Lessons Learned in the Philippines (Part 1)

In April I went to the Philippines. It was my first time to visit, and I was excited about the prospect long before I left California. With past relationships and friendships I had become accustomed to people from the Philippines and I was drawn by their congenial ways. I found an aspect of their character, their simplicity, much like the Irish. I feel both nations have a lot in common, although in vastly different parts of the globe. I had a few objectives in going there. In chronological order, it was to meet with Daren Arroyo and be present at her “granting of The Name ceremony”, her official initiation into Pure Land Buddhism. The second was to meet a friend, Merasol, on the island of Mindanao, who I had been communicating with for several months before. And third, I hoped to meet with people I had known over the internet who had shown an interest in Buddhism. This was my agenda for the 6 days I would be there.

The day following my arrival in Manila, I got to meet Daren and Shiina koushi. She is the first person to become a member from the Philippines; it is a memorable if not historic occasion. How happy and fortunate I am to be here to witness the event, I felt at the time.

The next day I was heading down on the one hour flight to Butuan on the island of Mindanao, and from there I would take a van to the town of Bislig, the home of my friend, Merasol.

Merasol had told me about her life in the Philippines, and she wanted me to see it first hand; she wanted to show me exactly how she lived. But I did not expect to see the standard of living that I encountered there. Before going to the Philippines I had spoken with a Buddhist practitioner in Manila. I asked her if she would take time to show me around the city. I specifically asked her to show me the poverty side of the city. I wanted to see this side of this country. This was my plan for my last day in the Philippines. Little did I know that when I eventually did return from Mindanao to Manila I would have no interest in seeing the impoverished side of life in Manila. I would have had my fill already by the time I got back there. But the silver lining I encountered was a rich inner value that cannot be seen from the outside. One must go deeper, spending time with the locals to feel their inner value and wealth. The lesson: “Never judge people by appearance. The value of a human being cannot be told from the outside” (Something You Forgot,,, Along the Way #50)

Family ties in the Philippines are strong. Merasol lives with her family, a tight knit and welcoming unit. For example, Merasol’s two and a half year old niece would greet me at the door of the home each time, by walking up, slowly take my hand, and put it to her forehead in a gesture of respect. I was impressed as much as I was surprised and asked Merasol how such a young child would be capable of understanding such a gesture.

Merasol explained that the child has been taught through discipline. I was impressed by the child, but I gained just as much respect for the family that they would emphasize the child’s moral education. The lesson: “Moral education – education that cultivates the heart – is most important. Providing children with a material legacy is the low way. Providing them with an academic education is the medium way. Aim high by giving your children moral education. It is important not to lose sight of what constitutes true parental love” (Unshakable Spirit, #53). I feel the closeness of such education that I experienced in their home to the teaching and practice of Buddhism.

(To be continued...)

Frank Costelloe, Los Angeles

Source: The Buddhist Village Times #40 | 2014, Lessons Learned in the Philippines

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