Magandang tanghali! Alas kwatra na ng hapon!
Good afternoon! It is 4 o’clock in the afternoon. (There is a 12 hour difference between the Philippines and Michigan)
Manila is very different from my hometown and Ann Arbor. Everything is very fast, yet also very slow – quite contradictory, I know. It’s fast in that there is always so much going on in the city. Cars are everywhere, flooding the streets and weaving around other vehicles with such speed that leaves one amazed that there aren’t more car accidents. Jeepneys, buses, and metro trains jam packed with people. Even at night, Manila is filled with life. People roaming about the streets, eating street food or bouncing to the next bar. So much is going on, which I love about Manila. There’s never a dull moment; always something to do.
However, Manila can also be very slow. It goes by what many people like to call “Filipino time”. Upon my arrival, my program supervisor, Lito, advised us to be patient because everything would take much longer – traffic, food, transactions – everything is late, or just simply on “Filipino time”. While frustrating sometimes, particularly when you’re in a rush to get somewhere or starving for that bowl of ramen, it is also refreshing. People actually take the time to enjoy themselves and each other’s company, which was complementary to the hospitable nature of most Filipinos here.
Everywhere we go, we get a smile, a nod, or a “hello”. People here are easy to converse with, despite the language barrier, genuine in their intentions of getting to know us better. They’re also very willing to share their own stories and cultures with us. Even more willing to share their food and home with us.
I remember there was one time while we were visiting a patient in Happyland in Tondo, we were welcomed with open arms. Even though they were very poor and had minimal food, they offered us some mangoes to eat. However, knowing how hard food can be to get for them, we politely refused. Even more heartwarming was when her father asked us to sit down, pulling out a bench from around the corner and moving it out all the way next to the table. To be honest, when I came to the Philippines, I was afraid of accusations – accusations that I was here for voluntourism. I was afraid of resentment – resentment towards me for being better off or for not giving away all my money. It was irrational, but I couldn’t help but be afraid of people mistaking my desire to get to know and help people, for something else. My interactions with people in the Philippines, including this family, showed me just how wrong I was to have such thoughts. And how quick I was to think the worst. Never once did my fears manifest; most people in Manila are simple and happy. Even if the people living in Happyland have nothing, they go out of their way to make you feel welcome. Even if they have nothing, they actually have everything – they have a strong sense of family, friendship, and community that no amount of money can ever buy. And it shows in their demeanor, the way they interact with us, the way they interact with each other. It just goes to show how irrelevant material goods truly are, and how important family and community are.
I’ve learned a lot about Manila, to say the least. But this would have to be the biggest takeaway and something that I will always remember. I only hope to be able to return again in the future, so that I may see and reconnect with all the friends and family that I have made here.
Bye, ingat po!
Bye, take care!