Nose or Purgatory


While on my way to church where the Filipino community gathers every Sunday, an old Chinese woman approached me. I just smiled and gave her my mostly used response, “Wǒ bù huì shuō Zhōngwén (我不会说中文 or I cannot speak Chinese).”  It’s a good thing she knows little Yīngwén (English) so we had a little chat.

“Are you…going…to church,” she asked.

“Yes. Are you also going to church?”

“Shi (是 or yes).” She continued asking, “Nose or Purgatory?”

I got a little scared when I heard the word Purgatory. I thought it was a kind of omen or something. I didn’t want to embarrass her so I asked politely, “What do you mean?”

She repeated the words and I swear, I didn’t hear it wrong. I apologized for not understanding the question and she tried to rephrase it. She’s a very nice lady.

“Take care of kids…or…” 

That’s the time I understood her. You see, Filipinos have two common jobs here and perhaps these already became stereotypes for most of us working abroad. It's sad, but it didn’t bother me since that’s the way it really goes. It was a relief though to realize what the old lady meant. Nose is nurse (loosely translated for household help) and Purgatory is factory (worker). Two very decent jobs.

“Uh, office.” I politely replied. She nodded and smiled back.

Not Quite...


A quote “Where I’m from everyone’s a hero” is becoming more and more hailed — after tragedies that shook the country. And such tragedies always bring the best in people or a race. We learn to extend a hand, we make sacrifices, or just simply find ways to help others survive the day.

The quote is really inspiring and it’s what my country needs. The thing is, I can’t fully embrace this idea because we have been sunk for a long time — long before Ondoy’s wrath. And what good is a hero, if one cannot save himself or herself?

I think we, as a nation, still have this romantic idea of heroism. One has to die. One has to win a battle (or a boxing tournament and singing contest). One has to leave the country and endure being alone in a foreign land. One has to be recognized by the entire world. One has to be kidnapped. And other things that would seamlessly fit the plot of Kill Bill 3.

To cut to the chase, I’d rather hear these quotes from my country in the near future:

- Where I’m from, everyone knows how to fall in line.
- Where I’m from, everyone knows how to clean their mess.
- Where I’m from, everyone knows how to lead and follow.
- Where I’m from, everyone knows how to respect each other.
- Where I’m from, everyone knows how to truly speak and listen.

I’d rather have an entire generation of these people than a handful of exceptional heroes suffering and dying in vain.



The moment you stepped outside your doorstep, you know that something is wrong. You’re big enough to tell that indeed there is. Thick dust particles and toxic gases slowly seeped into your lungs. You coughed and protested silently…but there’s no use of that. Nobody can change it. You went on since you started your day wrong anyway—you’re already late.

You have been standing in the side street to find a jeepney for about thirty minutes now. You opted not to take the taxi since your money won’t even fit you until your next payday. But still you needed to take a ride, or termination from your boss awaits you. Finally, a jeepney swiftly cuts the traffic flow just to get the five passengers, including you, waiting. This is illegal, you said yourself, but to hell with that. You can’t afford to lose more minutes.

Inside the jeepney, as it continually threatens death to other drivers, you saw a long line of people waiting for their turn to buy lotto tickets. You asked yourself how come they bet the only money they have. A few minutes more, your mind drifted off to some place. You couldn’t care less. It wasn’t your life anyway.

Your day went on. Your mind drifted away to your own world. You needed money. It’s Monday today. You can’t find your contact lenses or you have to buy a new pair of jeans. You haven’t tried bunjee jumping and the list goes on.

You spent your life like this. Constantly accepting what the society feeds you because you’re too busy to care. Acceptance won’t cost you anything…

Until it came to a point where everything was bound to go down.

Your country.

Your people.

Your children’s future.

But to hell with that, you say, that’s the part where my Visa comes in handy.