1/08/2014
For when you realize you are insignificant

He was 18 when he had his first child. His girlfriend is a year younger than him.

He now has four children. He has a job, but it does not pay well, considering how many mouths he has to feed.

His house isn't what you'd call a house. Sure, he considers it his home, still, and a roof over one's head is still a roof over one's head no matter what it's made of. But it is, essentially, a slum. Metal sheets and scrap plywood for walls, some scrap lumber holding them together. In one corner is a cardboard sheet that flaps open when you choose to; the hole is big enough for his kids to go through.

He just received a phone call from Vic Sotto.

I was trying to put myself in his place, or at least his mindset. Here he is, a guy who, in most perspectives, made a wrong decision or two, and is now not as better off as he should be. A bunch of producers went to his side of the world, asking for names to be included in a draw, with the promise of prizes, lots of it. He tried his luck and put his name in, and now his little home is host to three television hosts, a camera crew, and the production staff who are bringing in every single prize he's won. A big lunch. A bunch of appliances. A cart or two of groceries from a ubiquitous store. A lot of cash. A lot of cash. What would he do with all that? Would he be able to turn his family's life around, somehow, with all the things he's getting?

His wife is pregnant. Five months pregnant. His fifth child.

I was just watching television. How will Jose take the situation and turn it into a punchline? That's always my first thought when his segment comes on. And then, I hope the winner doesn't milk all the drama out of this. There will be people who will wail and wail, thinking it will earn them more sympathy and get them more money, something the hosts are obviously not going to do, judging from their body language.

But then I also thought - and I don't usually think this, even if I watch Eat Bulaga! whenever I can - that this guy got the short end of the stick. Now, I was just watching television. I'm certainly not qualified to call his first child an accident, but I'm a young professional, part of a generation that would rather get lucky than settle down. It's a given. I can't speak for his priorities in life, but he got the short end of the stick; he could be living in a marginally more comfortable home, his family could be living a marginally more comfortable life, and some of these prizes would be a happy extra, perhaps to the delight of his neighbors.

I think of the opportunities he missed. I think of the opportunities that he never had a chance to even see, much more miss. If things went a little differently, his life might be much better, at least better by my standards. Could something have been done?

It's a question we all ask. Could something have been done? We always have a quick answer to that. If he managed to study high school, things would have been better. Again, another assumption, but not a completely far fetched one. He might know that having unprotected sex has its consequences. Or, he might get a better job and he'd be able to feed his children better. Or, he might not have to join this contest and, instead, be watching this instead! It always is a quick answer. Every little thing matters. Every little thing, and we can change the world!

But then again, we cannot.

Where I am, there is definitely no shortage of people telling me that I can change the world. Or, well, if not the world, then maybe a portion of it, a minuscule portion of it. (But still, the world. You have to make it sound grand.) And I try, somehow, inspired, a bit, holding on to the idea that my actions are doing something good to someone, somewhere, sometime from now.

But then you work, and you work some more, and you sit back and realize that no, you aren't doing anything. You aren't doing anything at all. Well, you're doing something, but it's not going anywhere, and you're getting tired and weary and you have the urge to move on. But what about the others? Why can they do it? Well, it's because they didn't just work hard to do it. They know people who made it possible for them. And yes, unfortunately, it will all boil down to who you know and what they can do. You can be the charismatic, well-meaning leader of an emerging country, but if people do not like you, or trust you, or if you do not know anyone whose strings you can pull - this is improbable considering the circumstances, but let's stick with it - then you're essentially a penguin, not knowing you're meant to be in the water, flapping your wings, expecting to fly like other birds do.

But, again, what about the others? They got lucky. If they can do it... well, you can't. Well, maybe you can. You can be bigger than you possibly can and try to stare down the people who would rather have their way, but they will succeed, and you won't. And, for when you realize you are insignificant, you have to think that none of it is your fault, because luck is not something you can control. Luck is just something that comes to you. Plan all you want, but you can still die of freezing temperatures in the Antarctic.

Or you can be that guy on Eat Bulaga!, stumbling into an accident and getting a chance to, more or less, redeem himself. If he chooses to, at least.

And your responses...

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