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Opinion

Widows, WiFi, bicycles

CTALK - Cito Beltran - The Philippine Star

Back in the days when we could still go to bookstores, I remember noticing how several shelves would be filled with books on personal development, charting your future, finding your purpose and a bunch of other self-help books. This got me to thinking about the many Filipinos I know who have a kind heart, dream of making a difference in people’s lives and in the process figure out their calling, destiny or life purpose, but more often than not they end up with analysis paralysis and belittling themselves.

One thing that was common to all was that people could not move forward because they had no idea what to do, where to go or how to start, most of them had the impression that they did not have enough, were in no position to really make a difference and had no expertise to put together something big or substantial enough to qualify as a legitimate endeavor. Most of us get stuck on “BIG” then fold up when the word “Failure” comes to mind. When I listen in on people who verbalize their mental dialogue and analysis, the words “Foundation” – “Organization” – “Funding” often take center stage. People get so focused on the forms and funds but forget all about the why and for whom. The good news is that even at the height of the COVID pandemic there are still people “talking” and wanting to make some difference.

Instead of struggling with a “Big Idea” why not help a struggling individual and make a big difference in one person’s life, at a time when it makes a world of difference? Ever since the pandemic hit, I have heard or known of more and more widows, not necessarily because of COVID-19 but from other causes as well. The sad reality in the Philippines if not the world is that most widows who lose their husband also lose their only source of income. In addition to that, widows end up with expenses due to hospital bills, funeral services, settling the personal affairs of the departed spouse and, last but not the least, the burden of having a child or children to look after. Some of my friends step in by paying part of the hospital bills, the funeral services, providing personal assistance such as a driver or messenger to handle paper work and follow ups with the SSS, City Hall, etc. Widows don’t get the luxury of time to mourn because from death to burial and at least a year, they will be burdened by bureaucratic requirements in our society that is not “widow friendly.”

While most Filipinos and Filipino Chinese practice giving “abuloy” or cash to the widow, most of that won’t register mentally during the funeral. What makes a difference is when people step in to share a particular burden after. Some people I know have realized that one of the best investments you can make is to help a widow send at least one child through school or organize things so that a child or children will have a set of voluntary sponsors, much like Ninongs and Ninangs, that will pay for school supplies, equipment, allowances and tuition fees, etc.

Ever since the pandemic hit, one of the biggest challenge for children, particularly those in the provinces or from poor communities, is not having a digital device for online learning. I regularly suggest to people to find a child they can help by providing a tablet, phone or iPad. You can pay installment so that it does not pinch your budget while investing in some child’s future. More than digital devices, I learned last year that kids could find some hand me down tablet or cheap phone but it does not help if they can’t afford a good internet connection. When I decided to set up a studio in our small farm in Lipa City, I sought the help of Marco Borlongan to get PLDT Fiber Optic Internet for the program AGENDA on Cignal TV. From day one the service, speed and quality was superb, although I really needed it for only an hour everyday.

In order to make the most out of it, my wife decided to set up a study and sleep room for five sisters, all of whom were daughters of the local security guard in the village. They would take turns online based on school schedule. Needless to say the girls are all inspired to study given the fast internet, a study room and an entire guest room all to themselves. They go home for meals but otherwise stay over to study or rest. You may not be willing to offer a room in your inn, but setting up free WiFi with password to a select number of students in a certain location is almost like sponsoring a child or children to school at the fraction of the cost.

Another simple affordable thing to get into would be buying, cleaning up or fixing Japanese surplus bikes and giving them to students and workers you know or want to help. Some of the kids in the community as well as a couple of workers have been recipients of used bikes and this has resulted in major savings of at least P50 a day that they spend on tricycles while giving them some form of mild exercise. Last month the first student we ever gave a bicycle to many years ago came home with her first car. Little things, small beginnings change lives.

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E-mail: utalk2ctalk@gmail.com

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