It makes me sad, now that I’m leaving my job. I spent almost a year now with my people in the Abucay Bunkhouses and this realization hits me. It is always tough to leave something you love behind. Most good things have to end. I particularly liked this field because first, I own my time and second, I own my work. Moreover, I loved the job because of the worthwhile feeling I have with the community people, except that sometimes, it made me annoyed, angry, sad bored and lazy.
By worthwhile, I mean, the feeling when my heart melts whenever my people appreciate the things I do for them, or when the small, happy kids take my hand and put it in their forehead and say “bless” as a sign of respect or when they ask to take a picture with me or when they just simply call out my name when I pass by their units.
By worthwhile, I mean, the feeling of sympathy for these people, when they look happy to see me every morning, greeting me, cooking for me during lunchtime, and assisting me whenever I need one.
By worthwhile, I mean, realizing and being humbled by the fact that despite of their limited resources, they are still willing to give out heartfelt generosity. It’s really true that those who have less are the ones who are willing to give more.
By worthwhile, I mean, the amazement and inspiration I get every time I see them smile, or laugh over trivial things, regardless of their situation. How lucky are these people to be cheerful notwithstanding of how difficult whatever it is that they’re going through.
By worthwhile, I mean, the feeling of contentment when it’s my time to go, that a day of mine has not been wasted because I know that I have spent it with them.
Nonetheless, not all of my days in the camp are pleasing. There are times when I just really get annoyed and disappointed with some others’ adverse Filipino attitudes. For instance, when I try to be fair once there are goods donated that are not sufficient for everyone. There will always be others who will poke at my face with arrogance and selfishness.
Or on occasion by which I want them to be in the camp, and other families have houses rebuilt in their own barangays and they just visit the camp during distribution of the continuing food assistance. They get 50 kilos of rice every month, plus noodles and packs of coffee. It becomes unfair for those who have less and are really living in the bunkhouse, because these “visitors” sometimes get duplicated help from their own barangay. I don’t have a choice sometimes but to put their share on-hold unless they agree to let somebody from the family live and help in the camp.
Or the fact that they have a permanent houses allocated for them, but still they become dishonest to the government and receive financial assistance which are actually meant for those who are in the safe-zone, who are not entitled of a new resettlement.
Or those who complain to the media about no sustainable livelihood in the camp, lack of food distribution and negligence from the Camp Management, when in reality, they are given paid trainings and livelihood grants from differing organizations, not to mention the free temporary shelter, food every month, free water and electricity and a permanent relocation coming from the clusters of N/GOs, when in reality, they are the ones not doing anything for themselves but just wait and sleep and gossip around and become too much dependent of help. I call them the “assistance-hoarders.” It is really annoying to see them like that, especially when they do not allow themselves to be empowered, always putting their fate in the hands of the ugly government. Sometimes, this makes me ask myself, is it my fault? Am I doing the right thing? I even think most of the time that my empowering strategies are not effective.
Subsequently, I feel sad for them too, for they are not being prioritized. I flinch every time they ask me when they will be able to set foot on their new, stable homes. I can’t tell them something that is unknown and unclassified to me. Though, as far as I know, they are going to stay another messy year, or more, in the bunkhouse, before being moved to their permanent relocation. Since the LGU is not yet prepared and the construction of the row houses is very sluggish.
Another irritating thing, these I/N/GOs that go there to enumerate, collect data and use the records to accumulate funds from donors, but in return give less to my people for what their information were worth. These instances really make me angry. My people deserve more, since these organizations and their funds will not be around if it were not for these people. If they want to serve, then they should extend help without abusing the rights and the vulnerability of my people. Also, how dare some of them be rude towards my people? They should just get lost if they treat my people like poor and illiterate animals.
But finally, I am leaving them. I mean, the government does not have enough funds to keep me working there anymore. Even if I wanted to stay, I can’t, unless they will feed me and my family. Well, I got another offer, a high-paying position, but I don’t think can I handle the distance and the risk this new occupation has for me.
Nonetheless, I hope I have empowered my people enough so they’d be able to stand on their own, as a unified community. If next time I come to visit them, and see them organized and amalgamated, even without me, as their Camp Manager/ Social Worker Officer, then I can finally say to myself, proudly, that my stay has truly been worthwhile.
For now, though, let me be sad.