In my last post I was talking about Miracles, and how they have occurred in my life. A lot of people are under the assumption that a miracle is a grand event, with glowing lights and lightening flashes, as If God will descend and leave a big bag of money at your doorstep. That is Santa Claus–not God. We all know it doesn’t normally happen that way.
Miracles come with that first thought that enter the mind. The action to take. How many times have I been playing guessing games and lost or missed the question because of “second guessing” my first thought. Then what do we say? “I was going to say that! I swear I was going to say that!” What is amazing is the lack of trust in our thoughts, because illusion tells us that all of those thoughts are our own.
When I first came to the Philippines I had a pocket full of cash and a plan. For two years prior, I lived like a bum in America. I rented the cheapest place, and since I worked in restaurants, I only ate at work. I toiled and saved, set the groundwork and read everything I could find on the net. I was going to start a farm.
I picked up my wife (who is Filipina) from the Northern part of The Philippines and transplanted her and myself to the southern part. General Santos City, Mindanao. We invested in farmland. Had the papers and everything. The dream was happening.
It was a scam. The person who said they owned the land was a liar and the papers were forged. I lost everything. I went to the PNP to try and recover, but nothing happened. Seems blood is thicker than law. Here I was, a white man in a brown country. What could I do? I found it was going to cost me more up front to recover my cash and if they did, the police wanted twenty percent to do so.
My wife and I couldn’t afford to stay where we were, so we moved to a small room in boarding house. She, my wife, had secured a job at a boutique in the mall and I had a small street food business. We were making it, but barely. Then my wife discovered she was pregnant. Holy cow. When her job found out that she was married and pregnant, they released her saying they were a Christian company. Whatever that means is beyond me. But the fact is they don’t allow their employees to be married with children. God Bless the Philippines.
We had no choice but to return back home and live with my wife’s family in a shanty town. When her family and neighbors found out we had no money left and what had happened, we were greeted with such disdain, damaging gossip and all types of comments.
Basically at this point we were homeless, with no money, no jobs (I didn’t have a work visa and had no money to apply for one and my wife was pregnant). Then the series of “why don’t you..” began to come at me. Why don’t I go home and work? Why don’t I ask my parents for help? Why don’t I this and why don’t I that.
No I didn’t run home. How could any man leave his wife homeless and pregnant on the street and run home. How long will it be before I could send anything? And also miss the birth of my son? No sir. I was not ready to give up. I was going to make it.
We started selling street food. For two years I peddled food on the street dealing with the racism, the jeers, and jokes. The jabs at my skin color, my language and the fact I was a “Kano walang pera.” (Kano is a derogatory term for an American. Walang pera is no money). I had built a small dwelling out of scrap wood, GI sheet, bamboo and cardboard on a small piece of property my wife’s family was allowing us to stay on. We planted a tomato garden, which if you saw this area was just unheard of. We were becoming outcasts. We did things the “tribe” didn’t normally do. What they believed was the impossible.
We were right next to what used to be the shore of the South China Sea. I mean right on it. However, there is no longer a shore. It is a garbage dump and squatter houses. It is not as though there is no garbage removal, because there is. Daily. It is people are just plain too lazy to take their garbage to the designated areas. It’s so much easier to throw it in the sea. There was no plumbing. We bought our water by the bucket for 3 pesos each. Human waste was everywhere, along with animal. It is unhealthy and disgusting. I couldn’t believe people actually lived this way.
For the first year of my son’s life we didn’t have electricity, running water or a bathroom.
Then the typhoon hit. Wiped us out. Flood waters washed away our home, most of our possessions and ruined our meager business. That was it. It was over. In the middle of the typhoon we sat under an old wooden staircase, my wife holding my year old son. We were freezing, hungry and no one would help us. No one.
The flood waters receded and we saw the horror of it all. I caught and killed two rats. That was our supper. You may cringe and judge. But we had to survive.
My mother and some people back home were able to help us out a little. Enough to get set back up in the food business. I reconstructed a small house with scrap materials and we just slept on the dirt ground. No choice. The ants and cockroaches crawled on us, the rats bit our feet. I was once given a bag of rice, I had to sleep with it to make sure the rats didn’t get to it. They still did.
