This beautiful essay on sentimental ‘basura’or trash inspired me to share my own ‘basurera’ moment in this post.
I bet too that we all have our own ‘basurera’ moment that made life a little easier and lighter for us. I think that this is so typically Filipino. We even have a term for it, ‘harimunan’. I can’t find an English synonym for the term. It may sometimes connote negative meaning because it can imply taking advantage of other people’s resources. If it is a habit, it is probably bad but that is not what the post is about. But if the giver does not mind or is just disposing his excesses, the scavenger might even be helping the person organize his home, his life.
I guess that the most idealistic among us are too busy making their lives purposeful that they do not mind repurposing other people’s ‘trash’.
I recall my own scavenging moment while on a scholarship grant to study Nihonggo in Japan in the mid 90s. Our generous host provided for our study, accommodation, cost of living and even sundries. However, the apartment we stayed in was empty except for the futons, washing machine and kitchen/dining essentials.
We would be studying for 6 months away from our families. It can be daunting and lonely if we cannot have a home away from home. So my roommate and I tried to make a home out of that cold apartment that doesn’t have a heater…. sigh.
Six months was long enough to feel pangs of loneliness as I recall missing my then less than 2 year toddler daughter and my preschooler daughter most of the time. Yet, it was short enough to build something big and permanent. Our host was gracious enough to provide us a tv set that only have shows in Nihonggo. Again, no complaints. We are thankful we could watch something lively and colorful when we’re feeling homesick. It also helped in our study of the language. Six months was just enough time to socialize and make friends among the small community of students, teachers, co-workers in our arubaito, and neighbors. How can we in an apartment lacking the essentials to accommodate guests?
Filipinos know too well that affluent countries are throwaway economies. Japanese like Americans throw what they no longer need or use.
One day, my roommate/classmate passed by a set of two Japanese-style seaters on our way to school in that small hilly community. We haven’t done any scavenging at that time but the sight of the seaters and thought of the empty apartment seem to be a match made in heaven, a thought too strong to ignore. We looked at each other and knew what to do. We carried the seaters to an area that would conceal them. After school, we carried the seaters one at a time to our apartment . We lost no time cleaning and disinfecting them with everything we got. They looked good in our living room when we were done. That small addition made the apartment feel like home for the next months, something we can flop on after a hard day at school or at the onsen where we work for our arubaito. It later became our entertainment area where we would host small get-togethers for visitors and friends.
That wouldn’t the last time we would pick other people’s trash. We would be icky at times but we would be lucky sometimes to find something useful or valuable like some yen that my roommate found. We found other home stuff, a watch and other things…. some were useful, others were just trash.
After six months, we left two beautifully-restored seaters to our Chinese friends who will be studying longer than us. On hindsight, we did not only leave pieces of used furniture but memories of how we survived and fought off homesickness in a strange land.
I carried that repurposing lifestyle until now. I try to use things until its end of life when they are no longer reparable. I practice the 3Rs. At one point, I was so into collecting things. When I realized I had tons of unused and no longer usable items, I knew I developed a bad habit that must end.
Over the years, I learned better. I am now both a disposer and a scavenger. When it doesn’t fit or I do not like it anymore, I give it to someone who can use it. I also ask others for something they want to dispose which I or others might need. I put up this page for this purpose. Sadly, it hasn’t gained as much traction as I expected to when free stuffs are freely given. Sometimes, it boils down to pride which is also a Filipino thing…. A friend messaged me saying she is too ashamed to ask for free stuff. Some said they would share when they find the time. A pity really because just look at our home and the clutter showing all our hidden ‘greed’. Ridding our homes of clutter can help us breathe easy.
It takes the the pettiness of a person from whom we expected more to disparage the scavenging of a Vice President for us to admit we are also scavengers. I’m glad that this issue became viral to know many stories of the resilience of Filipinos to survive in hard times to show it is not one isolated destitute story.
I hope that the shallow among us learn that it is not so humiliating to reuse stuff and . It is even respectable to know that one can go to such length to live within one’s means ….