Toward the end of the first Viviamo! build there was a little activity that involved the sharing of experiences and insights. Everyone who came to build had a chance to say something. One tito from the CFC who was helping coordinate our efforts at the site – Tito Raul – was able to say something that really stuck with me. He, addressing the volunteers, said something along the lines of, “By being here you’ve helped them put their trust back in you.”
At first, I took “them” to mean the beneficiaries of the houses we helped build. Gawad Kalinga beneficiaries are generally the “poorest of the poor.” In a country such as the Philippines, where the economic divide stares everyone in the face, enmity between the classes seems to be the accepted norm. To “them” the rich can be easily stereotyped as greedy, exploitive opportunists. To “them” I could easily have been tagged as a spoiled, sheltered rich kid. The rich, as we are, seem unworthy of the trust of the poor, of their trust.
I thought that being there would have been enough to convince them that I wasn’t a spoiled, sheltered rich kid and that they could trust me.
However, in this case I did not totally understand Tito Raul’s point. While “them” may have meant the poor but – more importantly – it also meant the older generation. While “you” may have meant “us” rich kids it also meant “us” youth.
Blame it on the generation gap and the communication barrier but the older generation does not exactly see us in the best light. But who are we to blame them? Media paints us – perhaps maybe not totally unfairly – as a generation that lacks a sense of self and a sense of direction in life. Too consumed by our own angst or too preoccupied with ourselves we’ve grown distant. In our hurry to get along with the times we come of us disrespectful of “them” and their traditions. The young, as we are, seem unworthy of the trust of the old, of their trust.
Our being there showed them that we aren’t spoiled brats without a care in the world. It showed them that there are youth who do care about problems other than their own. It showed them that there are youth who are willing to help change things.
And, maybe, after all that we’ve shown them, maybe it also showed them that we are worthy of their trust.
Peejay Manalo is part of the Philippine Committee, co-logisitics head for the Viviamo! Project. He is the resident artist of WYAAP and has designed the posters of our past events. Aside from sharing his artistic skills with the Asia Pacific office, Peejay – a wonderful cook – feeds the regional staff and volunteers every once in a while.