Saturday, May 10, 2014

Philippine Philanthropy

Last weekend, 16 students, 2 other teachers, and I flew off to Kalibo Philippines to visit a school there that had been hit by the catastrophic super typhoon Haiyan.  Last semester, in November, our Middle School raised over $2,000 to assist this school's recovery.  We now got the opportunity to go visit them and spread some much needed love to the children of this school.

We set off early Thursday morning, and it wasn't until late Thursday night that we finally arrived at our sleeping quarters, which was Catholic seminary there in Kalibo.  The next morning was when we went to the school.  The plan was for us to work in the morning, and then after lunch we would have time for playing with the children and then we would exchange performances in the afternoon.  We didn't know exactly what work they wanted us to do, but we arrived with a willing heart to serve them in whatever manner possible.  The first thing they did was to take us to their garden, which had been completely destroyed and roughed up by the typhoon.  When we arrived there was already an old man working an old steel plow being pulled by an ox.  Amazing to see the use of technology that dates back to around 3000 BC with Ancient Mesopotamia still being used today.  After admiring it for a bit, he soon asked if we would care to give it a try, and a few of us, myself included took quick turns working the plow and driving the ox.  It was pretty cool.  Afterwards, they took us the real job that they wanted us to do, which was paint their front fence.  Acting as the trips photographer, I was making sure to snap pictures of my students working hard, but in the meantime I was also taking time to get to know and just be silly with the kids at that school.  They were so fun to just goof off with and talk to that I at times forgot that I was supposed to be working and was getting accused by my students of slacking off.  Although I did work, it was these moments of talking with the children that were most rewarding.  While I was talking to my favorite kid, Jefferson, I was served a huge Southern-sized helping of Humble Pie.  In a group of about 10 or so students who had surrounded me while I was painting, Fredrick began to ask me if I knew about the typhoon Haiyan that had come through the area.  After confirming that I had, I began to ask the kids about their experience with the typhoon and most of them replied that it was very scary.  But Jefferson gave me more insight to how the community continues to suffer from the storm as he explained the the typhoon had ripped the roof off of his house and that he still, six months later, does not have a roof on his house.  It's always amazing to learn and see what children in different parts of the world have to endure, and yet how soon we forget when we are given those reminders and go back to complaining about taxes, traffic, or whatever else mundane first-world crap we like to bicker and whine about.

Jefferson giving me a bigger smile

We only worked for about an hour before the Filipinos told us it was too hot to work, which we completely agreed! So instead, they decided to roll out our lunch for us a bit early.  They prepared so much food for us but the most notable item was the lechon, which is a full pig that is splayed over a bamboo spit and has been cooked crispy.  They also had available for us the Filipino delicacy called balut.  This is a partially fertilized duck egg in which the embryo has already begun to take form and in some you can even find feathers.  A few of us wanted to try just for the experience but only one of us actually ate the whole thing, and it was a 7th grade girl!  I just could not overcome the mental aspect of what I was eating and the texture.  Within two chews I felt my stomach involuntarily trying to turn itself inside out.  We tried not to offend them, but I actually think they found it amusing to watch us try to eat it.

After lunch the kids had a number of performances for us including a choreographed dance, a cultural stick dance, a cute little girl singing "Let it Go", and the highlight was my new buddy Jefferson bringing down the house with a beautiful Filipino song.  After their performances had finished, it became our turn to entertain them and for this we had prepared a couple rap songs to perform.  First, me and two other students rapped the Black Eyed Peas song "Where is the Love?" with the girls singing the chorus.  It was fun seeing the Filipino's, who really love their music, get into it and start swaying their hands during the song.  Next two of my students took the lead rapping "Hall of Fame" by The Script, with other students filling in other minor roles of the song.  I had a lot of fun with it, but I know many of my students were very nervous, but I thought they did great.

Next was a series of different games we played with the students of their school.  Games such as a sack race, a cross-dressing relay race, a pseudo-pinata game and then there was this game where you walk on coconut shells as stilts, however we didn't get to play that game because as we took turns practicing my weight broke the shell (I felt like the kid from Sandlot after hitting the homerun causing them to not to be able to play anymore).  The games ended with a series of volleyball games, their main sport, in which they embarrassed us all in good fun.  The games wrapped up a fun day getting to share so much joy with the students of the Philippines and of our students as well.

The next day was our "fun day", although our work/service day turned into a fun day as well, for this day we were taking our students to the world renowned Boracay Beach (TripAdvisor ranked #19 beach in the world).  It was a full day to just let loose and have fun at the beach and surrounding shops, and a great opportunity for bonding with my students.

On the last day before we were traveling back to Singapore we got to witness a mass at a local cathedral (the one that one of the other teachers on the trip and his wife were married in).  On the way back we had a long layover in the city of Cebu, which just so happens to be the place were Ferdinand Magellan was killed.  Ferdinand Magellan, as you hopefully know, is the Portuguese explorer, sailing for Spain, who is credited with sailing all the way around the world.  However, he didn't actually make it as he was killed in the Philippines.  It was his crew that continued and finished circumnavigating the globe.  So of course I was super excited to go see the place where he was killed in a battle that took place on the beach.  We had to add a little history into the trip while we were in the Philippines!

Eventually we made it back to Singapore.  With the trip concluded I am very thankful for both the opportunity to get to know and interact with the children in the Philippines who were so kind and always happy, but also the time to get to bond with my students who rarely get to see me step out of the "teacher" role.  I think they finally realized how cool I am :)

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