“You look like a scarecrow with that hat.”
My coworkers always liked commenting on my appearance whenever I’d dawn one of two things: my hometown farmer look, or the local provincial look. When I put them both together, I must admit, I did indeed look like a scarecrow.
“Go stand in that field and I’ll take a picture!”
This was in the middle of a charitable effort we’d taken as a company to help build houses for Habitat for Humanity. In between the laying of cinder blocks, grouting, and hauling things here and there, we found room to crack jokes.
We were in Calauan, Laguna, a region a couple hours south of Manila. The area didn’t seem to have much going for it, and perhaps that’s why we were there building houses. They were homes designated for people displaced out of Manila, due to government pressure to expel people from the slums.
“The great thing about Habitat for Humanity is that we aren’t just giving these homes away,” our event coordinator explained to us. “They will pay off their homes, they will own them! And so they take great pride in that, they respect their homes, they take care of them.”
I found it strange a charitable organization made people pay for things. But her explanation made sense to me. How much more do we value things when we work hard for them?
We met a couple of the tenants in some of the already completed homes.
“Before here my family lived on the streets. But now when it rains we don’t get so wet.”
Another humbling moment. The Philippines has a funny way of making those apparent.