Well it’s been a busy few weeks here in Flower-land, what with trying to study and learn, while still trying to keep up with work, the house, kids etc. Then throw into the mix my first ever trip overseas!!
That’s right, I left Oz (I came back though because, let’s face it, this country rocks!)
The Philippines.. it might not be everyone’s first choice in overseas destinations, but it worked for me.
You see, my Dad moved to General Santos, in the Philippines, around 6 years ago. He found himself a wonderful lady over there, and she finally convinced him to make an honest woman of her. Unfortunately my husband couldn’t get time off work, so my youngest boy and I set off to witness the wedding, and finally meet all of Dads new family. I’m so very glad we did.
During the lead up to the trip, Master J and I were talking about the different culture and way of living. The different standards, and poverty. I wanted him to be a little prepared for how things might be, and what we might see. Being the sweet and kind-hearted boy that he is, Master J immediately wanted to help in some way, however we could. He was especially concerned with the idea of children living with very little. We decided that maybe we could bring some things with us to help needy children. So we contacted Dad’s bride Macqui, and she told us about an orphanage not to far from them.
So the plan was put in motion. We decided clothes would always be needed, and some toys to play with. Master J went through his dinky cars and came up with a good sized bag to take. I hunted down all the bargains and super cheap clothes on offer at work. A caring community member donated some Barbie’s. In the end we had a large sized suitcase FULL of stuff for the kids.
So we packed up, meet up with my Aunty and Cousin who were also coming, and headed off over seas!
After 2 flights we had an overnight stop over in Manila. All I can say is I am so glad my Aunty was there! As we left the airport the noise and confusion was overwhelming. People everywhere, and all talking in languages I couldn’t understand. I’m not a fan of crowds at the best of times, so I was totally freaked out in seconds. However we finally found a taxi, and started making our slow journey to the hotel. I say slow, because Holey Moley the traffic there is crazy!! Cars, tricycles and bikes everywhere, all going wherever they want with seemingly no road rules! Just beep the horn and push on through! We had buses and bikes within an inch of our taxi, always stopping and started, and constant horn tooting.
Trying to distract myself from the chaos of the roads, I looked out the windows and tried to take it all in.
It was like a punch to the gut.
Buildings in various stages of disrepair, power-lines hanging down, people digging through rubbish. Even a family camped on the side of the road under a makeshift tarp, cooking a meal on a small fire, while Mum breastfed her baby. Seeing that, knowing that is how some people live, it was a real reality check for me.
The next day we continued our journey to our final destination, General Santos. Known as GenSan, it is a much smaller city than Manila, which made it much easier to cope with. Still very busy, still crazy traffic, but at a level I could manage. GenSan does not appear to be set up for tourists in any way, but is real. It’s down-to-earth, this-is-how-we-live Philippines….and I love it.
It’s full of bustle, people packed in everywhere..but everyone is happy. Everyone is polite, and so very friendly.
So we met up with Dad, and the holiday started in earnest. We finally got to meet Dad’s new family. They were so lovely, so pleased to meet us, and immediately treated us like part of the tribe. It was fantastic! We went through Master J’s ‘Philippine’s Bucket List’ and started ticking things off.
Then there was the wedding. Absolutely beautiful, religious and traditional, it was great. The best bit was seeing my Dad so happy. Knowing he has found a place for himself, and is part of a wonderful family. Master J was part of the bridal party, as the bible bearer, and as such wore a traditional Filipino shirt called a Barong. He absolutely loved it 🙂
A few days later we visited the orphanage. Saint Gemma Galgani’s Home For Children. It was a small place, with only 12 children in residence. Some were orphans, others had both parents in jail. Others had been abandoned, and nobody knew where their parents were. There were a few groups of siblings there, as I was pleased to find out that they do not separate siblings. There was even a lady with a small baby. Her husband had recently gone to jail, and they had nowhere else to go, so they were taken in and looked after.
The lady who ran it was wonderful. You could see the caring bond she shared with the kids.
What stuck me the most was the children themselves. They had very little, lived very simply, but they were happy. They were clean and well fed. Full of life and energy. You could see they felt secure and loved. It was amazing to see what had been achieved with very little, relying on donations to get by.
So it was time to give out our donations. The kids were so excited, as were master J and I!! They were so appreciative of everything, so excited, both by toys, and having new clothes. The carer said as the clothes we gave were all new they will be saved for their ‘best’. For wearing to church, outings, and to meet prospective families in. The stationary went into a box for their art lessons, and the toys they played with straight away! As expected the little girls went for the dolls, and most boys went to the cars and started racing.
What was great though, was the puppets. Everyone loved them. They also really helped break down the language barrier, and allowed Master J to play and talk to the kids easier. He had a ball, and was really in his element, making sure that everyone had a toy or three, and that nobody was left out. He even hand delivered a puppet to a young lad that was wheelchair bound. He was mentally handicapped, and didn’t really seem to understand what was going on, but Master J made sure he didn’t miss out 🙂 I have never been so proud of my little man.
The Filipino people, as a whole, seem to be a very happy people. They are very polite, and so very welcoming. The whole time we were there I didn’t hear a raised voice. Not one argument. Just so many smiles
They live in what we class as ‘third world’ conditions. They don’t have much, and certainly nothing to spare. Wealth is measured by if you can afford tin for your roof. So many live in cottages made from woven palm leaves and bamboo. Families sharing a house with many generations, parents and their children in one room. Chickens and roosters are raised as necessity, and slaughtered often for the pot. Children play with what they can find, not plastic toys and electronics. Yet things are harmonious. Children laugh and play, people are happy.
Maybe we all could do with a little less.