The Stories that Matter

Untitled I came across Alex Tizon’s article unintentionally. I had never heard about him before. But the notion of someone speaking out about the atrocities committed within his own family made me click the link anyway. What I found was beyond anything I expected to find (though I’m not entirely sure what that was in the first place.)

For starters, the story was by a Filipino-American. I got even more curious. But the crime was not committed by him but by his parents. Who were both “full-blooded” Filipinos.  I was even more shocked.

You see, ever since you start learning history in school up until college,- as a Filipino,- you learn one thing. We were a colony. We were a people enslaved. So the farthest thing that one could ever think of (at least for the naive me) is the enslaved being no better than the oppressors who ruled centuries ago.

But Lola’s story was not a soap opera played on TV or in the theatres. It was real.

Today we wail for the lost native culture of the Philippines due to centuries of colonization and oppression. Something, I believe, is warranted. But that grief has also given place to some form of pride that has also blocked the less reflective part of ourselves as to failing to scrutinize the flaws of a glorious past. A pride that makes us neglect what Mr. Tizon had so clearly and honestly written in the article:

Slavery has a long history on the islands. Before the Spanish came, islanders enslaved other islanders, usually war captives, criminals, or debtors. Slaves came in different varieties, from warriors who could earn their freedom through valor to household servants who were regarded as property and could be bought and sold or traded. High-status slaves could own low-status slaves, and the low could own the lowliest. Some chose to enter servitude simply to survive: In exchange for their labor, they might be given food, shelter, and protection. (article)

 

 

Stories are powerful in themselves. They make us think what we normally would not on a daily basis. They make us feel what we probably never have.

The manner of how we value and learn from them, is what makes one story special than the other. But the value isn’t always in the date of an event, or the dress that the subject of the story wore, or the time and place. In fact, I believe it’s the memorization of these facts or data that has made the study of history a subject most of the kids find “boring”  or “tiring.”

Stories gain their impact through the relevance of the experience to the reader or listener. Relevance, meaning: “How does this impact my life? How could I possibly improve the way I think and act throughout my life, from learning this story?” I believe those questions rang through every student whenever they had to learn all about the Stone Age or the World War 3.

However, lot of us nowadays easily know the names of the likes of Clark Kent/Superman, Tony Stark/Ironman and Thor. Fictional characters, nonetheless, their names resonate with a lot of us (who wouldn’t probably excel in highschool/college history) mainly because of how “awesomely” went through their struggles- the impact of which, the audience felt they understood.  (Need I mention how obsessed a scary lot of us with the lives of celebrities?)

Some would remember and willingly go through lengths to learn more details about their characters of interest. But what makes “studying about the details of these characters so easy, but the history of our own and very real people, a drag?

Possibly, because we first focus (and put more weight) on the (trivial?) data like dates, numbers, and places before we try to connect to the story of the humanity  that is within the stories of other people in different times and in different places.

We fail to value it, as we fail to value reflection.

 

Somehow, as I absorbed the impact of Lola’s story a I thought back to all the historical dramas I’ve watched both from Asia and the West. I recalled the condition of Age of Ignorance/Jahilliya in Arabia. All of them had tales of oppression and rising above it.

I thought about how despite our stark differences across continents and even across time, the themes of our stories (our history), as individuals or as a people, were always the same.

Which brings me to one of my favorite verse from the Noble Qur’an:

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O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of God is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And God has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things). [13]

Makes me think…

 

Mr. Alex Tizon, the writer who shared Lola’s story that inspired the writing of this entry, was known to be an exceptional journalist whose life’s work involved forgotten people, people on the margins, people who had never before been asked for their stories. He believed that all people had within them an epic story, and he wanted to hear those epic stories—and then help tell them to the world.

I share in that belief.

Maybe if we value the story of the farmer, the maid or the garbage boy as we do with Angelina Jolie’s or the next trending celebrity…

Maybe if we start listening to stories for their actual value rather than gossip…

We can learn to truly grow together.

 

(PS For the record, I really liked studying history. I flunked…just once. But that was because I’d had enough of how the teacher was treating the students. Dumb move. Haha)

Is Life Even That Important

Is Life even that important?

This is a question of oddities

but with killings left and right,

and warfare in plain sight,

One may opt to ask the question.
From the onset of time,
Surviving has been the major goal of one,

But in battles, the emerging victor is none.

If it’s importance is above all,

then why do countries choose it’s downfall?

aren’t we the most precious thing of all?

If theories and concepts are made by man,
Then why are such theories destroying man?
How fearful does the future brings,

If the present do not preserve the important things.

Like peace and it’s never ending process

and children which promotes progress.

With all that’s that happening in the world,
One can’t help but reiterate the question

“Is Life even that important?”

-a poem written by my friend, who I shall refer to as G.D.

[UPDATE: GD now has a blog: The Old Wondering Soul. Do check her out! )

Ballpen: A short anecdote| T.O.A.

