Sunday, December 21, 2008

Better than plastic

IN THE hinterlands as in the cities, plastic and human lives intersect.

But while plastic swiped makes the mall lines move, the plastic dominates the slopes and uplands of this country as plates, recycled mineral water bottles, and reused soy sauce containers that hold the lunch and drinking water that keep a student in school until class ends in mid-afternoon.

Walk into any public school in this country. There is enough plastic to make an environmentalist cry.

From joy. Out of the sheer humbling sense of inadequacy. Advocacy for Mother Earth's preservation is redundant when poverty dictates that nothing should be discarded for self-preservation.

Plastic is a savior for children that walk two hours to attend school, and another two to reach home, where, before they can eat or study, there is work waiting to be done in farms, with livestock, to accomplish chores without end.

When city visitors of a school sponsor lunch, plastic is what the children hold out. It is not just convenient; it is not only reliable. It is the only one that most children have.

Some of the children pair off, receiving their share of lunch that's good for two or three on a plastic plate or container that barely holds enough to satisfy one.

Among city career girls, lunch in a tiny box is a concession to diet and the anorexic trend among wristlet-bags.

When children in the uplands "make do" with a matchbox-sized lunch, they eat half now and reserve the other half for a later meal, the security of later satisfaction more preferable to one-time fullness.

Visitors ladling out the hot meals are confused when a small hand reaches out a plastic bag that's been used and washed. Just as plastic littering landfills is not uncommon, plastic bags washed and air-dried attracts no comment in places that are closer to the vault of the sky than to a store.

But not even plastic can hold interminable dominion.

Dispersed among the synthetic blues, greens, yellows and pinks of food containers spotted in the lunch line is the natural green of banana leaf.

Some parents strip off nearby plants to give their toddlers and other children too young yet to be in first grade any available container to allow their inclusion in the lunch line.

Juxtaposing the residents' spontaneous impulse with the visitors' plans, the banana leaves change the tenor and texture of lunch.

Instead of organizing a feeding, the visitors end up learning.

The initial awkwardness of twirling a pliable but shifting leaf is considerable but easily overcome.

In finding their rhythm of folding a rippling green skein of leaf into a spill-proof lunch pack that's better than plastic, the visitors discover an act akin to handing to each child a blossom plucked from the first Eden. 09173226131

* Published in Sun.Star Cebu’s Dec. 21, 2008 issue

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