I realized I haven’t been the best at uploading pictures of my experiences in the Philippines, so I figured I’d go through all the pictures that I had (and steal a bunch from my fellow YAVs cause they take better pictures than me) and see what story they told. They leave some gaps in my time here, naturally, but I think they paint an interesting portrait of my time here. I hope you enjoy this glimpse into my life here as much as I enjoyed compiling it!
So I guess I should start at the beginning? I was so young back then…
First up, some introductions are in order. One of the major tenets of the YAV program, and of the Philippines site in particular, is relationship building. The people I have met during my YAV year have by far been the most influential part of my experience here. Far more people than I could possibly count have made this all possible, so this is just a small sampling of the wonderful lives that have left a mark on mine.
There are no words to describe my love, appreciation, and gratitude to have these two be a part of my life. My fellow YAVs serving in the Philippines with me, Katheryn and Akilah, have challenged me, kept me grounded, provided listening ears when all I wanted to do was scream or cry or both, and have been there for me in all the ways a human possibly can be. We’ve gotten pretty good at taking ridiculous pictures, so you’re gonna be seeing a lot of them.
I would say we have a healthy, respectful relationship.
And then there’s my host family. The Quizos are the epitome of the hospitable, welcoming Filipino spirit. There are no words to describe all they’ve done to make Dumaguete a second home for me. They have been there for the highs and lows and have put up with my weird self through it all.
One of the many fun perks of the office I work at is the opportunity to meet countless local artists who use their creativity to give voice to countless issues. Considering I have all the artistic ability of a raccoon, I’m so grateful for all I’ve learned from them, for the relationships formed, and for ways they’ve helped me explore the Philippines.
Over the course of a year, I’ve met countless people from a variety of backgrounds representing the diverse tapestry of Filipino life and culture. Whether I talked with them for months or just for an afternoon, their stories have been what have taught me the most about life in the Philippines.
I was also able to reconnect with friends I met when I came to the Philippines in high school. I even got to briefly revisit the high school that hosted my group.
I’ll never forget the first time I flew into the city that would host me for the majority of my time here. The runway at the airport juts a little bit into the sea, so all landings have their final approach over the water. Right before the plane touches down, there’s one final drop onto a runway you can’t yet see, and, for a split second, you can’t help but feel like you’re just going to crash into the ocean. Thankfully, land appears at the last second to catch you and bring you home. I feel like Dumaguete does that a lot for me: catches me when I feel like I’m falling and provides with a home. Whether you look east to the sea, or west to the mountains, it’s not hard to figure out why they call this place “the City of Gentle People.”
As part of our commissioning as volunteers in the Philippines, our site coordinators presented us with malongs. They can be used as everything from clothing to bedding and have become quite the aid during our year here. Here we are discovering their potential.
Meals have been an adventure of their own. Whether drinking water from a freshly picked coconut or sucking a partially formed fertilized chicken embryo straight out of the shell, Filipino food never fails to provide a fun story.
Ben Franklin said only two things were certain in life: death and taxes. If he had spent time in the Philippines, he might’ve added fish. If you love fish, you’ll love the Philippines. If you don’t, then you’ll learn to once you get here.
No explanation on Filipino food is complete without a shoutout to lechon baboy (grilled pig). It’s the go-to food for whenever there’s a party or large celebration. The hosts bring out the whole pig and then everyone goes in at once carving out as much as they can with knives and forks.
Living in an island country also ensures that travel is also always an adventure.
We spent our first in the Philippines in Manila/Quezon and there we had our introduction to Filipino transport. As one of the most densely populated cities in the world, the subway gets quite crowded. During rush hour, the train would pull up impossibly full with computers to a station equally crowded, and somehow everyone would squeeze into the car. When I breathed in, I could feel the space where my stomach was fill with 2 or 3 more commuters.
Thankfully, Dumaguete isn’t quite as crowded as Manila. Motorbikes and tricycles dominate the streets here, and nowhere is more than 15 minutes away.
When traveling around the country, boats and buses are the cheapest and easiest. Inter-island travel requires a good bit of patience and willingness to expect the unexpected.
Of course, more boat rides means more opportunities for grand pictures.
Including my one true dream of becoming a ship’s figurehead.
And naturally, Titanic references galore.
And of course, there’s always time for crazy adventures.
Through all the crazy adventures, food, travel, and friendships of the past year, I’m so grateful and humbled by the communities that have welcomed me, and no picture can depict that. Still, I hope this post conveyed a little bit of why I love this place so much.
I suppose all I have to say now is: