"There's a million things I haven't done, but just you wait..."

Message to Readers

This was written for my school newspaper after a mission trip to the Philippines. I still feel like there is so much more to be said about that experience, but there was only so much I could possibly put into words. The rest remains in my heart.

The Most Unlikely Place in the World, a Memoir

November 12, 2018



    A smile, a wave, a cheerful hello...and the most unlikely place in the world. This was seen in abundance by the group of 20 grade 11 and 12 students that travelled to the Philippines last spring break. As a group, we participated in a lot of different activities, each imprinted in our hearts in its own special way.
    We interacted with people of all ages, from young children to the elderly. Every activity we engaged in only ensured everyone made more friends and forged connections that will never fade, from playing with children, singing and dancing with high school students, and talking to the elderly. The best part of the whole trip for me was meeting people and getting the chance to interact with them. The only regret I have is not having more time to spend with them. Beyond all that, however, was the amazement that came with seeing the sense of happiness and companionship that surrounds the Filipino culture. There was not a single person who didn’t offer at least a smile, and the hospitality shown to us as guests was unparalleled. This was made all the more memorable when the lifestyles and situations of some of these people came to light.
    In both Manila and Cebu, we had the opportunity to walk through the slums, something most of us hadn’t seen before. They were hard to walk through at times, and it was difficult to imagine that people lived there. Brown, murky water and grainy, rocky sand littered with garbage at every step lined the tumbledown, rickety shacks these people called home. The ground was cemented in parts, bumpy and uneven. Wooden planks crisscrossed over our heads in between the houses, the roofs made of tin sheets. There were wires hanging everywhere, and no lack of stray cats and dogs around every corner. Because of the heat, dust was kicked up when we walked, and with no wind to disperse it, hung around, adding to the already polluted air. There was little to no electricity, although a few people had TVs, and there was a small, roped off section where kids could use the Internet, paying 1 peso for 5 minutes of use. There were people everywhere, either walking or biking through the streets. Most people used the front of their home to sell things to make a living. Everyone sold different things, some meat, vegetables, rice, or spices and staples like soy sauce and salt. Those who weren’t selling were often peeling garlic or making charcoal, the two main ways people earned their keep there. Despite all this, everyone we saw was happy, in ways rare to see in Vancouver. The children would come running up to us, laughing and giving us high fives as we walked by. People looked up from what they were doing, and slowly, a smile would emerge. Then, a wave. Ultimately, they would come out and call hello as we passed, a long-lasting grin on their faces. It seemed the sound we heard the most was laughter, and the expression we saw the most was delight.
    I’m honestly not sure what we were expecting, travelling from Canada to a country that was so distant from what we’re used to. We travelled from a country that seems to have everything, to one that looks like the complete opposite. A country so different from Canada, in more ways than one. Mr. Keong once mentioned that there were “different types of poverty,” and I think it explains the contrast between Canada and the Philippines. We live in a place that is very materialistically rich. Where friendships are determined by social status, social status determined by popularity, and popularity determined by possessions or the way you look and act. Where you no longer show yourself to people as the person you really are, but rather as the person you want others to see you as.
    Travelling to the Philippines, this whole reality of ours was flipped around. One of the first things that was made evident when we landed in the Philippines, particularly in Cebu, was how the Catholic faith was so integrated into everyday life. It was a part of everything people said and did. Because it plays such a huge part in their lives, it’s easier to see why people there show a rich amount of well-being. It was hard to imagine at first how people living in the slums, for example, were so happy. The people in poverty were happier than people who have more than they do. It’s something we saw firsthand coming from Canada, a country that seemingly has everything, to the Philippines, a country so different. To go there and see how happy and welcoming people were, it made me wonder why the culture in Vancouver isn’t like that. I think it’s because the people in the Philippines know what it is that makes someone truly happy. They understand that you don’t need material things to make you happy. They have a place to live, their family, their faith, and that’s all they need. This happiness they portrayed made its way into our own hearts, and the hospitality they showed us went a long way. It’s something that will never be forgotten. How they gave their time for us, and how eager they were to show us their beloved home.
    How they shared a smile, a wave, and a cheerful hello... all in the most unlikely place in the world.


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  • November 12, 2018 - 1:05pm (Now Viewing)

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  • AJ - Izzy

    Love ya, sis :P

    almost 2 years ago
  • AJ - Izzy

    Wow, very cool to see how you interacted with all of these people! I think I know someone very much like you... hope to see you grow in your writing!
    Good luck on WTW, Mer! ;)

    almost 2 years ago