We had some perky illusions when we were five years old. I should know because at five, I was in full belief that my real parents were billionaires. At night, before journeying to my childhood dreamland, I would be lost in wishful thinking that I was actually lying on a soft-cushioned bed littered with teddy bears and Barbie dolls, not on this sturdy sleeping mat I shared with my parents and my little brother.
In that imaginary room in my naughty head, there was no sound of snoring, or the crazy noise of jeepneys, or the yelling from the neighbor’s house. But it would always be the same the next day: I would hear my father’s thundering snores, the jeepneys would start their racket outside our door at 5 a.m., and the neighbors’ vocals would trumpet through my eardrums. All these freaking moments were not illusions anymore. Nevertheless, I would open my eyes to the world of truth. Wide awake, I was not a billionaire’s daughter. Not today. Not until forever.
Sometimes I asked my mother: Why can’t we be like those rich families living in glamorous mansions, driving expensive cars, modelling fancy clothes on red-carpet events, and dining in five-star restaurants? Why can’t you enroll me in an exclusive school so I can hang out with some other rich kids, and hire me a personal bodyguard?
This was all she had to say: We don’t need all that material wealth as long as we’re happy in our life. Eventually my father would interrupt the conversation and tell me in a sarcastic tone: Rich people are also restless people. In fact, even as they sleep, they worry about thieves.
For these past days I’ve been mulling over the pork barrel controversy involving businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles. It makes me wonder whether my father could have missed the point. Maybe not all rich people are afraid of thieves. What if they were actually the thieves themselves? What if the woman tagged as the “mother of all scams” indeed received big bags of money in her office? I would think this is the new modus operandi of thieves these days: They just wait for the big, fat money bags to come to their doors, without any sweat and effort on their part. Pretty instant, right?
I’m now old enough to understand how humans, for most of their lives, are governed by money, and how those few people on top can use their power and guts to be able to experience the luxury they enjoy up there. I wonder how unfriendly this society can be to people with zero balance in their pockets. Why is there a swarming number of these unfortunates who can barely survive from day to day? Is there any way equality can have a little space in this country of 100 million Filipinos?
I may be feeling sorry for myself for being overly idealistic, but I know I can’t be sorrier for the people who are treated inhumanely while a few others lavishly spend public money for their daughter’s 21st birthday. Or shop abroad for designer gowns while beggars and street children walk about in ragged clothes and dream of getting to Enchanted Kingdom. We may not undo the truth that there is an indelible line between the rich and the poor in this stratified society. But no one in his/her right state of mind can let these money operators go unpunished. They should be put in jail where thieves belong.
Until now, I cannot wholly grasp how certain people—even the most exalted and educated ones in society—can cheat other people to get to the top.
I have realized that if the only ticket to living a billionaire’s life is for me to buy what I eat, dress and live by through unlawful and immoral means, I’d probably choose to be poor and eat dried fish all the rest of my life. I would rather sleep on a mat with three other people lying side by side, and share the same blanket with them, instead of being that girl who dreams of a soft-cushioned bed strewn with stuffed toys. I would rather hear my father snoring as loud as a trombone than hear of him being the mastermind of a billion-peso scam. I would rather be roused early in the morning by the clamoring noise of jeepneys and our yelling neighbors than wake up and find the Bureau of Internal Revenue and the media, as well as the public, feasting over my whims and luxuries on the Internet.
My illusion of having rich parents was exactly that. I can never be a billionaire’s daughter, or a thief’s.
Christele J. Amoyan, 18, is a development communication sophomore at the University of the Philippines Los Baños.