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Top>HAKUMON Chuo [2013 Winter Issue]>[Cultivating global professionals] Light and shadow witnessed in the Philippines

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Cultivating global professionals

Pseudo-family known as a “house” at the home-stay site. An older woman known as “auntie” fulfills the role of mother and looks after the children.
When an auntie accumulates experience, she can become a nanay (mother). Author at far left.

Light and shadow witnessed in the Philippines

Voluntary activities at an orphanage on Cebu Island

Authored and photographed by student reporter Mariko Yajima (3rd year student, Faculty of Law)

“I will participate in overseas volunteer activities.”—
I wrote this sentence down on paper on January 2. Without consulting anyone, I decided to join a volunteer program hosted by the Globe-trotter Travel Guidebook (Diamond, Inc.). The program’s destination was Cebu, the Philippines. Volunteers were to work at the SOS Orphanage, a facility that accommodates children who cannot live with their parents for some reason.

I selected this program because I felt that the home-stay at the orphanage would be a fulfilling challenge. Upon making the decision to participate, I was committed to giving my best effort. I logged into the application form with a strong sense of revolve.

Ignoring my parents’ anxieties over safety in the Philippines and solo travel, I boarded the Narita Express, filled with excitement. However, I also began to feel anxiety as I approached Narita. Although the phrase “Individual volunteers are welcome” was written in the volunteer information, I started to have doubts.

My last trip abroad was 5 years ago. I was worried about a lot of things, including my poor language skills. When I arrived at the Narita Airport, I could almost feel my heart beating with apprehension.

At the airport, I was welcomed by other participants who had arrived earlier. Surprisingly, most of them were individual volunteers like me. Everyone was taking lots of photos with their cameras and smartphones. We became friends before boarding the plane in high spirits, feeling as if several days had already passed.

Differences felt in a country of shining smiles

Together with the people of SOS Orphanage. The author at slightly right from the center, making a peace sign.

I was enveloped by hot tropical air when I disembarked the plane in the Philippines. Next, I saw the smiles of cheerful, carefree people.

Wherever we went in the Philippines, people smiled and waved at us when our eyes met. This is totally different from Japan, where strangers look at each other suspiciously when their eyes meet.

I also witnessed the hard reality of poverty. A begging mother and child reached out toward the window of our large bus. I was confronted with the current situation of the Philippines where many people suffer from poverty, which is different from Japan where many middle-class households live. In the midst of this culture shock, I visited the SOS Orphanage and was welcomed by the bright smiles of children.

The SOS Orphanage is a home to a tatay (father figure) who manages the facilities, a nanay (mother figure) and children in a total of 12 houses.

In contrast to my preconceptions, the children were very friendly and vibrant. I was very surprised by the physical activity of children. Since I had already turned 20 years old, it was impossible for me to keep up with the energy of teenagers. I spent my days running around with them as much as possible. If I got tired, I kept bantering with them while I took a break. Before I knew it, the time to bid farewell had come.

SALAMAT! (Thank you!)

At my farewell party, many children, including ones from different houses, asked me “Will you visit us next year, too?” I was not able to look the children in the eyes and say “Yes.” I felt like I was a terrible adult, but I tried to be honest.

Just before boarding the departing bus, a boy who lived in the house where I stayed called out to me. “Come here,” he said.

He presented me with a flower that looked like a Casa Blanca lily and said thank you. Overwhelmed by his kindness, I could not tell him that his nanay would scold him for being so bold.

Although I had joined the program with only the vague motivation to participate in volunteer activities, I learned a great deal of things. In only eight days, I felt grateful to so many different people—the Filipino people who accepted us although we were strangers, the tour participants with whom I lived together in an unfamiliar environment, and the family members who saw me off warmly, although I brought them many worries.

After clearing the tough challenge of finding employment, I hope that I can keep my promise with them, which I thought is impossible, and visit the orphanage again next year.

Damage by Typhoon No. 30

After I returned to Japan, Cebu was struck by the huge typhoon No. 30. Worried by the devastation reported by television and newspapers, I accessed the website of Diamond, Inc. According to the website, the SOS Orphanage was not damaged and children there are healthy. However, damage was reported at the SOS Orphanage on the Island of Leyte and the entire island is in turmoil. I am deeply concerned.

Food on Cebu Island

A meal in the Philippines

Many foods are flavored strongly with pepper in order to cope with the heat. There are a variety of bananas. I ate a dessert that was produced by dusting a moderately sweet banana with brown sugar and deep-frying it. The local rice is drier than Japanese rice. There is a custom of eating rice with roux like curry.

I came to like a stewed dish produced by simmering banana buds called “hearts” together with bananas and oxtail in peanut sauce. It was so delicious that I had extra helping three times! Also, I often ate white fish.

Volunteer program

This is a program for interacting with the children of SOS Orphanage on Cebu Island, the Philippines and assisting them in daily living. For details, see the travel journal Globe-trotter Travel Guidebook. The program is planned by K.I.S. International. Anyone from teenagers to people in their 60s can join the program. The author participated in a program for college students.