So picture this: You finally finish up your month long orientation traveling around the Philippines and you leave behind your wonderful community of fellow Philippine YAVS and you move into a tiny new village out in the mountains with a new family. The only way to town is either a jeepney ride or to simply walk the hour walk on the rural but beautiful mountain road overlooking waterfalls and rice terraces as you walk. Three days in to your new life, you muster up the courage to walk to town by yourself. You make it about half way, but then a stray dog comes up, takes you by surprise, and bites you. It isn't a bad bite, more like a little nick, but the bite did break through the skin. So you call your host mom who tells you to immediately go to the clinic. Fortunately, the jeepney passes by so you catch a ride and go straight to the clinic. At the clinic, they give you a shot and antibiotics, but say you also have to get a rabies shot, which you can only get tomorrow in the next town over. After constant calls between your host mom and your site coordinator, it is decided that you will take the bus that night to Baguio (the nearest urban city) which is six hours away, and get your shot there the next day. About 10 mins before you leave your house to catch a ride to town to then catch the bus to Baguio, you discover you lost your wallet (Passport and cards were fortunately safely packed away). You tear your room apart but cannot find it. Your sweet grandmother steps in to save the day, and gives you enough money for the jeepney ride to town, and from there you can use the ATM to get some cash for the bus ride. You get to town and go straight to the ATM, but it doesn't work. It says it wont accept foreign cards. So you go to another ATM. Same response. You run to the bank where you then discover that there’s no ATM in town that can accommodate a foreign card and no other way to get instant cash. So you call your site coordinator in a panic and she saves the day by sending a friend to meet you and give you enough money to cover the bus ticket. So you’re finally ready to get on the bus when you get a call from your host mom who says she found someone with the rabies shot here in town. At this point, you have absolutely no idea what in the world is going on with your ridiculous life, but you obediently walk to the hospital, where you meet your host sister, and where you receive the rabies shot by a nurse on staff. You then go back home and just go to sleep because your mind and body are both done and you can no longer comprehend anything.
You wake up the next day to relay the crazy story to your parents and all the emotions finally come up at once and you burst into tears in a public restaurant because NO, this is not how your new adventure is supposed the begin.
I guess I should pause here and say I’m fine, and I’ll explain way.
Though that day was terrible and traumatic and not at all how I wanted to start off my new life in the Philippines, I was overwhelmed with the immediate love and hospitality I received. At that point, I had only known my host family for three days yet my mother was constantly calling to see how I was, and was using every connection possible to make sure I got the right treatment. My site coordinator also kept in constant communication, and made sure every step of the way I was safe and got what I needed. My grandmother was willing to give up her allowance for the entire week just to make sure I got that bus ticket, and my host sister graciously met up with me right after she finished school so I wouldn't have to be alone.
The Philippines may have many flaws, and many aspects that are hard for me to adjust to, but today I am immensely thankful to live in a culture where community is life. On Saturday I became part of a community that takes care of each other, despite how long or short they know each other.
Life here is world’s different than life at home. I live in an indigenous community with a host family and my host mom has an organic farm and is a huge advocate for indigenous rights and organic farming. So I get to follow her around and soak up as much as I can about life, farming, and what it means to be indigenous and live in a modern world. Day to day life is a much slower pace than I’m used to. Everyone rises early at about 5:30, but its not so bad because my room faces east so every morning I get to watch the sun rise over the mountains and see the world come alive. My sisters have to leave the house by 6:45 to catch the jeep to town to get to school and I have to do garden work early. The sun sets at six and street lights are not really a thing here so life really shuts down after dark. This means 9 is pretty much bedtime, but since I get up at five, I don't complain. Our house doesn't have a shower or hot water, so I’m getting used to cold bucket showers. Once you get passed the initial shock of the first pour, its quite nice. And although we have running water, the water pressure is very low and only sometimes is there water so its a gamble every time I turn the faucet as to whether or not water will actually come out (It never fails that every time I need to brush my teeth there is no water). And cockroaches are unavoidable now. Sometimes I see about three or four just scurrying around all the walls.
But, whenever I’m hungry I can go outside and grab a fresh orange from the trees or go down to the garden and harvest some string beans. And whenever I’m craving some beautiful scenery, I simple walk down the road to where it ends and follow the path through the many rice terraces and beautiful green mountains to my favorite little secluded hill overlooking it all.
The stillness, quiet, and simplicity of life here was tough at fist, but now I find it quite healing and invigorating. This beautiful little community has so much culture, and so much to teach about peace, healing, and resilience. Their history is one that is filled with much corruption, injustice, and war, but yet they found a way to heal and retain who they are as community and as a culture. I am grateful and humbled to walk with them, if only for a short time, and learn to heal and be resilient and attain who I am, despite a broken world.