Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Are PDA's For The Middle Class?

This is an article that I submitted to the fine people at PDA247.

Are PDA’s For the Middle Class? (An Alternative View From a land of Volcanoes, Jungles and Floods)

I served in the Philippines for the past 15 years as a missionary.

Why is that important? I have an alternative view to the great question posed by Shaun. As a missionary, I oversaw a ministry of over 1,200 people spread out from the metropolis of Metro Manila to the southern, rebel-infested jungles of Mindanao to the actively volcanic, Mount Mayon, the PDA was an essential tool to ministering to as many people as possible throughout that wonderful archipelago. With my Palm in hand, I had the luxury of carrying the full roster of my membership; kept abreast of weekly-updated financial reports; kept track of my appointments and email; carried over 20 Bibles and commentaries from different eras, countries and languages; downloaded my newspapers; wrote my lessons; and stored my most current lesson in the event that my printer broke down or my lesson fell into the stank, dark sewage water left behind by the not-so-efficient drainage system of our fond city as I made a last minute dash to place and podium (side note: yes this has happened…and when it takes an hour or two to travel through the world’s second-worst traffic to travel 7 miles, I need all the back up I can get).

My trusty PDA’s have been with me through the land of eagles, boars and ostriches to the tops of smoking volcanoes. It’s been with me as I witnessed cities completely buried by volcanic ash to a place where they culture some of the islands’ most beautiful pearls. It’s been with me to a city who’s title once bore the ominous, “Gun Capitol of the Philippines” where conflicts were literally solved by pulling trigger and placing bullet into another person; to the city whose motorcycle-riding, gun-toting, dangerous mayor gained the reputation and moniker, “The Punisher”. My PDA’s have been with me from a city where gum chewing, firecracker-popping and backpacking were outlawed (because of frequent bombings); to an island full of ducks; to the city where people of known for the smiles. My PDA has been with me when I’ve waded through floods or when I’ve gone through my three-shower-a-days due to the lovely humidity. My PDA has been with me when I’ve struggled with the Filipino language and I’ve had to look up a word or three to counseling a man who had murdered seven people with his bare hands and showed no remorse. My Palm has been with me when I’ve counseled couples on the brink of separation (divorce is illegal) due to years of built up hatred, miscommunication and animosity. My PDA has been with me when I’ve officiated funerals for the poor and the rich. My PDA was with me when I saw the unpaid $100 graves emptied of their corpses and thrown out into the open in order to make way for another poor family who could afford the site for the year. (How long will this family continue to afford the annual $100 fee to keep the grave filled with their loved one…or will they be tossed out like a bag of potatoes once they can’t make that payment?).

My Palm has helped me counsel engaged couples before marriage; officiate weddings and pronounce both husband and wife. My PDA was used in blessings of new homes and new businesses or the birth of a new child. It’s been with me at the beginning of lives and at the end. I’ve been very fortunate to have a PDA by my side.

PDA’s are not too prevalent in the Philippines. Most people cannot afford it. It is simply too expensive. The average PDA costs 2-3 times the average salary of the Filipino. Those of us who were lucky enough to get one either got a humungous deal from it; or received it as a gift from a relative outside the country. That’s how I got mine. I urged the other ministers to do the same. Somehow, several ministers in our church were able to get new or used PDA’s to lighten our load when traveling (the average citizen does not own a car and needs to take public transportation…a story for another time!) or it greatly assisted our planning and/or preaching.

For the most part, most of the Filipinos who owned PDA’s were of the young and upwardly-mobile set. The vast majority is simply priced out. For most Filipinos, PDA stands for the “Philippine Dental Association”…I don’t mean this in any derogatory way, it’s just plain fact.

Now, I’m back in the good ‘ol US of A after 15 years out there. Times have changed…people have changed. I’m trying to re-acclimate myself since I’ve been away for so long. One constant through it all has been my PDA.

At my current job and new life back home, I continue to use my trusted PDA. Even though it helps me deal with comparatively more mundane, everyday challenges (grocery lists, e-books, etceteras), I can count on it best serving the needs of the day…just like it always has done over the years.


Antoine said...

Excellent article. And here I am thinking there wasnt any good news today :)

Great article, also posted at MMM.

Kevin Agot said...

Hey Antoine,

I'm glad you had a chance to read the article. I had intended to send it to MMM, but got sidetracked with a very challenging work-week. Keep up your great work! You are an inspiration to many!