Honoring my Mother | Bayan ni Juan

In the present setting, the communal spirit we Filipinos fondly call Bayanihan has been overused so much that, it might as well have a tiny encircled “R” placed after it. In the past, “Bayanihan” had been prominently etched into every tourism come-on-over campaign, depicting a simple hut being carried by good-spirited neighbors. It has become clichéd, along with Mabuhay, that Tagalog greeting which has come to infer that what we are, are actually nothing but a welcoming bunch of smiling natives.
Growing up with these taglines has jaded me so much that whenever I see posters with these words at airports or other terminals, I smirk a little, as they really don’t evoke anything anymore, like say, the signs which indicate “Food Area” or “Toilet”. Especially true in today’s Philippines, the essence of Bayanihan for me has been made meaningless as a result of the polarization caused by our dominant-versus-emerging realities. Because of this ensuing free-for-all, Bayanihan has become nothing but a hollow and worthless slogan.
Or so I thought.
Last week, I attended a birthday celebration on my partner’s side of the family. As the fruition of a month’s planning, it was a surprise for an aunt who had turned 70. There, in a farm, complicit neighbors, friends and a compound full of relatives planned the surprise birthday party right under the eyes of the unsuspecting celebrator.
The intangibles of Bayanihan, the sharing of resources, labor and time were in full display. Those who could spare a little cash had done just that, along with money-grams from OFW relatives from abroad. Other contributions took the form of kitchen duty, venue preparation, hosting duties for the day’s program, and kindergarten assignments that keep the kids in tow.
All throughout the festivities, I stood in awe as I thought of how simple life could be, if we only helped each other. And so it was, in a simple farm setting, away from banner-waving, drum-beating hoopla, and urban pretenses at nationhood, Bayanihan still thrives like a secret love.

Posted in Opinion