by Evans Yonson

Barcelona – In basketball parlance, MVP means most valuable player. I am not a basketball fanatic ever since. My elder brothers are fanatics, which they took probably from my father. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar holds the record of most number of MVP awards in the American National Basketball Association with 6. He is followed by another basketball superstar, Michael Jordan with 5 trophies. In the Philippines, Alvin Patrimonio and Ramon Fernandez tie the record of having won 4 MVP awards in the Philippine Basketball Association history.

We are all players in this game called life. Manila. August 2009.

Valuable is an adjective that means having great material or monetary worth especially for use or exchange. A sample sentence using valuable would go like this, “Any other human being is equally valuable in the eyes of God.” It could also be used as a noun, meaning something of worth, “All our valuables were stolen last night.” Valuable is derived from the word value, which in turn means prize, respect, esteem among other things. “I value his judgment.” “We value his creativity.” “He values his family more than anyone else.”

How do we find value in ourselves? Is it human nature that we acquire our own set of values? Or we grow the values within from our own personal experiences?

My food stuff in the cabinet are running out today. Here I am now ready to open my apartment door when I noticed my toenails require its much needed summer care. Instead of going to the grocery to buy my week’s supply, I slowly walk towards my favorite Filipino beauty parlor here in Barcelona.

The usual Filipino chit-chat greets you in this parlor. As a loyal customer and close friend to the family, I kiss almost anyone to avoid being tagged as having a cold shoulder aka isnabero. There are two ladies waiting in the pedicure line. I am willing to wait and update myself with the latest gossip in the city and from the Philippines. A male client enters and sits beside me and not minding us who came earlier and who were already talking about our fifth character, a worker in the Philippine consulate office.

The man strikes me as smart and clean. He has very clean toes, clean shaven and very well groomed. His shirt is wrinkle free and the fabric softener scent smells of the famous Spanish Nenuco baby cologne. He comes every Monday afternoon for his weekly manicure, and every Friday mornings for his pedicure. He asks me where I am from and I said Cagayan de Oro. He is a bit surprised because he has lived in Cagayan de Oro for 4 years. He starts to speak in Cebuano. He has been in Barcelona for 11 years now. I ask him what work he does in Barcelona.

With great pride and strong conviction he said, “Basurero ako. (I’m a garbage collector.)” I never heard someone with such feeling of great self-dignity and value. Our chat continues with his hardships and experiences while collecting people´s garbage at night along the silent and most of the time cold and damp Barcelona. This reminds me of other people that I have met elsewhere with different stories to tell and with different magnitude of self-esteem.

Two women of the same age from different backgrounds in life. They could pass on as the modern-day version of Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper. One (Mary) borne and raised with a silver platter and served by uniformed domestic helpers. The other (Martha) reared under the scorching heat of a rented agrarian lot in the Philippines and most of the time fed with nothing but steamed vegetables leaves and dried fish. Mary came to the big city to fulfill a long cherished dream of making it big in her chosen field. Martha, on the other hand, was forced to move to realize a familial desire of taking her whole family out of the misery called, poverty. Mary does nothing valuable and worthwhile day in and day out. Martha burns midnight candles to make ends meet every single day. Mary continually searches for her opportunity while Martha takes everything to make it an opportunity. One is waiting for things to happen. The other makes things to happen.

Another interesting story is a wise man with the wrong set of values. He claims and projects himself to be very religious. Immediately after getting out of a religious temple, he would scour the vicinity for luscious human beings as if the temple visit was just an illusion of those who saw him earlier on. He is the Filipino stereotype of having the mañana habit, putting for tomorrow what one can do today. His foresight is only limited to the next 24 hours. He has his life plans but these don´t come to fruition because he lives by the Epicurean value of eating, drinking and merrying for tomorrow is another day. His value of time is probably the worst. Set a time and he would come 30 minutes late. And he prides himself of being a cosmopolitan person. Cosmopolitans don´t come in late. They are always on time, if not earlier. His words are not his honor. His talks are not his walks.He firmly believes that time is always on his side. The future will always come but he lives for the moment.

The last character in the Mythical Five is a friendly yet so lost PR man. Growing up in the island has its pros and cons. You can either be too contented with what you have at the moment, or you are too dissatisfied that everything is worthless if you know there is something more. PR man is the typical living beyond one’s means. He has the latest gadget and yet he hasn’t paid his monthly rent. He has the best Louis Vuitton bag and yet he owes many people a lot. He has almost everything. He sparkles in the dark. He is the life of the party. But he doesn’t seem to be happy in the party of his life.

Each of these five characters are the players of their own lives. Their self-worth may be measured by others but like I always tell my friends, “who cares?” These are my friends. I may change them for the better or for worse. They may change themselves along the way. Their values are totally different from mine. I can never change that. I might change myself if I see there is something with my own personal values. They drown themselves with their own values that are totally different from mine. Some are too hardheaded that banging their heads against the wall would only cause a little pain. It maybe painless now but the future looks dark and uncertain.

I have developed my own personal values that I can never impose on others. I let them see my values shine beyond my aura. It strikes others so hard that they radiate these values back to me and to others, wherever they maybe. I pass on the ball to the forward and sometimes to the center guy. Sometimes they pass it on to others. Sometimes they return it back to me. The opponent might take hold of it. But we always manage to take it back, always to our favor. Sometimes we are selfish. Some we are fools. At the end of every game, we always shake hands and prove to the world that we are worthy to be called the most valuable players this court called life.