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“I’m sorry to disturb you. But I hope you understand. I am a father, with children who I send to school. This is the only moral way I know to earn a living. If you could just buy (even one or a few), it would mean a great deal. Thank you!”

 

Those were the few words uttered by the elder man who was obviously roaming the streets earlier today- amidst the sorching heat of the sun and danger of going from jeep to jeep in the middle of heavy traffic. He  basket full of pens in hand and small printed notes that more or less said what he had uttered.

All this, just so he could send his child(ren) to school.

Some may say, it could be another modus operandi, a hoax to get people’s money. It’s a thing so common in the Philippines when you roam the streets and you encounter indigents who ask for alms. There are people who take advantage of the suffering of others…

Others who think that they have no other choice, if they wish to survive.

But dare I say, where is the proof? Would we dare choose to believe the latter whilst knowing that there is an equally high chance that a simple ballpen could mean a child’s future?

But besides all this, I was nearly moved to tears…

I felt guilty…

 

Being still considered a fresh graduate and having earned my license last October, my current job has had me in the ropes. I’ve faced challenges and situations that have me constantly pondering whether I did the right thing, and/or whether the struggles are worth it.

 

But what are my struggles, compared to others who choose to push on? Like that man who had put aside any concern for his health and being for the sake of the future of another?

 

Love.

 

Hope.

 

Selflessness.

 

Goals.

 

Purpose.

 

No matter what our situation is written to be…no matter how grim or trialsome…May we never lose sight of these.

Year Ender: 7 Fav Songs that Speak Beyond Barriers

How has everyone’s 2015 been?

It surely didn’t go smoothly…

Around the world, there are a lot of things we are still struggling with. Conflicts here and there that have yet to see their resolutions.

Tragedies have struck us to our core…

And there are still more tragedies that continue to unfold…

 

Nonetheless- year after year- the flicker of hope remains in all of us.

This is a post that is intended to bring the message of Hope through one very powerful medium that has always been part of human culture- music.

Many would say that there’s been too many songs that have been released that speak about their themes- of yearning for everyone to look past beyond the barriers of color, for everyone to see the beauty of diversity, for everyone not to be mindlessly following any group that seeks to instill fear and mindless hate in us. Many might say that there’s already so much songs about these, yet we have yet to see change.

Well, have the abundance of romantic songs ever seem to satiate the soul’s longing for that partner? Or been enough to soothe every brokenhearted?

I don’t believe so.

Nevertheless I think I’d like to end my year with songs that remind one to be a light despite things looking so bleak and dark. If anything, it’s the only way we can continue to move forward and live.

1. Michael Jackson’s “Heal The World”: Michael Jackson is a legend in this era’s music industry. And towards the end of his life, his works were geared towards awakening and uplifting the world. He didn’t just release one song that spoke about the issues that have racked our societies. He released more, and I believe he would continue to make more had he been still with us. He was not shy, and was outspoken about them. It is this aspect of him that I respect most in his life as an artist.

Also, at a time were war and conflict seems just right at our doorstep..this could not be even more timely.

2. Sami Yusuf’s “Shine”: Brother Sami Yusuf has been a role model. He has coined the genre, “Spiritique”, one that is ” informed by the belief that the major world religions bespeak a perennially harmonious spiritual and moral message that has the potential to beautify the world and create peace between people.” His latest release, Shine, is one of his best works that represent this message. May this new leaf, the coming days of 2016 be the moment where we all strive to keep shining.

3. Harris J’s “Worth It”: Shifting towards a genre that most of the youth can dig, I chose one of this promising newcomer’s latest releases. I’m glad to be seeing such good work from someone so young. Even as adults, struggles don’t disappear. In fact, struggles will always be there in different shapes and forms. May we continue to struggle for all that is worth our tears, blood, and sweat…no matter how hard it is.

4. Zain Bhikha’s “Someday”: “Salam”, the arabic for , “Peace”. This is the message of this song all the while uplifting the undistorted message of Islam and to add juice to the image of Muslims not commonly flashed on our TV screens. The song “talks about humanity coming together for one purpose, finding peace.” Give it a listen, and probably a share.

5. Zain Bhikha’s “First We Need the Love”  Or if you probably would like something with a “hipper beat” to it, here’s something I’d recommend from the same artist with the participation of his son, Rashid. Also very, very timely.

 

6. EXO’s “History” (Korean version): Suprise! Yes, I do (selectively) listen to song from Kpop. I’d thought it to shift to another genre and part of the world would be a little good too. To give a little story, I didn’t know about this group back in what was maybe late 2012 (beside the fact that they debuted on that same year). I just saw this on TV and like it then. No, not because of the physical traits of the singers, the moves they were making, but the lyric hit home. They had a previous release, “MAMA“, which also talked along the same themes but both the MV and the lyrics are until now quite debated. For those in the know, many would consider the lyrics to speak of the two group’s division and be attempt to attest their unity. But the thing about this song is, even if you don’t know a thing about EXO, once it’s translated its more universal message pulls through.  There’s also a Chinese version to this.

