Shortly after I moved to San Francisco eleven years ago, I got a job as a production assistant for a film crew that was heading to the Philippines. I was thrilled at the prospect of going there and I was very excited about seeing a true third world country. I had been to Mexico, but Acapulco was much too touristy to qualify. When you can decide on Italian, French or Steak House for dinner, it is not a third world experience. The Philippines are beautiful. Manila is hot and humid and way too many bugs. The rice fields are old Asia and just amazing, and so are the people. The beaches are absolutely breathtaking.
This photograph is one that I took near the ancient rice terraces in northern Philippines. I saw them and thought how endearing it was to see grandpa helping to take care of his grandson. I was stunned to hear that grandpa was 72 years old and the boy was actually his son. This tribe, lived in huts, walked around either naked or wrapped loosely in red cloth and lived off the land and the rice terraces. They are also a very small people. Averaging about 5’4” tops, I felt like a giant towering over them at 5”10”.
I was shocked when I saw the place where they lived and how they lived but I was just utterly astonished when I found this father and son. This was so completely different from the life I had experienced. Life here was simple. No televisions or phones and no home could be seen for miles. Life is what is truly appreciated and revered in their world. Of course, it helps when there is no money or goods to desire beyond something to eat or smoke.
I can look at this photo today and feel the heat and humidity, smell the fires burning and food cooking and remember laughing more than I had in a long time. These people were giving, caring, accepting and fun. Life is just simple and you accept what you have and make the most of it. Here is a man who isn’t concerned that he may not live to see his son grow old enough to marry. One night he got lucky and low and behold, he got lucky again with a son. End of story. There is no worry to make sure he brushes his teeth at night, no college fund, no X-Box or Game Boy and certainly no TV. It is about being a part of the community and doing your part to live a good life no matter your age.
I just had my 37th birthday and I still have problems turning 37. OK, it has only been a week but it still sucks and the feelings are not waning. I’ll spend a lifetime hoping to be as happy as the Filipino tribal man and living as simply as he does but I live thousands of miles away in a world that is filled with concrete and steel and every tree has been planted with purpose, not by nature. I live in a world of credit cards, bills, gas stations, grocery stores and accountability for all of my actions. My tribe won’t take care of me when I’m sick or feed me when I’m hungry. Getting old is not fun in a privileged world or what we think is a privileged world.