1.Your occupancy doesn’t define your personhood. In the Philippines, many pursue subservient jobs, according to Western standards. Housemaids, drivers, guards — those words are simply job titles, not a relative degree of significance. Regardless of how menial one’s job may be, we should treat them with an unchanged kindness as though it has no bearing on their identity.
2. Adopt a clever and persistent business mind. If you have a talent or product and can foresee an open market, why not try to make business? Walk along the market streets outside barangays (villages) and people will sell you a wide array of items from empty glass bottles to handmade brooms. Even in the polluted, vehicle congested highways, locals will walk through traffic to sell towels and straw-made fans. After all, scared money don’t make no money.
3. Find the cheap thrills and indulge. If the best things in life are free, then the better things in life must be dirt cheap. Barbacoa soup from the streets of Davao City — the best dish I’ve ever tasted, and it was only 5 pesos. Such a low price wonder is hard to find but inarguably worth the trouble. Every city has its hidden gems in hole-in-the-wall restaurants or food carts; search for them since hidden food is often a hidden treasure.
4. Respect your elders. If you see your “Lolo” or “Lola,” it is mandatory that you bow down and lightly press the back of their hands to your forehead. No family, especially if thoroughbred Filipino, started out wealthier than they are now. Recognize, acknowledge, and thank your grandparents for their endless hard work that sprouted into the life we all so conveniently enjoy today.
5. Suck it up. If you visit the Ilocos region in the Philippines, you’ll notice that everyone plays basketball barefoot on a court full of puddles and dog poop. Moreover, those players, will not go home to a shower, but a bucket and pale to conserve water (never mind the thought of having it warm). It is not enough reason to cancel plans just because they aren’t padded with the luxuries we expect.
6: Perspective — the cure for the impulsive. We’ve all heard the stereotype “Asians can’t drive.” I dare any proponent of that misconception to drive the highways of Manila. Not to sound cynical, but my bet is that the driver will have an accident in less than five minutes. Filipinos hate turning signals, ignore all red lights, and always overtake the car in front of them. It’s not a matter of skill, it’s a matter of style. Americans don’t see Asians as fit drivers, but keep in mind, the concept is a two-way street, pun intended.
7. Life is better shared. Are you familiar with the Filipino drinking style? A bucket of six beers is ordered with one cup. The cup is filled, finished by one person, and then passed on to whoever’s next in the circle of friends. The underlying reason is to drink in unison so the buzz is uniform around the table, contradicting the American tradition of ordering your own personal beer. Why do anything alone of it’s more enjoyable with someone beside you?
8: Health is wealth. I’ve been to a highly exclusive resort restricted only for the elite class. Most people that accompanied me on the private plane had two things on them: a baby and a protruding stomach. The mentality in the Philippines is “if you have more, then eat more.” It’s no wonder that the richest man I’ve met also happened to be the youngest person I’ve ever known to be given dialysis treatment. Learn from him, life is only good as your health is and your hard work will only pay off if you live long enough to see the result of it.
9. Continuously love those who are incapable of reciprocating the act. While I was in my uncle’s car, a child beggar knocked on the driver’s seat window and my Uncle scooped into his pocket and gave the child a handful of coins. What does it benefit you to spend money and time on someone that can’t return the favor? Repeatedly choosing kindness over apathy makes your love more dispensable, and ultimately, makes you a more loving person.
10. I am not the object. Too many times we perceive life to be an object lesson with us being the object. As a result, we project ourselves with the backwards mentality that others have much to learn from what we say and do. In the most unlikely of places, my poverty-stricken, third-world motherland has taught me many lessons I haven’t thought about twice before. I encourage you to view life as a classroom with you in a desk, not a theatrical show with you in the spotlight.