Born to a family of farmers, makes me no different than all children of same type of social stand. Mornings were either school or are on tasks and chores at home. All of us in the house (young and old) are urged to assist our parents and grandparents in the daily labor specially at planting and harvest times.
My grandfather was a very hardworking gentleman. In the little property, we had and still have, he used to plant coconuts, coffee beans, bananas (all sorts and colors), pineapples, fruit trees, vegetables and once a year, some corn. Each morning, we used to gather water from the river filling a century old American drum to be hoisted by a carabao. This had been an adventure and task at the same time because we bathe in the river which was clean and clear during my childhood days. We water the plants and vegetables before we go to school. Life was both easy and tough as we must work hard in helping our parents with the planting and the produce. As a young child, I have learned the value of caring for animals who help in the farm and for people who work in with my parents and grandfather. We did plant coconuts and bananas, the toughest thing I remember because we must dig holes big enough to fit the roots of both seedling, which measures around a foot in depth and in circumference.
Because my grandfather was a very loving person, I found all the works worthwhile, no matter how much sweat it required under the sun. I have always enjoyed working with him, we eat ripe fruits in between working hours, we share fruits with our neighbors and relatives, too. We go walking through coconut trees, through the three rice fields (he worked for Jose, a favorite lawyer friend). In these fields we learned to wake up early before sunrise and go to the fields, where we learned to shout to the top of our voices to drive the birds away from the rice stalk and played hitting mud at planting and clearing weed times. Lolo Candido was always happy to work with in the farm and rejoiced each time new shoots or flowers were growing from the planted crops. His silence is felt during the working hours but he has lots of stories during break and rest times. In fact, I learned a lot of stories of witches and great men from him because before dinner we sit around him to listen to his stories. We all love his stories back then when television was still out of reach.
We were disciplined to carry task in our homes before school, or do chores after school days. My mother was a very constant inspirer in doing chores despite of on and off tantrums and naughtiness. She used to lead us to study times, read with us, helped us how to perform our task well and quick so we can get the chance to play and enjoy with our neighbor friends. She enjoyed watching us play too with others each time she is done with cooking our meals. We have church attendance, days and times when to visit our grandparents and fun time with our cousins. They brought us to movies and eat some goodies during harvest times despite worries of some other things we cannot have when prices of crops fall behind. We must make sure we do our share though we fail many times for a prolonged hour of play. Reward comes with all the task to perform by each of us in the family.
Until such time, when all the prices of crops, specially coconuts, have gone down at market, most of the people who work with my grandfather opted to go mining for gold on their own, despite the risk it implied and left the farm. In my high school days, my grandfather continued to look after the fields and the coconut farm but was no longer planting due to his age and physical decline. My father did work on and off in the farm but didn’t work as hard as my grandfather did.
Mining for gold has been a phenomenon and one of the lasting source of living among our people. It has destroyed our rivers, contaminated our wells, rice field’s irrigation and fishes on lakes and worst, that we have to buy drinking water in bottles or in refilling station far from our community to this day. My parents did mining too on those years. We walk up to kilometers going to mining sites, sometimes we cross rivers till we get hungry before we reach. The dangers and fatigue are sure companions of miners. It is very tough, I knew, because I have tried it almost throughout my high school days. We carry bags of sand, gravel and even mud to wash in the river which is almost always a quarter or half a kilometer from the unsafe tunnels, so we can see the grain of gold or when unlucky, mere sand that we carried along the slope. Sometimes we get fair deal of grains of gold and took all the back pain away when glitters are found in the pan. Thus, we walk home happily, but at most times, we have not enough even for a bottle of coke! Life was tough both as a farmer and a miner. Despite these hard work, these were not child labor though for me, these are lessons of life which inspired, shaped, taught and pushed me to go further finding ways to break the monotony of such life. So sad, that many children did not make it to college due to this cycle of life; less chances and unsupportive parents!
Despite that I enjoyed working and doing things with my dear ones, it came into my mind that I cannot continue doing the same all throughout my life. We have lived poorly as children but, never miserable as our family has provided us with love and constancy in care. Only that we must help one another in all that we must do together. Despite my mother’s dream for us to pursue our studies, she made mention that I cannot pursue college because they cannot support my education nor pay my tuition. At first, I shrunk thinking I cannot study any longer and became very sad after high school graduation. My sister tried to find some works in a grocery store and was hired as a saleslady and promo girl of products. But, for me, I asked my mother’s permission in turn to go mining with my cousins in a distant village for a week so I can finance my tuition fee for college entrance despite that I was offered a scholarship in Marawi University after passing their scholarship test. My parents would not allow me to stay in a Muslim dominated environment alone at age 16, then. Luckily, despite her reluctance at first, she made sure I went with my father or my aunties when in the tents. I had adventure, muddy and with mosquito bites, go hungry and chilled most of the days due to the cold water from morning to sunset, wet clothes on for we soak to wash the sand and gravel. But, I knew worked so hard that even when all have gone out of the water, I was still trying hard to shovel extra sand to earn each end of the day. Then, in a week, presto, I got enough to buy me some supplies and pay half of my tuition in college. Thus, my parents were very happy that my determination paid off. As years went by, they managed to help me along with my needs till I finished college.
Looking back, I see a great deal of investment my family had on me. They taught me determination and hope. Finding ways and pursuing dreams in the way possible are drawn from the example parents exemplify hard toil and constant care in families. There is no reward for laxity and complacency. It is often said in the gospel that the Lord blesses the farmer even when he sleeps! St. Paul said that he who toils not deserves not to eat. How lucky I am to have lived, loved, and grown with such environment when there is no certainty of material things but was an abundance of generous moral support and example of determined souls to carry on the dignity of life where they were and are. To never be ashamed of the little task to ern a living, to live descent despite poverty but assure the children that life is beautiful but we must do our share to continuously find beauty and meaning in it.
I fully believe that, the dignity of work is not what one does but how one it is carried and performed…. Parents have a great deal of impact in a child’s memory of attitude towards work and towards uncertainty of life. It is important to cultivate hope in all the crucial events of life, to manifest the grandeur of God’s blessings in a man or a woman’s cooperation towards his/her own good. There is joy and gratitude when one takes the plough with an open mind and joy within, an unending willingness to see the light at the end of the tunnel, a Christian hope. That, despite all the hard work children may be engaged with their parents in livelihood or source of living, children appreciate the works done for love of them, at their best interest and the future lives they would lead for the rest of their lives.
Each single child deserves love, as much as we all owe them a future to live lives well. Let us adhere to what protects and respects their dignity as children of God and builders of future people, too.