Catching Fire

No. This is not about your hunger games. This is about catching a glimmer of light amidst the darkest. This is about catching flickers of candles as one catches flickers of hope.

The past few days, I had no contact with the world outside that mountain. I had no contact with my phone, with my laptop screen, with my regular meals and desserts, and with the fluorescent lights. I had no contact with my calendar, and with my papers. I had no watch, no make-up, no formal dress. I just had myself and the folly that I was before the real essentials of living.

That living is so complicated is an idea that never occurs to the Tanay people. Life has been rude and ungenerous to them yet they have been living it as if it were so kind and sympathetic. Their poverty is sheer simplicity to them. Their empty plates are a bounty. Their wooden couches are a cradle.

Their neighbors and their classmates are their social networks. The bamboos and the flowers are their gadgets. The trees and the uphills are their playgrounds. The soil and the dust are their shoes. The clay and their hair are their canvass. Walking and running and jumping are their dance. Their shrieks when playing are their music.

I have witnessed how the littlest things can bring out the hugest smiles; how the simplest jokes can trigger the hardest laughter; how the smallest loaf of meat can fill the hungriest stomach; how the tiniest piece of flower can beautify the dullest place; how the slightest touch of your hand can offer the warmest caress to a longing child; how your shoulders can be the highest place they have ever reached; how your old things can be the newest they have ever seen; how your flashlight can be the brightest thing they have actually held.


Sometimes, children could be more knowledgeable than you. During our immersion, the children always led me. They taught me how to get to places, how to climb trees. They showed me how to get bamboos for a living. They toured me and explained to me history behind things. They told me stories only people who had that kind of perspective could share. They taught me how to be a child all over again. They taught me I missed a lot of my childhood. They taught me hope beyond its very meaning. They taught me living. They taught me life. And they did not even try.

Contrary to popular belief, the candles they light at night are actually not a necessity. They can survive without these candles, I am sure of that. They can even walk along the trails without any lamp. But why do they have to light those candles if they are not necessary anyway? It is because these candles are the only luxury they have. These are the only extravagance they can treat their families with. These are the only things that could express their undying hopes to have better lives when not one of them bothers to express it beyond the mask of contentment. These are the only fire they can catch, with their dreams as their arrow, their family as their bow.


After all, I didn’t have any regret in participating in that immersion activity up the Tanay mountain for I met people way richer than I in more ways than you can imagine.

8 thoughts on “Catching Fire

  1. Children are amazing teachers

  2. risinghawk says:

    Wonderful message and post. Thanks for sharing it! Peace . . .

  3. mark says:

    Beautiful and perfectly written. I work with people with learning disabilities and when I tell people this they sometimes correct me by saying “Do you not mean, work ‘for’ people with learning disabilities”, implying that I help them. The opposite is true, they have taught me about myself and human nature and life much as in the same way as what you experienced with the children. It’s crazy that the politically correct term is “people with learning disabilities”, it’s totally inaccurate. Thank you for sharing your wonderful experience and I apologise in advance for quoting Mr. Twain again on your blog; but he can say it better than me,

    “The most interesting information comes from children, for they tell all they know and then stop.” – Mark Twain

    • Thank you for sharing this equally wonderful experience, Mark. You know what I think? I think preposition usage and all this stuff about political correctness are all part of life’s ironies and paradoxes. Society deconstructs itself and I guess it allows people (like you and me) to better appreciate some meaning or lessons it has to offer.

      (No need to apologize. I’m friends with him anyway.)

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