I consider it a great honor and privilege to have been invited to the house of a poor couple up in the mountains of Cebu the other day. It was truly a refreshing experience to spend some time with them as they very eagerly told me the story of their life.
They are parents of someone whom I met some time ago, a person who had a hard life growing up in poor conditions but who struggled and eventually won in the pursuit of his dreams. But that person has already passed away. God bless him!
The house was actually just a shack, a two-room affair. One served as an all-purpose room that is used as sala, dining room, and kitchen. There was a little toilet annexed to it and covered only with a flimsy curtain. The other room was their bedroom, with the size that was just enough for the couple to sleep. But it had a window that gave a very beautiful panoramic view of the mountain landscape.
What struck me at the beginning of our conversation was that, while they acknowledged that they are poor, they did not show any sign of self-pity or of inferiority. On the contrary, what I noticed was that they had good self-esteem as they narrated how they felt they were greatly blessed and protected by God in the heavy drama of their life.
They lost the two children they had, one at birth and the other while he was already in the early twenties. But what kept them going was their strong faith in God, and expressed in their ardent life of piety.
They pray practically all day, since they consider their work—they are farmers—as a form of prayer also. In other words, they are always in the presence of God even while dirtied by their manual work, and they refer everything to him, asking for light and guidance, help, and strength.
On Sundays, they do not fail to go to the small chapel a few kilometers away to attend mass. That was before the pandemic. More than that, the wife volunteers to do some tasks in the chapel, organizing the people around for affairs related to the chapel.
The couple is already in their 70s, hair all white, teeth almost all already missing, with lines all over their faces and bodies, but they look sturdy and in good spirit, cheerful even if they were unrestrained in shedding tears when they told me about the difficulties and misfortunes they encountered in life.
They felt they were very lucky and blessed by the two children they had, because even if they went ahead of them, the two children, according to them, gave them great joys.
I could only draw from this attitude of theirs regarding this point that they are truly very simple people, with hearts that are so clean and pure that they could see the loving hands of God in every event of their life, whether good or bad, humanly speaking.
I left the house feeling renewed and convinced that, indeed, as one of the beatitudes would put, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”.
Yes, I felt like I saw glimpses of heaven as I listened to them, squatting on the floor and taking in some chicken soup they prepared for me in their simple but wholehearted gesture of hospitality!*