Wow, we fly out in the morning. I can’t believe it. This trip has been an absolutely wonderful experience and one I will be forever grateful for. After the stress of the middle third of the trip (we had four flights over a three day span), the last couple days we spent at the beach in Batangas, at a resort courtesy of one of the Daughters of Charity’s uncle, and the Mall of Asia. I spent yesterday in the warm water of the central Pacific, soaking up the sun (confession: I got pretty badly sunburnt) and seeing my first coral reef. It may have been the best beach water I have ever had the opportunity to swim in. Oh, and how could I not say more about the coral reef? Sure it was a bit bleached and devoid of its famous colors, but it was amazing to see hundreds of fish swimming around. It was like living inside of Finding Nemo. It was beautiful really, and a small miracle. Our three hour drive seemed doomed by rain clouds. The Daughters of Charity, God bless them, really, accompanied us as they cooked us another feast of a dinner. A few of us rose early the next morning to take pictures of the sunrise over the water. After a night of on and off rain, we were gifted with a rainbow to go along with our sunrise. We soon packed up and left Batangas for a trip to the Mall of Asia, a shopping mall big enough to function as its own city. The store Kultura, packed with all things Filipino, served as a great base of activity as we all bought souvenirs consisting predominantly of mangoes (the mangoes here are heavenly) and pearls. I also finally got the opportunity to try Jollibee, the Philippines’ own fast food chain that serves items disparate as fried chicken, spaghetti and red sauce, and cheese burgers. And of course rice; no Filipino meal would be complete without rice.
While that was all great fun, I don’t want it to distract from what this trip did for me personally. For one, I got to meet with almost all of our borrowers in the Philippines. These were the people that GLOBE always set out to help. These were the people we spent those countless hours organizing fundraisers for. I’ll never forget sitting down for meals with the borrowers and their families in Libon, or the smiles and energy of the women in IloIlo City. For me it showed me there is a world outside of Queens, a world that is not necessarily Paris or Rome. None of those cities have anything close to the sheer magnitude and depth of Manila’s poverty. The images of the city were unlike anything I had ever seen before. The filth and squalor and abjection that much of the city has to live in, yet in the same city that can house a mall as prolific as the Mall of Asia. I can now say I have seen what poverty looks like, what someone means when they say developing world.
I have been contemplating applying for a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship for about a year now. Most of the countries I have looked at working in are a part of the developing world and are generally a part of Southeast Asia. After spending (a short) time in the Philippines, I have an idea of what I can bring to the table and why the work I want to do is so important. For many, education (which is almost synonymous with access to the English language) is the way to escape the cycle of poverty and advance in life. This trip has made me think only further on how I can contribute. I would like to thank everyone involved for giving me this opportunity and Dr. Sama for this extremely vital experience. Your work for us students does not go unnoticed. Now, back to the States!