Trees4SaleBNativitasXochiin Germany have trees in them. This struck me looking at the projects occupied by Kadamay. They remind me of refugee camps over here in Germany. Except that refugee camps in Germany are usually container-based and not intended to be permanent settlements. And not intended for locals, while Filipinos are nasty to their own people. Forbes Park is in another world. There one cannot hear the traffic. Trees all over. Even UP has trees all over. Good thing I guess, imagine tropical sun frying those brains?

When I see Facebook photos of Filipinos very relaxed in their summer break, as it is summer there now close to Holy Week, I see them surrounded by nature and at home. Many living in Manila seem to feel genuinely at home only in their home provinces – if they are fortunate enough still to have them. Those living in slums probably don’t have any place to go back to anymore. With the first slums growing after WW2 and accelerating from the 1970s, they are generations removed from their old places.

Even the poor can be content if they have safety and can make a living – and happy if their surroundings are pleasant. Safety was destroyed in many provinces of the Philippines by a de facto civil war lasting for decades – with all sorts of armed groups terrorizing simple folks. Being able to make a living – not really possible for those who did not have at least a little bit of land, or the capital to run a small business. Surroundings – destroyed by mining, by overbuilding? You can’t eat money in the end.

Something in our human nature is programmed to respond positively to nature. We do not naturally take to concrete jungles, where we might feel like apes on Gibraltar. Recently the creeks in Munich were closed for cleaning, dammed up, the water was released against just a few days ago. The clear, fresh water of the creeks of Munich, of the Isar river. Priceless. There are things that matter more than money in the end – starting with our surroundings. Filipinos in Manila have destroyed theirs.

The trajectory of survival can turn into greed easily, wanting to catch up with the neighbors. And at the same time fearing the neighbors who will steal your new mobile – to buy some drugs to make their lives feel less painful for a while? For me, both the addicts in the slums of Manila and the consumerism addicts in its malls are zombies. Maybe the addict might be more able to find happiness under a tree, watching a clean river flow, breathing fresh air? The consumerist might just say – how boooooring!

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 8 April 2017