Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Taking you back to 12th Feb 2007

Feeling a little tired and lazy this week as work is super busy but I would like to post every few days so I thought I would post a blog that I wrote a few years back when I was going to the Philippines, a sort of get-to-know-me post and a little insight into my travel experience.  I will put up the rest of the posts over the next few weeks and mix them in with regular posts, I hope you enjoy them - this trip meant a lot to me.

"Monday, 12th Feb 2007

Current Mood: Nervous

"If you ever went back to the Philippines, would you take me?" my 12 year-old older olive skinned sister asked my mum.
"Yes, probably.  If you wanted to go."
"Would you take me?" Eight-year-old me asked, expecting the same answer.
"Why?!"  I was outraged that she thought I was too young.
"Because you're white."

My mum wasn't being harsh, and she didn't mean to be nasty.  But my mum who was born in the Philippines and came over to the UK to be nurse when she was 18, and she knew that white people were treated differently over there - and being white would mean "the bad guys" would automatically think that I was rich.  And that could mean anything from kidnapping to mugging.

But I am going to go, in 4 weeks time - finally, at the age of 23.  Luckily my skin has got darker as I've got older but my sister Grace still looks much more like a Filipina than I do.

This trip all started because of Grace.  She was planning a trip, going to the Philippines first, then around Asia a bit before going to Australia and New Zealand, and finishing up in the States.  She put me down a a character reference when applying to volunteer in a Filipino orphanage, and I was really interested in it.  I looked at the website and testimonials of some people that had volunteered there before and thought it was a really good, interesting thing to do - and all for a good cause.  I said in passing that I'd like to do something like that, quickly got caught up in her excitement and, before I knew it, I was going!

Persuading my mum to help me out with paying for it was another matter.  I'm 23, work full-time and don't live at home so she could easily have told me "no way".  But my sister and I went for the 'safety in numbers' approach and she realised that she would feel much better if Grace and I went to the Philippines together, than letting her go by herself.

The volunteer organisation that we are going with is called Volunteer for the Visayans.  They're a non-profit organisation who, not only place foreign volunteers in community projects, but also raise money for local projects.  They're helping to support a new facility under construction, which will be used to house the street children and they collect donations and basic necessities such as used clothing, to distribute to these children.  VFV also collects educational resources to distribute to rural schools where basic books and school supplies are not available.

There are a number of different volunteer programs to choose from - teaching English, working with the Social Department/City Nutrition Office/Community Health Clinic, working with street children.  I immediately chose the orphanage, as I'd previously worked in a nursery and had childcare qualifications.

I was quite surprised that we had to pay to volunteer [2010: Naive little me!] but they can't keep running on kindness alone, and they do provide the accommodation.  Volunteers are placed with Filipino families, close to the placements.  This is going to be a challenge for me, as I'm fairly shy with new people and can't speak the language!

My only experiences of Filipinos are occasional visits to my mum's cousins who live in London, and house parties of one of my mum's friends - both of which, were years ago when I was much younger.  And the annual Filipino Festival that is held in Campbell Park in Milton Keynes - I've only been 3 times, despite living here for 21 years.  So from what I can remember, Filipino people (I can only really comment on the women) are extremely friendly and are always encouraging you to eat!  I only know one word in their language, which I'm told is Tagalog - "pancit" which is my favourite dish, noodles with vegetables and meat!  My mum always spoke English at home but her relatives/friends mainly spoke Filipino and still had the accents - maybe because they were around each other more, and regularly visited home.  A few years ago, my little cousin came to visit me and, although being 14 and living in London all her life, she knew much more about the country and culture than I did.  I felt quite regretful and ashamed that I never knew the customs or language, and yet I still call myself half-Filipina.

So that's one of my main aims for my trip.  To see my mother's country and learn about the culture."


  1. I think first of all it's great that you were able and willing to take the time to volunteer your time while in the Philippines. I've wanted to travel a lot because my grandmother while she was alive travelled all over and always sent me back something (Spain, Italy, Morocco, Greece, Egypt, Turkey, Thailand, etc.).

    Japan being a country I have liked a lot for many reasons albeit there are many European countries I'd love to visit. My parents also would have concerns whether I was with friends or family. I think it's only natural, and in fact I'd likely have my own concerns as well. Going to foreign countries is exciting and scary at once.

    I also think it's great that it gives one such as yourself that chance to learn your ethnic culture. I'm German/Danish and never been to either country myself nor do I know any of the language except hello in German.

  2. I would have never thought of you being half Filipina! :)) Your father's genes are strong. lol. Well, I'll be honest. I grew up in the Phlippines and I'm now residing in the States. My friends and I look past skin color but some of the humble Filipinos who see people with skin tend to put them on a pedestal for being part of the white race. I grew up in Makati so there are a lot of tourists there and it always made me laugh whenever I'd see women go, "Ay puti! Mayaman siguro." (Oh he's white! He's probably rich) It's the norm, I guess. Street children will follow you around, that's for sure.

    I'm part Filipino and I love my country. If you do go to the Visayan region, they will treat you like a queen. They love tourists! :) They most especially like it when you eat the specialty food of the provinces you visit.

    I suggest for you to go to Bicol. My mom went there and saw a tarsier and entered a cave for a measly Php 5.00. There'a also a dolphin watching show wherein you go in the middle of the sea at 5 am. :)

    You should visit! Go to Boracay and visit the wonderful beaches! Be sure to be with your family that are locals because you might get cheated with the prices.

  3. Wow, first of all thanks guys for taking the time to post - I've just discovered your comments!

    The 'E' girl: Your grandmother was very lucky to travel so extensively, it was quite unusual to go to exotic places in those days wasn't it? I bet she had some amazing tales to tell you! How lovely that you've got souveniers, it must be lovely to think about what she was doing it each of those countries when she got them for you. Those will make very special heirlooms in the future.

    I'm quite used to going on holiday where most people speak fairly good English, eg. Greece but travelling to a place that isn't touristy in the slightest was daunting to say the least. I did try to learn a few words before the trip but, as it turns out, the place we went to which was called Bliss, had their own dialect which was slightly different to Tagalog. I did try to speak a bit while I was out there but to be honest, the most useful words were the ones I could use while working in the orphanage. My sister and I were glad we had each other as company!

    Do you plan to visit Germany or Holland in the future?

    Toni Tralala -
    I know, I really look like my dad! I always say the colour ran out after my sister, she's much darker than me (but still not really Filipino looking either!). People never believe my mum is actually my mum!

    I've actually taken the trip already, back in 2007. This post was merely "going back in time", I hoped it would make interesting reading! My sister and I stayed for 3 weeks with a family in Bliss, Tacloban City and didn't really do any touristy stuff as we were working the majority of the day in the orphanage and spending time in the community the rest of the time. It was an amazing and humbling experience and I really do think it changed my life - I will never forget it, or the people I met there. I think about them often. I'd DEFINITELY like to go back to the Philippines again. Do you go back often to visit family?

  4. I would like very much to go to Germany at some point. I just don't know when that might happen as of yet. Life has taken a few curve balls recently not necessarily for the worse. Just weathering another rough patch, but things could definitely be worse.

    I had penpals in London and Germany years ago when I was around 14 years old whom I wrote back and forth to. My favorite thing about the penpal from Germany was the stickers she'd send me in all our correspondence. I never asked her to send them and they were so appreciated. I think I had to find neat stickers over here then to send back or other items that could fit in with letters. Limited packing space haha!!

    Isn't it funny how so many cultures have their own dialects or slang based on region, age, and other factors. I barely keep up with some of it over here in the US.