This is a short update after my first couple of weeks in the Philippines. I’ll be spending 8 months here, to volunteer at a SOS children’s village. My project is supported by the „weltwaerts“-program by the german government, which sends young people to projects of different kinds all around the world to volunteer where help is needed. (www.weltwaerts.de)
I am located in Iloilo city in the island of panay. They call it the “heart of the Philippines“ and indeed it is way more endearing than other asian major cities usually are. Plenty of colonial buildings from the Spanish can be found, most of them haunted, which makes them even more interesting. There is a lot to explore and I’ll definitely write a city guide whenever I feel able to do so. 🙂
For now I talk about my first impression of the country and its people. It is different to Indonesia, even though I can’t make out in which aspects yet. Hospitality to the power of thousand, it’s disturbing sometimes. Most importantly plastic waster and garbage burner. It makes me so inconceivable angry. Their over the top affection for America just as well. Everything has to be super tacky, neon colored and with loads of glitter preferably. When they proudly showed me the decoration for the christmas party they worked on for weeks, I had the urge to gag… I reckon this obsession is heir to colonial times. Since they haven’t had space to stand on their own feet/develop an independent culture, they seek for a role model to teach them. How everybody has the same taste in music: cheesy american boy bands. The fact that they follow Miss World/Universe beauty contests like a presidential election.
This country keeps surprising me though. Just when I finished to draw the picture I described, that small subdivision (25,000 people) at the gates of Iloilo was having a festival to celebrate the pantat (catfish). That subdivision where children in the public schools don’t have books, college graduates work on the till and old ladies gamble away their savings at mahjong tables. The highlight of the festivities took place on the last day: the tribe contest. I was invited by the major to sit in the lounge to watch. (Thank god, cause we had rainy season at its best) Five different tribes had an at least 5 minutes performance with elaborate costumes, décor, choreographies and the drums in the background. I couldn’t believe my eyes what in some cases grade schoolers were able to accomplish. So I have to resign from my early judgement about the no culture-thing. I’m excited for more!