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Them shiny shoes

Manic in Manila

First off – yes, I do know that “Those” is the proper word choice for the title of this installment of Manic in Manila. I plead poetic license. I love poetic license.

As I write this, I am reminded of an incident a few months back, which involved my favorite pair of shiny, patent black Oxford shoes. But, before anything else, the back story.

I am generally clumped in the “foreigner” category, on account of physical attributes that don’t necessarily fit the mold of the general public in the Philippines.

While I am predominantly Spanish, by heritage and citizenship, I was born and raised here; as such, I not only speak the vernacular, I speak the vernacular of the streets. My command of Filipino is pretty darn good; so much so that I have acquired the moniker “The Fake White Chick in the City” – because as soon as I open my mouth to speak, everyone else is left with their mouths wide open, gaping in utter amazement bordering on shock.

Back to the story of my shiny shoes and I. It happened one day, in the heart of Makati’s central business district, where I was approached by a young street urchin selling sampaguita flower leis. I had just stepped off the sidewalk to cross a busy street when the young lad – I would say he was no more than six years old – walked alongside me and tugged at my arm with the usual sales pitch: “Ma’am, buy flowers Ma’am, for foods.” Before I could even say anything, however, another lad – a tad older than the first – quickly made his way to my side, and frantically grabbed his companion, as he chided him thusly: “Huwag mong kulitin yung Amerikana! Pulis ‘yan! Tingnan mo sapatos, o! (Don’t pester the American lady! She’s a policewoman! Look at her shoes!)” With that, the two lads scampered away.

It dawned on me that a) My shoes were indeed much like Philippine police and security guard-issue shoes; b) Did they think I was FBI??? They did think I was American, after all! c) Because street kids are often shooed away by these law enforcers, the sight of such shoes would be the equivalent of a flashing red siren; d) Because of their shorter stature, a police or guard’s shiny shoes is likely the first and last things these kids see as they scurry away.

It also dawned on me, however, that these particular kids had let their perspective– and the negative associations of such – get the better of them. Hence, they had missed out on the opportunity to be on the receiving end of a couple of candy bars I had in my purse. I don’t normally like buying those flower leis (I am of the belief that child labor should not be condoned), nor do I like giving money (I don’t know for sure on what that will be spent). So, I generally carry treats around with me.

Now this may seem way off-topic, but hang in there. I’m a self-confessed Sesame Street freak – I grew upon it, learned valuable life lessons and skills from it, and am still fascinated with it. One of my favorite songs from the syndicated kid’s series is all about perspective and focus; how you see things. A part of it goes: “Ohh, everything comes in its own special size / I guess it can be measured / by where you put your eyes / It so big when you’re close / it looks smaller back a bit / That’s about the size of it / That’s about the size / where you put your eyes / That’s about the size of it.”

The song lightheartedly illustrates the vital role that having the right perspective (and seeing things accordingly) plays in our lives. Problems deemed gargantuan may seem tiny when viewed from the vantage point of someone else’s challenges. Tasks that seem too huge to tackle seem more manageable when we back up from them a bit, for instance. Negative experiences in the past shouldn’t control our present and future – these should serve as lessons and learning curves, at best, no more.

Perspective defines much of what we think, say, and do; and that cumulatively defines much of our lives.

What are your pair of shiny shoes? What holds you back? What keeps you in fear of stepping out, speaking up, standing up? What hinders you from receiving life’s unexpected rewards?

Whatever it is, look beyond it. In these oft troubling and confusing times, we all need proper perspective to help us make the most of life.