This is the only picture I have from my farewell dinner with my community at Kahumana Organic Farms, or as we like to call ourselves, the farmily. It was such a lovely dinner and I felt so loved. Everyone made or brought something to share, and I didn’t have to lift a finger, nor did I personally bring any food or drink to add to the spread. Before I had any chance to feel any which way about that, my farmily assured me that they were happy to cook and prepare things and allow me to just relax and be me.
These people were and are so generous. And they were happy to do these things for me because I had been so generous with them. Sharing was like breathing. Everyone here had taught me how to be generous – something I didn’t really learn from where and how I grew up.
Now that I’m without an income stream and not in community, I observe myself beginning to lose the generosity I gained. Our neighbor in our first home in Mexico invited us to dinner and when my partner suggested we buy something to share with them, I snapped, totally in fear mode. Of course when we got to the dinner, our neighbors shared like it was nothing, like it was their pleasure.
If sharing was still so natural, even with these newfound friends, why was I feeling so stingy?
Because unhealthy capitalism doesn’t want us to share. And individualism wants us to believe that without our own individual resources, we will die. I hope to be able to share a take soon based more on research and history, but this is my take based on my own personal experience growing up where I did, in the culture I did – and in some ways I feel this is just as powerful. This is my take as a Filipina who grew up in Manila, Philippines.
People will often say that Filipinos are some of the friendliest and most generous people on earth, and I’d tend to agree. I’d have to say that I received the most authentic generosity (giving without needing anything in return) from people who had less than I did, from people in the deep provinces, and from people who were part of indigenous culture. Filipinos are friendly and generous – however, two truths can exist at the same time.
To me, growing up middle class in Manila is like growing up in a very western Philippines.
- We were taught English early on, and these days it seems like children are so much better at speaking in English than they are in their native tongue.
- White skin was more beautiful than dark skin.
- Status was very important. You can’t just be anything- a sparkling resume is required not just to get a decent earning job, but also to gain the approval of older relatives, thus avoiding uncomfortable feelings of judgment at parties.
- Status was also composed of the things you physically owned, or didn’t own. More and more and more was better. It wasn’t quite enough to have the basics.
- Crab Mentality existed. If someone was doing better than you, you pull them down with words passed on to others.
From a very young age, the idea of individually owning things as a person or as a family was prescribed as GOOD. And so if you didn’t have the means to own something yourself, this was BAD.
There’s a wrenching gut feeling to this that hits deep in the part of me that remembers and desires to be part of a tribe: that if you lose the means to buy or own anything, you lose your status in your perceived community… and if you are not part of a community, how will you survive in the world?
As may be obvious, this chip on my shoulder is very personal. Growing up, my friends in high school often jokingly called me kuripot, stingy. And so while what I’ve shared may be culturally true, much of this is also my personal family background. All things that are my assignment to heal in my ancestry.
… Writing all that out has exhausted me and I think this is the end of this sharing. How I learned to be generous is a story for another day.
Aho and Aloha,