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There is only one goal. That is to be whole again.

There is only one goal. That is to be whole again. How human beings live and work determines whether they remain whole or are split. ...



Rural folk have an innate grace that city folk like me lack. Jeffrey, a local friend, helped me with some things yesterday afternoon that I would not have been able to do myself.

I have learned in these months on the island that offering people cash like we do in the US is a big no no. There is nothing more embarrassing than holding out money like we do in America and the intended recipient smiling and saying gently, "There is no need for that."

So yesterday I agonized over what to give Jeffrey. Of course I could have just let him help me and let that be the end of the matter. But I didn't. In the past my go to present has been cake. Really. Filipinos, like Indians, love love love cake. I am a rather helpless foreigner in their midst and I need a lot of favors.

So I was on a roll with handing out cake until I realized I was overdoing it. I was pushing on their inherent politeness when I was producing yet another cake for my many helpers. So as I say, I agonized over what to get Jeffrey. Then suddenly in great self-congratulation for my brilliantness I had it: rice! I had bags of organic red rice from the neighboring farm. I would give him one!

When I gave Jeffrey the bag of rice he seemed confused. What would you like me to do with it? he asked. Eat it! At that he smiled and actually bowed. I felt so good about myself I could have kissed him. I had figured it out, I knew what gifts to give my rural friends!

As he was leaving, with many gracious thanks, I casually asked him if he was used to eating red rice. Yes, he replied, that is what we grow on our family farm.


When we saw foreigners we'd run away

As urban areas expand, rural areas contract. The nature of the economy changes. Rural areas are societies that took a very long time to form. They are not cash economies even when money is used. They are social economies, where economic functions are embedded in deep social relations and interrelationships. Rural economies are earth-based economies, where nature plays a big role in providing for people's needs. Things produced come from the earth and return to the earth. 

In the rural area in the Philippines where we have spent over two months, it is easy to see this. Coconuts everywhere! The fiber is used to make thatched roofs, the coconut water is drunk, the flesh used to make coconut oil and coconut milk. The guyabano fruit--a powerful cancer fighter prized by Krista--and papaya grow everywhere. Rice, black as well as red, is easy to grow. People don't earn much in terms of cash but that's exactly the point. They don't need much cash in an earth-based economy. A local friend uses cash to buy a little carton of Dutch Milk as a special treat for his two year old daughter. 

If I were to take the ferry from this island--two hours by fast ferry, five by the slow one--to the city I would enter a very different world. I know that world well having spent two months living there with friends. The city is entirely a cash economy. Nothing grows there so everything has to be bought in markets and increasingly in malls. Everyone I got to know there uses 'vegetable oil', that foul, unhealthy oil made from soy beans. Coconut oil is prohibitively expensive and available only in select pharmacies. People earn a lot more cash in the city than they do here in the rural area, but the cash is spent quickly on Nestle formula ( it is difficult to breast-feed the young while working twelve hours a day), Nescafe 'white' coffee (instant coffee mixed with that vegetable oil atrocity: 'non dairy creamer', 'cheap' clothing at the mall for the family, ridiculously expensive school uniforms complete with black leather shoes and school 'supplies'. The cash based economy destroys the society that rural living built over centuries. 

A local friend reports visiting a village in China and then returning a year later to find an entire city in place of the village. That is the likely fate of the rural area here in the Philippines that we have spent an idyllic two months in. An international airport is being built--one so big that it will cover four barangay (the unit of local government) and permit ten airplanes to take off and land simultaneously--to be operational next year. Already the first 7-Eleven on the island has come up, anchoring the first mall, containing exactly three stores. In a year this place could be hell.

We start to say goodbye to our dear friends in this rural area, this beautiful island. Carlo's house bequeathed to him by a favorite grandmother is over a hundred years old. It is built on stilts, in the traditional manner, with thatched coconut roof and woven grass walls and graceful openings for doors and windows that have no 'doors' or 'windows'. The house is open to the world as it has been for a hundred years. Carlo says, laughing, "When we were young we thought foreigners were ghosts. When we saw one we'd run away!" 

But the land, our earth, can't run away when the 'foreigners' come. She is open, with no 'doors' or 'windows', even as we disfigure her beyond recognition.