Deciding to go!

Manila Travel Blog

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“If you ever went back to the Philippines would you take me?” my 12-year-old olive skinned sister asked my mum.

“Yes, probably.  If you wanted to go.”

“Would you take me?” I 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 a nurse when she was ??, 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 10 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 of all, then around Asia a bit then Australia and New Zealand then finishing up in the States.  She put me down as 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, 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 they 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. Volunteer for the Visayans 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 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 to one of her friend’s house parties – both of which, were years ago when I was 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 the main aims for my trip.  To see my mother’s country and learn about the culture. 

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photo by: Deats