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It’s common knowledge among our family friends that we don’t own our own house. We’re not ashamed of that fact… if anything, we’re proud of it. We’re proud to say that all our lives, we’ve lived in a rented house, one where my Mom lived whilst she was still single, so you can imagine how old the house is.
It’s so old that parts of the ceiling are leaky, and when it rains, I have three mini waterfalls inside my room. I wouldn’t mind so much were it not for the fact that I have to move my book shelves away from the walls to protect my treasured tomes from getting wet.
Going back to not owning our house… it came as a bit of shock to me when, as an adult, I realized how sentimental and nigh-near obsessive the typical Filipino is when it comes to owning one’s own home. I can understand why. It symbolizes stability and financial freedom. However, I’ve observed that the quest to owning a home can put one in greater financial straits when it is something one cannot truly afford yet. One applies for loans one cannot hope to pay off soon, and so instead of stability, one incurs huge debt.
“You’re not rich unless you have your own house.” That’s what most Filipinos believe. It’s a sign of our times… “You are what you own/wear/possess.” And in today’s modern age of the triumph of capitalism, where consumerism is the new religion, it devastates me to see how conscious my high school students are about the clothes they wear, the gadgets they own. When basketball players focus more on what “elite socks” or shoes to wear to a basketball competition instead of thinking about ways to train more so they can be more competitive, when female athletes spend more time thinking about ways to hike up their volleyball shorts, exposing a scandalous amount of skin, rather than how to improve their game … well, I think there’s something wrong there somewhere. When we focus more on appearances rather than substance, then we become shallow and petty. And we lose sight of what’s important in life. When we allow our possessions to define who we are, then we lose our sense of self-respect. We become unthinking products of a materialistic society, part of a teeming crowd of humanity, losing our individuality.
Why am I proud to say that we don’t own our house? Well, for starters, it represents proof of our commitment to our simple but meaningful way of life: a family of teachers, all of us chose this path, knowing we’ll never be as financially well-off had we gone into the corporate world. My parents giving up their more lucrative jobs in order to be hands-on parents and educators.
As I type this, it started raining again. Pretty soon I’ll have to adjust the bookshelves once more. But it’s hard to feel sorry for myself, living in this “leaky old house,” when I consider myself so rich in the things that matter.
I am rich and blessed to belong to the most loving family ever. How many families can say that they eat all three daily meals together, 24/ 7?
I am rich in psychic income, as all teachers are. I think this is the only job where one leaps out of bed each day, excited to see the faces of one’s pupils, eager to spend time with innocent and adorable cuties! An exhausting one, to be sure, but one where I get to make a difference… every single day.
I am rich in health. A teacher’s life style is, by necessity, a very clean one. Early to bed and early to rise. No wild nights spent carousing about the town, painting Makati red. No gambling, drinking, smoking. A “wild” night out for me would probably be one where I stay up late to watch a concert or a play, and an exciting weekend consists of spending time with my book club friends. Yes, I’m a veritable Mata Hari! J
And I have no cause to complain when I have never gone hungry in my life, when there is more than enough food to eat every day (in fact my problem is: how do I STOP eating??!!). I have never known want, and I have my parents to thank for that.
And now… to move the bookshelves away from the wall. (Yet another important thing I’m rich in… Books!!!)