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It Was a Good Day

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My wife grew up on her father’s small mountain farm in Cebu. There was no plumbing or electricity. If you remember the wooden shack in the opening credits of the Beverly Hillbillies television show, it was kind of like that. Unfortunately, unlike Jeb Clampett, my wife’s father never struck oil (and my wife doesn’t look like Ellie May).

Many years ago, my wife left the province for college and worked in a Cebu City dormitory that was supervised by Catholic nuns. After we married, my wife kept in touch with them, and during our first vacation, they acted as our tour guide. The church had recently supplied them a new van, so this non-catholic man spent the better part of a day in a van surrounded by nuns, visiting Magellan’s Cross among other tourist sites. It was a good day.

Tagalog Buddy

Now far away in America (Chicago, not Beverly Hills), my wife would sometimes mention to customers and co-workers how her old Philippine elementary school lacked basic school supplies. Some wanted to help and started making donations to my wife. A few months later we shipped a few boxes of various supplies to our Cebu home, planning that on our next vacation we would quietly distribute them to the kids. We did distribute the supplies, but it was far from a quiet affair. When we arrived, we found a decorated stage and the kids put on a program. The mayor drove us. Instead of it being a surprise for the kids, it was a complete surprise to us. It was a good day.

During a visit to my father-in-law’s farm, I noticed a chapel existed on his land, and to call it a chapel stretches the imagination to its limits. Basically, it was a few pieces of lumber and sticks, and pretty much no floor or roof. A few years later my wife and I decided that we were blessed enough financially to provide a respectable structure along with the normal items you would expect inside, such as pews (benches). The small chapel was built and is now used for various community purposes/events.

As luck would have it, my father in laws neighbor’s daughter also married an American, and that couple offered to split the costs with us of building a large basketball court near the new chapel. Suddenly, my father in law’s simple farm was now the hub (central meeting place) of the mountain community. We then built an additional open-air structure for gatherings. The last fiesta I attended was a typical cool sunny day in the mountain, with lots of people and lots of food. My wife and I sat next to the mayor and priest that had driven up the mountain from the town. It was a good day.

In recent years, the government brought electricity to the area. I think my wife’s friendship with the mayor may have expedited this process. My wife and I subsequently partnered with her cousin, an engineer, and created a plan to bring water to her father’s farm. (We supplied the cash and he supplied the labor.) The existing source of water was about a 30-minute walk for her Dad, and over an hour for others in the community. Her cousin installed a pump/generator at the source, and slowly laid pipe. The water had to go uphill, and we didn’t know if the plan would work, so after every few meters of pipe, the flow of water was tested. A few weeks later, the water arrived at the farm to much excitement. I wasn’t there, but I still consider it a good day. (We decided to make the water available to the community and installed a large tank. It’s a huge convenience for many, especially the elderly.

As regular readers of this site already know, my wife and I currently support a teen pop/rock band. The kids supply the talent and we supply everything else, such as the instruments. Between school, band practice, and gigs, the kids don’t have much time to get into trouble. My wife often has to turn down requests for the band to play (for money) because the kids already have too much going on. It is true though, that’s it’s nice to be wanted. Our latest endeavor is putting together a new, younger teen band. Last Saturday they played for the first time wearing their new band t-shirts. Half the audience was probably relatives of the kids and they looked so proud. It was a good day.

I have to stop writing now. My father-in-law just returned, excited about some kind of black fluid coming up out of the ground.

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Steve Walker

Steve has been married for 25 years to a Filipina from Cebu. They lived in the Chicago area until recently, when they moved to Cebu. He worked as a computer programmer analyst and retired 3 years ago at age 57. They have a home that is located close to the famous whale shark tourist attraction and have 3 dogs.

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Rob Ashley
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Rob Ashley

Great article Steve. Your example of jumping into your wife’s community and reality and helping them is an inspiration. My wife also doesn’t look like Ellie May, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Jay Alexander
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Jay Alexander

Fun and inspiring! It Was A Good Day could easily be re-named It Is A Good Life! Likewise, my wife doesn’t resemble Ellie May, but her name is Emiliana, and she’s a keeper going on 35+ years! Giving back to the community is so invigorating. I have been blessed to provide my services as a dog trainer and we’ve started up a weekly meeting in our little seaside town in western Leyte. I was Santa for the holidays and shared the Spirit of Christmas with 100’s, maybe 1000’s in more than a dozen barangays. Just yesterday, I donated blood with… Read more »

Steve
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Steve

We also leave tips at nicer restaurants. I haven’t noticed others doing it, so maybe it’s still not that common.

