Hi all! I survived my first week in Philippines!
This week we have been stationed in Manila, learning the history of the Philippines and getting exposed to the drastic extremes of Manila.
I don't really know how to structure this post. I could tell you about all the awesome food the Philippines has, or about how all of my near death experiences have happened this last week and have been the result of INSANE Filipino traffic. Or about the stunning sunsets where the entire sky comes alive with vibrant colors that seem to dance with joy. Or I could tell you about all the wonderful, passionate people I’ve already met and how they have welcomed me with open arms. But I could also tell you about the pollution in Manila. How I find myself coughing throughout the day because the air quality is so bad. I could tell you about the trash and how it covers most every street. And I could tell you about the poverty here. How it is so real and about how too many people live in conditions that no human being should have to live in.
That’s the thing about the Philippines: it openly and so clearly shows the two extremes of the world, the corruption and the beauty. In Manila, so many times I would walk down the street and on one side see a fabulous, elegant building that I’m sure is used by important people to do important things, but on the other side of the street, I would see slums and cardboard and metal scraps used to make shelter for homes and naked children running around, trying to stay cool.
I don’t know what to make of that, and I’ve struggled with it a lot this past week. The people of the Philippines are so joyous, and so proud to be Filipino, despite the corruption and suffering. Part of me is happy to see that, to see that people find so much pure joy despite so much sadness. But part of me is even more hurt by it, and just wants to scream that you shouldn't have to live like this, that you deserve so much more.
I imagine that this is a struggle I’ll sit with everyday while I’m here, and carry it with me long after. But, despite it all, I’m so happy to be here. It’s a whole other world here, and everyday I’m learning so much about myself, the world, and the people of the Philippines and how they remind me to love God with everything I am.
Side note: The YAV program here in the Philippines is structured so that, upon arrival, all the YAVs and the site coordinations travel around the Philippines for the first month so we can get accustomed to the culture before departing to our various work sites. So we’ve just finished up our first week in Manila and tomorrow we leave for Dumaguete City. As most of you know, I was supposed to live and work in Davao, starting around the beginning of October. Since the bombing occurred in Davao just days after our arrival, my living situation has been changed. I’ll now be living on the northern most Island in the heart of the mountains, where I’ll work on an organic farm and with indigenous communities nearby. While I’m sad to miss out on Davao, and my heart breaks for the families that lost loved ones, I’m so excited to go home to the mountains. I don't have any concrete details yet, but hopefully will soon.
Blessings to everyone back home