‘The things you take for granted, someone else is praying for.’
I watched a documentary about the life of abaca farmers living in too much poverty in a remote community in the mountain of Sarangani Province in the very far Island of Mindanao, Philippines. It was documented by the famous Filipino newscaster Kara David of I-Witness in GMA News and Public Affairs three years ago. I’ve already seen this video for multiple times but I still cry everytime I watch it.
The title ‘Minsan Isang Taon’ (Once a Year) focused in the everyday life of the family who struggle to live for only 1,000 pesos (about $20) budget in an entire year for the family of more than five members. Because of this very small amount, the family couldn’t afford to buy rice which is supposed to be the staple food of Filipinos. Sweet potato is the only food readily available for the residents of the community. So, the family eat only sweet potato everyday, in breakfast, lunch and dinner instead of rice. They can eat meat also once in a year during the anniversary of their church. And because of this, children there all suffer from nutritional disorder called Kwashiorkor, a form of malnutrition caused by a lack of protein in the diet. It was obviously famine is the main reason for this kind of malnutrition.
It was heartbreaking to know that their main source of income which is the Abaca farming started to decrease due to lack of shades which are needed in order for abaca plant to survive. Abaca or known as Manila Hemp is the strongest plant fiber in the world and is the main raw materials in making specialty paper for money in the country. Unfortunately, they can harvest abaca plants only once a year. And before they can sell the abaca fiber, they need to extract the fibers from the strips of abaca leaf sheaths using an improvised extractor. Strong force is much needed in order to pull each strips. Even at the young age, the son was obliged to help his father in doing the difficult job. Then, the extracted fibers will dried under the sun before they can bring them down the mountain to sell.
Another heart melting moment was after all the waiting and hardship in producing abaca fibers, it only cost 40 pesos (about $0.80) for every kilogram of it. And that time the farmer sold only a total of 25 kilos of Abaca fibers, which is equivalent to 1,000 pesos ($20). However, he owed money to the lady who bought his abaca, so what’s left for him was only less than 500 pesos, the amount he needs to budget for the entire year for his whole family.
At the end of the video, it was shown the family happily eating rice for the first time in that year. As the documentarist asked this question on her mind: How come the man who produces the main raw material in making paper for money cannot have money of his own?
And for me, there are so many realization this documentary brought to my life. Sometimes the things I’ve been taking for granted are being badly needed by others. There are too many things to be grateful for. And there are many people out there who genuinely needs help and compassion.
Though the documentary video is in Filipino language, I still put the link here: https://youtu.be/yW9tT0XafhY