfs of Manila to meet my cousin. Oh yes, it is essential to mention the words “distressingly unfamiliar” because I have been lost in the city of Manila sooooo many times; despite the fact that I have been living in METRO Manila for about half a decade now.
Anyway, a couple of days ago I was surprised by a call from my cousin Lalaine who told me that she’s currently in Manila. Most of my relatives are in Davao (and other parts of Mindanao) thus it is always to my delight whenever I learn that a relative is visiting the Metro. Since my weekdays are impossible, I decided to meet her on a Sunday. I was quite excited because this cousin of mine used to live in our house when we were still tots. I have no siblings so when she moved in it was the first time I created my earliest memories of childhood playtime that do not involve books or TV game shows. I remember putting her inside a basket, then I hid myself inside a cardboard box. I can’t recall if it was hide-and-seek we were playing. Who was the “it” anyway? There are only the two of us.
Okay, I’m blabbering again. Anyways, yesterday, I was able to locate SM Sta. Mesa (our meeting place) without getting lost. Yay! But I have to admit, whenever I’m in Manila I always get this odd feeling that I’m not in the Philippines. The people and the streets are just so unfamiliar to me.
I found us a quaint Chinese restaurant inside the mall. It’s called MX Teahouse. She hasn’t arrived yet so I called her to tell her where I am and if she’s okay with Chinese food. She said, “Yes,” and added that she has no choice but to deal with Chinese food anyway. Oh yeah, I remember. She told me that the purpose of her visit in the Metro is to attend a short training program which is necessary for her employment abroad. In Hong Kong, to be specific. She recently resigned from her job and was offered by her ex-boss to work as a domestic helper abroad. They knew a Chinese family in HK who is looking for a maid.
Well, truth be told, I was pretty saddened when I learned this. Uhm, well, yeah, I was glad that my cousin can now have a decent-paying job, which she currently needs in order to provide for her husband and two kids. However, I was saddened because I knew that my cousin is pretty intelligent. She has a degree in Accountancy and she’s one of those very few relatives of mine who can excel academically. And yet, she now has to leave her family and work as a house maid.
I feel even more terrible at the thought that she’s going to work in HK. That’s the place I visited last December to have a short vacation. I mean I feel quite guilty that I get to travel to these places to have fun and yet I have relatives who are forced to seek menial jobs there because they desperately need to. And it’s not only with Lalaine. I also feel guilty whenever some other relatives ask me to help them with their kids’ tuition fees, or their house rent, or their means of living, et cetera. And I refuse every single time because (1) I don’t have much to spare from my income, and (2) I believe they are strong enough to work for their own money. Giving them mine will not only feed their laziness, but it will also eat up some bits of me because I knew that I earned that money and that I have other things I want to spend it on.
Yup, this is the part where I justify myself. You see, when I was younger, while my relatives were having fun playing, lazing around, etc. I stayed indoors, studied really hard, and read a lot of books. I noticed that while people around me were having fun, I was in my room reading books about the world, widening my knowledge base, setting my goals for the future. While I noticed them flirting with other adolescents, I was painstakingly trying to survive my rigorous science high school curriculum. And while they were either feeding their vices or were starting to have families of their own, I was busy earning my college degree. So now that I am earning, I would like to reward myself from time to time just because I think I deserved it.
I don’t even earn much, but I know how to scrimp my budget. In order to finance my leisure travels, I spend months of eating cheap food, cooking my own meals whenever I can, avoid taking the cab, refusing to go on night outs, walk home, etc.
So the bottom line, I live a lifestyle that is very different from my relatives. But I think that I deserve such lifestyle because I work hard for it. I have sacrificed a lot in the past so I can to where I am now. And you know, I’m still willing to sacrifice some more to reach even far greater heights. HOWEVER, I do feel guilty. How I wish my relatives have a better life. I wish we all are richer so we don’t have to leave family behind just to put food on the table. I wish Lalaine doesn’t have to leave the country to work as a housemaid.
But that’s just wishful thinking. Reality bites. We are not wealthy people and we need to sacrifice some things in order to have a better life. I could only hope the best for my cousin. I also pray that she will have good employers. I heard some foreign families have very dreadful attitudes, and some even hurt their house helps, rape them, or treat them like prisoners. I wish Lalaine will not get to experience any of that.
To my cousin, Good Luck. Always pray. And do your best in whatever you do. I hope someday you can find the time and resources to review and take the CPA board exam, as you have initially planned.