Payday. Everyone loves that word. But today I experienced a payday I could never have imagined – and one that will stay with me forever.
Today was payday for members of the indigenous Ati tribe here on the north shore of Panay Island in the Philippines where we are waiting out the global pandemic. About 30 Ati worked this week on projects in their community in Malay: repairing storm damage, improving water and electric systems. This afternoon, Ellen, myself, and my mom were delighted to help pay those workers.
Hard-working, kind people
We’ve written several blog posts about the Ati since meeting them on our beach and hearing how the coronavirus lockdown hurt their incomes and food stocks. A sure way to help: provide some jobs to their community members.
With monetary help from my fantastic mother (who remains stranded here with us by pandemic-cancelled flights) and other generous family members back in the U.S., we decided to finance some of the works that the Ati need done.
A lot of the work that I witnessed this week was hot, hard, and laborious. Like carrying cinder-blocks and sand and lumber up a steep, uneven, mile-long footpath to the Ati’s mountaintop land. I tried it. I nearly passed out! Days later, my back and legs still ache.
Still, to get the projects moving, we agreed to pay the same as what the work crew might make at any other job: at the port, in rice fields, doing day-labor. That amount they earn at other jobs is five dollars a day, or 250 Philippine pesos. Whether hauling or digging or building, the Ati certainly earned the money.
Payday for Ati people
Yesterday (Friday), the Ati tribe auditor – who kept meticulous record of who worked what hours – provided us with a detailed breakdown of names and wages due. Based on that list, we arranged to get sufficient funds in small denominations for distribution to each worker.
Some passing rain showers threatened to dampen our plans; but we were able to make our way up to the central ‘plazza’ of the Ati mountain village during the late afternoon today. When the week’s work wrapped up, the workers lined up and received their pay – just like old times. No checks. No direct deposit. No electronic payments.
Hilda, the auditor, verified the name and amount and made the payment from the monies we had divvied up and organized. We added a small bonus, a snack, a handshake, and thank you.
In the end, mom said she felt a little uneasy about ‘playing paymaster’ on payday for the Ati people. I admit I had some misgivings, too. But thankfully, things went smoothly and there were plenty of smiles and thank yous. And I do believe the workers receiving the pay could tell that this wasn’t some ‘power trip’ by comparatively rich Americans — but genuine human kindness and a desire to help in a time of trouble.
In fact, at one point I stepped away to take a few photos of the scene and felt a rush of the kind of emotion and empathy and humanity that unites us all – especially in a time of crisis like we have now. Hopefully, moments like we were part of are occurring and will continue all around the world.
To our kindly donors we say ‘thank you’ – just as the Ati said to us. With your gifts, we look forward to providing more help and more paydays and more peace and love as these poorest of peoples struggle through the pandemic.
As always, be thankful and generous, happy trails, & more beer.
Life is NOW!
Thanks for reading, “Payday for hard-working Ati people in Malay.”
What to read next:
- How Earth Vagabonds met the Ati
- Tedly works with Ati carrying cinder blocks up a mountainside
- Community projects will help the Ati people have livelihood
Reminder: This is an independent blog. We do not work with sponsors or affiliates, unlike the majority of other travel bloggers. We run this website as a hobby, and to show American family and friends other cultures in other countries. Earth Vagabonds are strong advocates for travel once borders reopen. Read more about us here.