Without a doubt, throughout my time in Manila, the best part has been the people I’ve met and formed relationships with. Little could I have ever imagined how transformative this journey would be not only for the students and Filipino community members I worked with but also for me.
Our entire group greatly benefited from our off-De La Salle campus adventures. Early on, our community members and LSEED staff invited us to visit their homes and ‘sari-sari’ small convenience stories in their local neighborhoods. It was incredibly meaningful to be able to see and understand their every day environments and challenges and of course, experience the legendary Filipino hospitality!
Towards the end of the program, we ventured a few hours outside of the city to Gawad Kalinga Enchanted Farm, a community of people living and growing together through a cluster of social enterprises. In a nutshell, Gawad Kalinga recruits high-potential youth from marginalized communities, gives them to the tools to build their own socially-minded businesses, and then empowers them to do so within the farm. It’s also home to a mini-hotel, excellent farm-to-table restaurant, and conference center.
We took a tour, met a few young people in the program, sampled some candy ice, indulged in a traditional Filipino buffet, splashed in the pool, and were privileged to watch a local entrepreneur give us a cooking demonstration. Again, we were warmly welcomed everywhere we went and I’m sure my face started to hurt from smiling too much.
My time in Manila brought new meaningful relationships and experiences with those within my Takamin team and the other social enterprise groups. Upon learning that I’d been wanting to learn how to fire a gun safely and properly, a Filipino colleague offered that her husband, a certified firearm instructor and head of their local shooting association, could give me an impromptu lesson. A few weeks later, I was down in a Manila suburb with them learning how to shoot and learning about their family. Another faculty member who became a friend invited me to her jiu jitsu class for my very first experience with martial arts.
My two Takamin student fellows took me to a local cafe to try a special kind of pork and knowing I loved Japanese food, one of them even recommended a place where I could try pesto ramen! When they heard I was dying to ride in a jeepney (google it!), a couple of the exemplary student fellows took me one afternoon for a couple rides in one to another part of town. We walked around the historic Intramuros neighborhood and enjoyed sunset drinks on a rooftop bar with 360 degree views of Manila.
One night, several members of the entire group took us to the fish market where they picked out of fish to be cooked for our dinner just as we began a memorable multicultural session of K-TV (karaoke). I am still overwhelmed by my new Filipino family’s kindness and generosity. Spoiler alert: Yes, I cried when saying my goodbyes.
In thinking about the community mothers in my Takamin group, I cried tears of laughter when one later threw a joke back at me that I had told earlier, I smiled when one of them would always ask, “Miss Amelia, can I ask you a personal question?,” and I was grateful when they surprised me with small tokens and snacks to eat from their hometown. I constantly joked that they would need to give me a list of all the foods they kept telling me to try in the Philippines. By the end of the bootcamp, I was recommending Korean dramas to one and another one inviting me to visit her island paradise of a hometown. But it wasn’t just the community mothers in my group who had a positive impact on me, the entire group inspired me to remember all of the positive work I can still do after leaving the Philippines. I look forward to keeping in touch with all of them!