The problem was, we were selling food, but no one was buying and it got to the point where we didn’t have enough to restock. I was down to my last ten pesos, with no hopes, no dreams and nothing on the horizon. My son had one small sachet of MILO chocolate drink, my wife and I hadn’t eaten in two days. No one would help us. Not one of her family members. In fact, they were laughing at us. Making comments how skinny we were. It was a real treat to see us starving.
People make judgments on me and my decisions. But who would have the guts to go through what I went through to make sure their family was safe? What American could come there and deal with what I dealt with? It would be few and far between.
I made a decision. I was at the end of my rope. I was in a position where I could not fight anymore. I had no choice but to rely on God and put this in His hands. How was I going to do that? I mean I claim to be a spiritual person, so hadn’t I already prayed before? Yes I had. But not in the right way.
All the time before I was like the rest. I was demanding God come down to my level and solve all of my problems when I said so. I wanted a bag full of money, all my stuff back and a lifestyle that I had before. I don’t really want to work for it, instead I wanted to do whatever I wanted to do. That’s the alcoholic thinking.
I prayed a different way. I took that ten peso coin and I held it in my hand. I said “Thank you”. I said thank you like I had never said it before to anyone. I felt the intense gratitude inside of me like a tsunami. I closed my eyes and got lost in gratitude. I had no other option and nothing to lose. I was done asking for things. I just wanted guidance. I surrendered.
All of a sudden I was immersed in a feeling of peace that I had never experienced before. My wife and I call this the “Night God Gave Me a Hug”. I could feel the presence of God with me. Some people call stuff like this a “trick of the devil” or “a figment of your imagination”. Well it’s a pretty good trick. People who have not experienced it cannot judge it because they don’t know. I know this was real. It was a spiritual experience.
When it was all over I looked to my wife and I said, “Things are going to change. And it’s going to happen faster than you think.”
I laid down to sleep. Still not knowing what to do, but there was a difference. I wasn’t going to sleep worrying. In fact Since that night I have not worried one bit. I see now how useless it is to do so. Worry leads to fear and fear leads to inactivity. My faith began to grow.
I was drifting off to sleep and a thought popped into my head. Why not take a couple of rice sacks and go out and collect stuff to sell to the junk shop? Aluminum cans, plastic bottles, metal etc. I see other people doing it, so why not try? I did.
The next day, when I sold what I had found the night before, I was even more convinced that I had received a miracle. In one day I had made over 300 pesos. That’s more money than I had seen in years. (that’s about 6 usd).
We ate. My son got a whole big box of milk (only powdered milk here) and we ate. So from then on, for the next six months that’s what I did. I had a regular route. And if I would give the garbage collector a little cash he would put aside any of the really good stuff for me..But it’s hit or miss. Some nights there wasn’t much at all, and some nights were astounding..One time I even found a brand new set of drum cymbals. Sold them for 600p. I found clothes and toys for my son. It wasn’t too bad.
Still there was discrimination. And this coming from people who were in the same boat as me. My father in law would even avoid me if he saw me out collecting scrap. he didn’t want his Iglesia Ni Christo (his church) friends to see him associating with me.
But Wait! There’s more…
One evening when I was on my regular route (I wasn’t getting much). I looked up from my garbage pile and saw a small alley leading to another part of the city that I had never been to. So I directed my homemade wooden cart in that direction and headed straight. Another miracle occurred.
In the Philippines, cities are broken up into self governed areas called Barangays. I entered into one called Campo Santo. It was clean, quieter and the people! They were so nice and accepting. I wanted to live there, but I knew I couldn’t afford it. (Now I live there.)
As I was collecting, being a white man, people who never saw me before became interested. One woman in particular, Lyn, began asking me a few questions to get my situation. She was a nice woman and I still see her everyday. She went home and packed some food for me and returned with her husband, Romy.
Romy is a contractor and a pastor at a local born again church. He offered me a job. A Monday through Saturday full time job making 300p a day. I didn’t know weather to cry, pass out, or hug him. I looked at him and said “Man, you just saved my life.”
Romy was awesome. He taught me a lot. I became a helper at a construction site having no experience in construction. There was discrimination among the crew at first, but when they saw how hard this 40 year old man worked, that quickly faded and I was accepted. I got my first pay (under the table of course) that Saturday. Sunday when I woke up I looked at my wife. I said “Grab my saw and my tape measure and let’s go.”
“Where are we going?” she asked in her broken English with an accent I can sometimes not understand.
