A day trip to the countryside. A morning of joy and wonder; frustration and contradiction. The Philippine story in a few hours… The Teen had a wonderful nanny or “yaya” from the time she was two years old until she was eight. Her yaya raised her by our rules, and while we, as parents, were extremely involved and around most of the time, we were eternally grateful to have such a wonderful and devoted nanny. When the right time came, her yaya indicated a desire to move on to bigger and better things, and we eventually arranged for her to work with some very good family friends in Hong Kong for some 4-5 years. She earned in dollars, lived the OFW dream and was able to provide for her large family back home in Cebu. We remained in contact and would occasionally see her in Hong Kong on our visits to the city.
She would eventually return to the Philippines, find her soul mate, and decide to get married. Mrs. MM and I were asked to be a ninang and ninong at her wedding and of course we agreed. So yesterday, we got up in the wee hours of the morning for a 2.5 hour drive to a beautiful rural section of Tarlac to attend a simple and heartwarming provincial wedding. On our way to Tarlac, we passed the new SCTEX expressway and took the exit that brought us to Hacienda Luisita. It was an exit too soon, but the error was serendipitous for we would never have passed this stunning main road at Hacienda Luisita, lined with hundreds of 25-30 year old Acacia trees. The tree-lined avenue must have been a kilometer or more long, and I was so impressed that we stopped to take the photo above. If only we had insisted that roadways all around the country be planted and maintained in this manner. Gorgeous.
We turned off the main roads, and after various stops and starts to ask directions, we managed to find the modest new church in the photo up top. We stopped to ask directions several times and were amused by some of the answers, like this one from a young and authoritative man “it’s just 5 kilometers down the road” — try 15 kilometers, or the guy who said “just go over the hill and down the other side and the church is visible from the road” — try several hills and towns later and the church was 500 meters away from the main road! It was the Filipino equivalent of someone in a Vermont gas station saying your destination is “just down the road” but failing to mention it’s 30 miles away… :)
With 15 minutes to spare, we parked the car and walked to the church yard, in the shade of a large acacia tree. The church, up top, was framed by the tree and a sharp blue sky with heavenly clouds drifting by… Across the street was a vista worthy of an Amorsolo painting, save for the electrical lines. Goats, cows and carabaos grazed nearby, a pond in the distance and lush stands of trees and grassy fields. A perfectly shaped, and recently excreted patty of warm cow dung, was warning enough that we were definitely “in the country”. But the views, clean air and honesty of the surroundings made this a very appealing place to spend a Saturday morning…
The wedding was small but perfect. Simple but appropriate. Guests were decked out in lavender-themed attire (I didn’t know barongs came in lavender and in all sizes, down to the ring bearer!). The priest, who I later found out was only a year or two into his profession, was young and idealistic. He had built this church with monetary donations sourced completely from the residents of the 18 different barangays that the church served. I have my personal views on marriage, ranging from the fact it was conceived when couples probably only lived until their thirties and therefore, only remained married for 15-20 years as opposed to up to 60+ years in today’s over-medicated society, or that I find it bizarre that we are one of two remaining countries in the world without divorce (I think the other is Malta), or that a successful marriage is a statistical crapshoot as more than half of all marriages seem to end badly, etc. Nevertheless, I completely understand that marriage and families do seem to have a huge role in societies, and despite the risks, people continue to cherish the institution.
So imagine my surprise when the young priest, instead of a long discussion of marriage and its nuances, chose to drill down that this was a “permanent and irreversible contract” and that it had absolutely “no expiry date” or “no return or exchange” and that basically you had no way out, no matter what. Yipes. He waved his clipboard, with the marriage contract attached, high in the air, for us to see the backside of the clipboard, with pink Barbies or other childhood characters taking away from the seriousness of the lecture. Then he went further to say things like, and I translate loosely, “the guy or groom shouldn’t beat up his wife or smack her around” and the “wife shouldn’t nag her husband constantly about mistresses or girlfriends” for doing either (gender specific) would lead to a grim end. Egads. Was this guy taunting them to think twice about marrying and instead run to the nearest carabao and gallop away to elope instead? :) I jest a bit, but had you been there, you would not have missed the irony in this priestly advice. Oh, and prefaced with “I have never been married so I rely on what my married friends tell me…” Take all that with a grain of salt and what you had was a scene that is repeated hundreds of times a day across the country, and it is heartwarming no matter how you slice or dice it. We wish the bride and groom much love and happiness. :)
On our way home, on the SCTEX highway, just as I was reflecting about all the good and simple things we had to be thankful for, we drove up behind a trailer carrying several luxury cars. Specifically, three convertible or top-down Mercedes Benz coupes which appeared to be second-hand or slightly used, most or all carrying plate numbers from region II, and possibly headed for Central Luzon or Manila. The sceptic in me immediately wondered if these had entered the country legally, and if all the proper taxes had been paid. I could definitely be wrong, but it does seem a bit unusual that such extravagant vehicles making their way down from a far off town with no Mercedes dealers or even possibly folks with tax returns big enough to justify owning one, let alone three of them. :(
Red, yellow and blue coupes. At full price, probably worth PHP20 million at least. During a previous administration’s reign, smuggled luxury cars were found coming into Cebu through the small port of Toledo, and hundreds of vehicles including lots of BMWs were found to have bypassed customs and large duties. I hope, for the country’s sake, my overactive imagination is completely wrong/unfounded, and that there is a legitimate explanation for this rather blatant display (in broad daylight) of conspicuous consumption. It was a depressing thought, nonetheless.
Once we got back to the city, the incredibly grey and polluted sky, the horrendous traffic and the oppressively-in-your-face roadside advertising made me wish for some of the simpler pleasures of provincial life. These emotional highs and lows, all in half a day…