Life in the city has all these rapid changes, but our province seems to remain the same. Away from all the hustle and bustle in the city, it’s in the province where I get to commune with nature, take photos of great sceneries, feel the cold wind during the night, and eat my favorite food, among others. I couldn’t ask for anything else.
Our province lies on a slope, which leads all the way up to the mountain. Back in the days, people used to walk or ride horses as means of transportation. Now you’ll see motorcycles, tricycles, and jeepneys littering the streets. Some years back, there weren’t as many roads built, and people would rely on forest trails made by cutting down tall patches of grass.
It also has a tiny population, so most people tend to know one another. I find it amusing whenever my dad and I walk along the street. He greets a lot of people and treats them as close friends, regardless of the time they haven’t seen one another. I’d usually hear them say how much bigger and taller I am than my father. Well, I guess puberty hit me hard.
Compared to the city where everything seems complicated, the people in our province live a simpler life, and most are content with what they have. Some people earn money by selling balut or suman on the street; some tend to their farms, while others manage a small sari-sari store. At night, groups of men on the streets would usually bond and share stories over a bottle of Emperador and some pulutan.
The stories and experiences of my dad in the province would often speak of simplicity. He used to hike a lot with my grandfather and tend to their small farm in the mountain. He also recalled the times he would sing a harana to my mother prior to their marriage still at their early twenties.
Looking at myself and how different my lifestyle is to the people in the province, I’m reminded again of how living simple can make a big difference. You may have the money to buy all the things you want, but as time passes by, the value of those things decreases. They don’t last forever. What we should invest in are the things that really matter.
Take for example Jose Mujica, the Uruguayan president dubbed as “the poorest president in the world”. He lives in a farm and offers a big portion of his income to charity. Although, he does not consider himself as poor, claiming that “poor people are those who only work to try to keep an expensive lifestyle, and always want more and more.”
The word “poor” itself is misunderstood and misused, because we only consider the people having less material possessions as poor. Then what do you call the people who have less, but are rich with friends and family they can trust?
Unlike Jose Mujica, being simple is something that many of us may neglect, given our materialistic wants. We’re often caught up with getting the latest piece of technology, yet we don’t take care of it well and start buying a new one whenever the trend changes. We spend our money for very expensive clothes, when it could have been used for other reasonable things.
If this is really the kind of environment we’re exposed to – one that pressures people to conform to social trends that only bring temporary pleasures – then let it be. We can’t force the environment to change for us.
Perhaps sometimes we just forget to consider how not having much or not having anything at all may be having everything. Perhaps we’ve grown used to having so much that we no longer leave anything for others. We’ve become very attached to pleasures that do not cater to our long-term needs.
I’m not saying that we should all just live a solitary life. Simplicity is more than just understanding “less is more” and giving what we have in excess. It’s more of a lifestyle that we can apply in the everyday things we do.
When we also start to place ourselves in the situation of others, like the people in the province, we begin to understand how pointless our material possessions are. If they are able to live happily without the things we have, how much more for ourselves? There is something with this kind of empathic understanding that knocks some sense into our heads.
So I guess our province and its people have taught me this great deal about simplicity, but I still have much to learn. When we’re used to having so much, it can get difficult trying to live a simple life. So whenever we see those people who have less of what we have, it pays to think and feel what is it like to be in their situation. If they are happy having less, how come we feel unsatisfied having more?