“We are going to go buy bamboo. One long piece. Today we start building our new house.”
That Sunday we put the first two posts in for the frame of our new house.
I had told her my plan for building a bamboo house before. I even told my father in law who just laughed at me. I had no idea how to build a house and I made a lot of mistakes.But I was doing it. Still they laughed at me. No one built their houses from bamboo, I was told. If you build a bamboo house then you are poor! They would say. I endured so much, but it didn’t stop me. They kept telling me “You can’t do that Kano!” But I did it. Took me ten months, but I did it.
When the contract was over at the construction site I thought I was going to be out of work. Then another miracle happened. As I was walking home, three days before the end of the contract, two guys approached me on a tricycle for delivering soft drinks. They explained how they saw me before going through garbage and wondered if I needed a job. They offered me work delivering soft drinks. Starting the following Monday. i didn’t even skip a beat.
The salary was low, but we were grateful to get it. Then my new boss. Cherry, began asking me about my wife. If my wife was working. I told her no. She said she wanted to offer my wife a job as a companion and maid for her aged mother. AND my son could come along too! It was the beginning of a great friendship between my wife, son and this woman whom we call Nene (mother). My wife no longer works for her since having our daughter. (But I do. I manage her internet cafe.) They remain great friends.
The next major typhoon was approaching just as I was finishing our house. It had been ten months of working Sundays, carrying materials little by little home, whatever we could afford and doing what I could. We were able to set up electricity and get running water. Things that all of the people who laughed at me still didn’t have.
It was time to give it a test.
We moved in the day before the typhoon arrived. When it did hit, my house didn’t move. It shook a little, but there were no leaks in my roof and I had built it up from the ground. It flooded and we were dry. We spent the day watching movies and eating the food I had stocked up for this event. One by one, the people who laughed at me, jeered and cursed me, who made so many comments about my abilities, my color, and my situation began to come to my house. (Including my father in law who had turned us away last typhoon..). They needed shelter. Their houses had fallen apart. So what did I do?
Of course I let everyone in and even cooked for them. Why? Because I have no room in my heart for resentments anymore.
I thought that things would change. That they would see how my way of doing things works.
Nothing changed. They left my house and began gossiping about what I didn’t give them. My father in law wanted money. I had none to spare. yet I had just given him shelter in a major storm, fed him, fed his wife, and let them rest. That didn’t matter. He wanted me to give him money to fix his house. Nothing changed and still hasn’t.
I left the soft drink delivery job to help Romy again on another project for six months. Then when that was over I was offered the job here at the internet cafe. More suitable for a writer wouldn’t you say?
We don’t live in that house anymore. We began saving what we could when my wife became pregnant again (surprise) and rented a small room in a cleaner part of the city. It’s not much. we still struggle. We don’t have a refrigerator or t.v or anything and sometimes things get pretty tight. My wife had to leave her job because the kids were too much so she is just working part time and I am here at the internet cafe. We have a side business making coconut jam that does ok.
So now we have a handsome four year old boy and a beautiful six month old daughter. We live in a small one room apartment and we survive everyday. We are grateful for what has happened in our lives. What’s amazing is that the people from where we used to live, my wife’s family and neighbors are still there. Still living the same way. Here I am a foreigner who doesn’t speak the language, who had no idea how to do most of the things I have done and who doesn’t have a proper work permit to get a good job and I made it out. These people are citizens, this is their home, and most of the still make more money than I do. So what’s the difference? Mind set.
Four years ago I was homeless and hungry on the street. But I wasn’t poor. being poor is a state of mind. I was broke as hell, but I wasn’t poor. Everyone tried to convince me that I was poor and all was hopeless. I wouldn’t buy it.
It is amazing the attitude among the ‘poor’ people here. They actually ponder, discuss and fight about WHO is poorer. Who has what and had what to eat etc.. They do the same thing over and over, expecting different results. No one does anything different than anyone else for fear of being talked about.
I would tell them to take a look around. We ALL live here.
Now I have three books on amazon, a strong place to live and an income. We still have our struggles, as I have said. Soon my son is going to have to go to school and at the present, we can’t afford it. With the baby’s expenses, things are very slim. There are other obstacles too. But there is one difference between now and then.
Now I never worry.
I have faith in miracles.
I’ll leave you with a quote from Jesus of Nazareth that I always keep with me.
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Thank you and Good night