There is something that causes me deep pain and it is this.
I’ve had Nancy work with me, in my household, for something like 18 years now. Really and truly, in my mind, heart and soul, she is no different from me or my closest friends or even Mick Jagger whom I adore. My children are even worse. They love her to bits and are fiercely loyal to her and will look at me like I was the nastiest person on earth if I as much as raise my tone an imperceptible point zero one octave higher than usual when she’s, once again, cleaned their rooms when I had admonished her not to do so.
It’s true that they do it because of course, she keeps their rooms looking like hotel rooms with her obsessive compulsiveness (it’s also made them not learn the simple concept of cause and effect and ‘I fix my own mess’ -to my escalating frustration.) They do it too because in their hearts and minds, there is no line that separates her from family.
I try to stay out of their way when it comes to their dreams and goals in life. I had being a doctor force fed to me and so I know to stay away from that horrid path. There was a time my son, Luis, wanted to be a doctor, much to my surprise. I learned from him recently it was because,among other things, ‘Yaya Nancy wants me to be a doctor in the US.’. Matina and Rafa plan their lives with her in mind. Rafa will buy her a villa and Matina will take her to London someday.
She is in their lives, hovering, loving and being loved back.
My one pain though is, for all these years and all these affection we’ve shown for each other, Nancy is unable to demolish the wall she thinks separates us. She regards me like I am a goddess from on high–which is true ;)–but she forgets she is a goddess too. This is my pain. That she will not embrace me back no matter how fully I have embraced her–not fully, not completely. Always there is this distance, this height, that separates us in her mind.
My deep sadness is she will never get over this wall and look at me eye to eye, like the equal that she is. I’ve been trying for years to feel this wall, learn its dimensions—how high are you, wall? How wide? Why am I so unable to smash you, wall? Maybe I am a fake and she senses it. Maybe she knows something about me that I have not admitted to myself? That all these love I say I have for her is not the real thing? When I run and I am quiet and I think of this love I have for her, I know it is real. And I know it is deep. Yet she doesn’t see this.
I know why of course. It’s the same with the construction workers I meet as I run in my village–the ones I startle with my ‘Good morning’. I say ‘good morning’ to them to feel good about myself really. This is the truth. I say good morning to my neighbors–also to residents I don’t really know. Why should I exclude them? But as I said, my early morning greeting is met, at best, with a startled grunt. Oftentimes, a blank stare. Occassionally with what looks like a hostile grimace–like they’d been struck in the face. And for the few who greet me back, always, always there will be ‘po’ or ‘ma’am’.
It’s the same with the women of Sitio Payong whom I’ve worked with for something like 7 years now. I will always be ‘doctora’ to them–like my diploma were forever stuck on my forehead. It might as well be. No matter how much I’ve asked them to call me by my name, ‘Lorraine’, this concept is so alien to them. It’s like I’ve asked them to call me ‘hey slut’.
I guess this is how it is with the endlessly excluded. The ones society says do not count for much. The ones who take it in the chin when they line up for an hour for their jeepney ride home while SUVs of senators with the lone ass inside and his driver zoom past them. Their time is precious, these senators and congressmen–dapat lang. After all, it does take a lot of time and effort to steal a country blind and screw them royally.
It’s much easier for second generation thieves-in-office. Their fathers and mothers being the wonderful parents they are, labored early to put screws in the system so the job of screwing a whole nation blind is much easier for their progeny. Am I right, Jinggoy, Bongbong, Mikey? It buys them respectability too. Ask Borgy Manotoc,he would know.
So for us who work with the marginalized, we need to bear this sadness of not ever getting our message across right away and for some time: that no one life matters less than anybody’s.
Not even if you’ve had to live your whole life with the indignity of emptying your bowels where the dogs empty theirs. Not even if you’ve had to bear the indignity of constant hunger and the pain of seeing your children go through the same thing, with no end in sight.
Not even if you work yourself to the bones and barely keep body and soul intact. Not even if you trawl the streets and construction sites and mansions looking for a job that will pay you close to nothing and not finding it–this job that will pay you close to nothing. Not even if you’ve had a loved one die on you because you had no money for treatment.
Not even if you’ve had to watch other children ride the zipline and have had to say no to your own children ALL THEIR LIVES because those ziplines have an invisible sign that is as clear as the empty space in your wallet and screams at you ‘EXCLUDED!’. Not even if you line up for hours for a container of water. Not even if they turn you away in hospitals because you have no deposit. Not even if restaurants are not part of your life in any big way.
Not even then.
No one life matters less than anybody’s.