Far away so close

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  • A young mother and her six children stand and pose for a photograph in front of their small wooden home in the countryside near Busuanga Airport where I just bid farewell to my friend Yolande who flew back to Singapore today. It’s funny to think just how close Singapore is to here, but how in many respects life in Singapore is worlds away from life in this rural community in the Philippines.

    Despite not really being very far from Coron town, life in rural Palawan is very basic. There’s no power, no water, and no mobile phone coverage. For most of us, life here would be unimaginably difficult.

    I spent a little while with this family who live just ten minutes away from Busuanga Airport. Between us there was no common language, but using sign language we were able to have something of a conversation. I learned that this young mother’s youngest child here is just 5 months old, and her eldest is around nine years old. The children showed me how to play a skipping game and the little boy showed me with great pride how fast he could get his ‘toy’ tire to go while he ran beside it keeping it moving with a stick.

    In many respects life here is very difficult, but a part of me is envious of how wonderfully simple it seems to be too. Could you imagine giving a western child a used motorbike tire and saying, “There ya go Johnny, have this instead of the X box.”

    As the mother proudly showed me their little wooden home that comprised of a single room, I thought about my friend Phil and Kerry-anne who have just welcomed their new son Isaac into the world. I tried to compare their life in New Zealand, surrounded by toys and baby care equipment, with this single room hut here in an unpowered place that often floods in the monsoon season. I imagined a situation in which the two families swapped lives for a month, and what they would both learn from an experience like that.

    It still amazes me that in this hyper-connected busy world we all live in, there are still vast numbers of people for whom reality is almost unthinkably different. Where my digital camera and mirrored sunglasses look like artifacts from the future or at the very least a world that is far far away from them, when in reality it’s not that far at all.

    If you’re curious where I am, you can find me on a map. Simply click the ‘About Simon Jones’ link at the top of the website then click the ‘Find me on a map‘ link.

  • 13 comments on “Far away so close

      • Indeed, my first thought was she was the eldest sister looking after her siblings, and only then I read the description.

        • You know what, that too was my impression. But there ya go. I’ve seen similar such young mothers in other parts of Asia and in India too (which is still part of Asia I know, but I always count it on its own).

    1. Since establishing our home and socio/eco resort in the mountains of South Cebu in the Philippines – we have had to totally redefine the words “rich” and “poor” in our vocabulary. Initially I thought these people were really poor, as they literally didn’t have a penny to rub together, and we were so “rich” in comparison. However after a (actually very short) time I noticed they were almost always relaxed, smiling and laughing, whilst we were almost always stressed, frowning and worrying about our careers, jobs, possessions, money etc. In many ways our lives are poorer and theirs are much richer. We need to be careful when judging whose rich or poor. Hat’s off to you Simon for experiencing life in their world. Am sure your life is now significantly richer for the experience.

      • Thanks Nigel, and it is true what you say. I first came to the conclusion that our understanding of “rich” and “poor” was a rather one dimensional understanding of a very three dimensional reality when I visited salt pan workers and a leper colony in southern India. I too came back to the UK feeling that for all our money, spoils, and assorted things, were had somehow confused rich and wealth to mean the same thing.

        I no longer see these people as “poor” as a single sweeping statement. I’ve learned that life is not, despite what we are relentlessly trained to believe, all about the pursuit of the almighty dollar.

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