Giovanni
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Giovanni

Your post brought back good old memories about Cebu and it’s people. I was there for about 15 years before graduating in USC and then went home here in Iligan City in 2003. I was a bit concerned with last part, that “black fluid” thing being mentioned. Forgive my bluntness but a portion of those 15 years was having a hobby on digging/exposing on (sometimes very lucrative) schemes/scams that the island is no stranger of. Some people there can be good and honest though there others that are very cold, scheming and very persuasive in their bid. “Invetsor/Investment” are words… Read more »

Jay Alexander
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Jay Alexander

Giovanni, gotta admit, your reply to Steve’s article was fascinating and enlightening, albeit remarkably cynical compared with my more naive approach to Life in the Philippines. However, I certainly believe my understanding, based upon Steve’s opening comment regarding the Beverly Hillbillies, and his style as an author, that his comment about a “black fluid” was only said in jest, a certain reference to the show… Google Beverly Hillbillies and get a chuckle… unless you’re one of them ‘city folk’!

Steve
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Steve

Hi Giovanni. Thanks for participating in the conversation. FYI: My article was referencing an old TV show based on the plot of a poor, American mountain farmer shooting his shotgun, and hitting the ground causing black fluid (oil) to suddenly come out of the bullet hole. He suddenly finds himself to be rich and moves to a rich city. It’s a comedy. My article’s final comment is in jest as Jay already mentioned.

garydadds
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Talking of water, we have a deep well on the family land dug many years ago by the grandfather. The local water company is completely disfunctional so we have been supplying a few neighbougs, like about 40 households. The suppy is not great but they are grateful and just covering the cost of the electricty for the pump. Our task for our upcoming trip in 3 weeks time is to put up a 30′ 5000 litre water tower to help improve the service.

Steve
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Steve

That’s great. We failed twice trying to dig a well on father in laws property, and wasted several thousand dollars before trying what eventually worked.

John Reyes
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John Reyes

“Giving back to the community is so invigorating.” So aptly put. Put another way, “There is tremendous happiness in making others happy despite our situations.” The above statement was, in fact, the driving force behind the kind-hearted efforts of a small group of like-minded Filipinos overseas whom I had the pleasure of organizing via the internet to help the impoverished and marginalized people of my province, especially the Aetas of Zambales province. From afar. Our mission was simple and straightforward, no kuskus balungus, and that was to: Identify the areas of need; create a mission program dedicated to this need;… Read more »

Steve
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Steve

It’s always great to hear from another that understands the joy of giving and success of a project.

John Reyes
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John Reyes

Thanks, Steve. No chest-thumping from this end. My small group of donors and I from overseas were just happy to provide financial aid to the less fortunate folks of our province. It was basically a charity program. I regretted having to discontinue the program, but I saw that we could not realistically maintain the cash supply against the growing demand.

Jay Alexander
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Jay Alexander

Ok, I might be going out on a limb, but you may also find this a worthy cause: I recently learned of an American travesty committed against Filipinos nearly 120 years ago. I realize not everyone who subscribes to this is American like me, but the majority of you, like me, love and respect the people of the Philippines. Unlike me, this story may be somewhat familiar. I hope not to insult anyone’s intelligence. But, the story shocked me… and has inspired me to action… Via Wikipedia, and a firsthand account from a close friend of mine, two of the… Read more »

John Reyes
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John Reyes

It might please you to know that many people, Americans and Filipinos alike, are working for the return of those bells to Balangiga. The U.S. Embassy in Manila and the DFA chief, former Senator Alan Cayetano, are working on it. No less than Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, in his second State of the Nation Address, “demanded” for the return of the bells as well. What more can you/we do? It needs a special legislation to waive a legislation already in place that prohibits the return of war memorials to a foreign entity on the grounds that the bells are church… Read more »

Jay Alexander
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Jay Alexander

John Reyes, thank you for your outstanding insight… I didn’t know a special reverse legislation or some sort of ruling/waiver is required that recognizes the bells as church property vs an instrument of war. I come from the school that sees this simply as a no-brainer. I understand a delegation (including folks from Balangiga) meeting at the White House would really help. I have plans to visit Balangiga this spring and would like to meet with the folks there who are most interested in seeing their bells returned. I would also seriously consider making the trip/s to D.C., Cheyenne, or… Read more »

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