This last day of December will the final page of that will go down as 2015’s history. May it be blessed, may it open doors for all our growth!

7. Raef’s “The Path”: Earlier this year, I made a short post about brother Raef’s “Dream”. I’d still pick that for this post, but I didn’t want to be redundant.

I chose to round-up this post with this song because while it goes back to the type of songs that are like home to me, I think it beautifully narrates the shared struggle we all have within, though each story and depth is uniquely that of ours.

I’ll let the song speak once again. For once again, I am lost for words.As the dawn of another year (in the Gregorian calendar at least) draws near, may the path that we should take be much more clearer to us. Ameen.

And I know that it hurts
When we stop and wonder: “Why?”
Yes I know that it hurts
Maybe time will heal the burns

And maybe you’ve felt the path I seek, and
I know you’ve cared as much as me
Our stories were shared for us to see

Thanks for reading up until here!

Love, truth and peace,

G.T.

 

Lessons from the Railways| Thoughts of an Ahjumma

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(Credit to The Philippine Daily Inquirer for photo)

I always am blessed to learn or to be reminded of something good while taking the MRT. But today was quite different.

There are almost a handful of things I was reminded of or taught about while experiencing another worse-than-packed-sardines-MRT day. (Which is almost like everyday, except Sundays XD)

1.Our society is very much like this kind of MRT day. People pushing,impatient, all desperately racing to get their destination, not minding that others like them are on this same platform as well. Literally, and figuratively speaking.

They’d push, they’d do almost anything to get on that train. I strongly think that 2/4 of the frustration comes from not giving others the chance to get off first. (The tramcar is obviously full, how could one get in when others haven’t gotten off to give next passengers actual space??)

Would anything change if we push ourselves into an already jam-packed vehicle? Are those few secondss we lose just to let others off first really so important? Won’t we lose more when we fight and almost push others off the railway?

This mentality of “my welfare first”/“i have my problems too” is a major reason why we ain’t moving as a society. 

“No man is an island” is something that I believe talks more than just individual loneliness. It talks about how we all, despite being unique, are interconnected. In fact, it’s our uniqueness that helps us connect and helps us collectively more forward.

2. Reminded again to never judge a book by its cover. Just because that person looks so “sacred” that he/she can’t be corrupt.

Such kind of person was next in line to me. Making way for someone getting off, I was pushed out and then that person got in first. I laughed at the encounter but it made me sad, since they’d be like one of those people many would expect to act with more patience & decency… whereas if I would have worn a veil slightly different from theirs, society would probably just go “Oh she’s of ‘them’. Rude, is expected”. (Prejudice is something terrible to have)

3. Despite all the frustrating ills we have as human beings there’s still hope. Most grateful to the security guard who let me go first -even after I was pushed out of the queue, giving me an exception even when others would have protested. He saw what happened  and calmly explained even the commuters’ hot tempers. Without his help, I probably would have ended up at the end of dreadful queue. (I know because none of those who were next to me in line moved an inch to let me get back in line after being pushed out.)

“There is still hope”. If only we could all learn to be like that security guard. If we could stop being stubborn in being pessimistic. If we could learn to let ourselves have sympathy/empathy again. That the plight of others is not their fault entirely. Especially in this society, we in differing degrees are responsible.

Reminds me of that commuter who laughed at Pnoy for trying to implement “tuwid na daan”/(pursuing the) “straight path” and all who still believed in it. That person said,  “He’s a fool! What straight path? It’s nonexistent. In this society? Ha!”

I wished I could’ve spoken out then.

Because the only reason we can’t seem to get on a straight path is because we have chosen to believe that such path doesn’t exist. We laugh at others ACTUALLY doing what they can to change. When we should pity ourselves for not being concerned,giving up, doing nothing.

4.  Last is something I’ve adopted after taking the MRT quite often, if not regularly.

In a competitive society, the pressures of everyday life can come from all directions- pushing you, squeezing you ’til you can’t seem to breathe.

  Letting these pressures get to you won’t help. Letting the anger of others get to you won’t help. Breathe despite all of it. Adjust what you can, but never loose your footing, your zen within. I’ve learned to calmly let others be when it seems there’s nothing I can do now to change the situation. And to smile, even it can be painful.

Because it might seem such a long ride, but as long as you keep patient in doing what you can, your bound to get to your destination in time.

-Growing Tree

Sands and Dandelions

Caption from Prince of Persio: Sands Through Time

There are loved ones whom I haven’t met in almost 8 years… Some whom I haven’t met in 5 years… Loved ones who have passed away but have touched my heart, ’til this day… I, one day, will pass. Like the clouds… My deeds are like the seeds of the dandelion, scattered in the wind… I wonder will they land on fertile land and bloom one Day?


But that is not for me to know, but I know I can hope,

For I was once a seed, now I am here… Surely, the One God who has been tending to me hasn’t planted me for mere play.

(Originally posted through my instagram: growingtree1108)