Last week, I promised puppy pictures when their momma would let me approach and bring them from a dark corner into the light.
I make good on that promise:
There are five puppies, mostly black – one has a lot of dark brown fur. They all are so sweet I cannot stand it. If I spend too much time with them, I won’t let one of them go. I will sneak it upstairs to our apartment and ‘adopt’ it.
And I know I can’t do that.
We cannot travel with puppies, dogs, or other traditional pets.
One day, we will travel again.
I am the kana: the white woman, the American, the foreign visitor.
The first person to call me ‘kana’ in Motag, Malay, was a boy named Vincent. Kana (ka-NAH) is Tagalog – a unique native language with EngIish and Spanish influences, one of many Filipino dialects spoken in the Western Visaya region of the Philippines.
My spouse is ‘kano’ (ka-NO). These might have started as abbreviations for Americana and Americano.
Vincent recently turned nine years old. I went to a celebration on his special day with some of his friends and family.
We enjoyed typical Filipino foods especially enjoyed by children: sweet spaghetti, sticky rice, bihon, soda, chocolate birthday cake. No plain white rice at this special occasion.
My friend Ning Ning cooked the food as the hostess. It was terrific. Her sticky rice had the perfect hint of ginger; her bihon a lovely mix of thinly sliced veggies with thin noodles.
Once upon a time during booming tourism, Ning Ning cooked for customers. Pre-‘Rona, Vincent’s mom used to give massages at a Boracay spa that catered to visitors with money for such splurges.
Before 2020, everything was different for everyone not wealthy.
These days, I don’t buy massages for myself. It feels like a frivolous expenditure when so many people are without income, without financial aid, increasingly without food.
In fact, I don’t ever buy anything for myself except food, post-cancer medications, or the occasional used clothing item at a local ukay-ukay (second-hand) shop. Often the used clothing is imported from America, so the threads come back to the kana. How fitting. Truly.
On a recent trip to Kalibo, the provincial capital nearly two hours away, I stopped at a store called Unitop. It’s like the Filipino version of Walmart. I also stopped at Fus, which is more like an American Target. I went to buy some items for others.
Each store had Christmas displays. Each store had stacks of toys – mostly made of plastic and made in China.
Aside from toy shelves stuffed with cheap goods, there were stacks of everything else: dishes, fans, clothing, shoes, backpacks, notebooks; single-use plastic pouches of personal care items and edibles: soap, toothpaste, oatmeal, coffee.
No one in extreme poverty sets foot in these stores. Those people beg for help, often barefoot, at the exits.
The class division is stark here, and it seems to be growing. Just like in America. And Mexico. And Spain, Morocco, England, Albania — every single country we have visited so far on Earth. People struggling financially.
Why does one person get the privilege of shopping for new clothing in a Walmart-like store, as another shops in a high-end boutique, and yet another begs barefoot in the street?
What entitles the (shrinking) middle class and the upper class? to Easy Street? Hard work? Shrewd financial savvy? Simple luck? Maybe inheritance or some other windfall? Marriage to an older, retired kano?
Why do some people have to beg barefoot in the street in the Philippines or wait on modern bread lines in America?
I read there will be a surge of desperate Americans as unemployment benefits run out in a few weeks — as if the lower-middle class was not already trying to cling to financial survival – let alone the American Dream of status advancement.
My husband and I worked hard to get where we are. We endured a lot of stress during our former working years. There was some sort of ‘crisis’ at work almost every day – sometimes every hour, holidays and overnights included.
We decided not to have children. We rarely bought big-ticket items — no home entertainment centers, no new cars every few years, no expensive vacations like most lucky Americans.
We made intentional life choices over many years to be sitting where we are today. And yet: I know I had the opportunity to follow my dreams because I was lucky at birth.
My eyes are wide open, and it feels frivolous to buy a new dress when used options are just as good for so much less money. I haven’t splurged on a massage for myself in many, many months. But I might. Soon. It would help relax me, as well as help a local masseuse who would appreciate the opportunity to earn money.
I must admit: the longer this virus has travel locked down, the longer people suffer, the more displeasure and anxiety I sense.
In a way, those puppies are like We the People before 2020. Our eyes were closed and we slept relatively well, and we never worried about a damn thing.
Thanks for reading, “Puppy pictures; the ‘kana’; class division.”
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