A Long Walk to the Philippines

DSCF0679Kamusta?

A few months back I was looking for an “affordable” internship outside India, and this search led me to apply in various parts of the world, from China to America. Finally, I was accepted to one in the Philippines. This was internship that did not only provide me with free accommodation but, at the end of it, many new friends I can count on. This was an internship with World Youth Alliance Asia Pacific (WYAAP).

I still remember my Skype interview using my friend’s laptop. At the time I thought this, too, was a “distant dream” because it would have been very expensive for me to go, if ever I was accepted. But I was fortunate enough that WYAAP, my family, and even my university, in different ways, contributed to my being able to go. And now here I am almost at the end of it, sharing all that I have learned here!

I was really scared when I first stepped into the country. I was alone and did not know anyone. All that guided me were a bunch of emails with directions that told me what to do. People say the first step is always the hardest one, and I had proven that here! After witnessing loads of traffic, huge amounts of pollution and the scorching heat after the first three hours of my arrival in April, I was certain I wanted to leave earlier than planned.

But real journey began after all the initial “mess.” I was welcomed into a small office by a bunch of people with so much warmth and excitement. That was the first time I felt relieved in Philippines. Even at the flat where I was alone for the first 15 days, all I had for company was a scary painting that did not let me sleep for the first few nights. Thankfully, things got better.

I gradually found people I could share things with. I found people who cared about me and that I had learned to care about. I experienced a lot of ups and downs in these three months but I was lucky enough to find right people at the right time.

In WYA we are taught about the importance of every human person. Each week we had discussions on various topics – Dignity, Freedom, Solidarity – and I learned to apply these lessons in our Certified Training Program to what I experienced in the internship every day. Each event that I participated in, especially the Summer Camp, helped me grow as an individual in this three-month long journey.

Lucky for me I did not only meet Filipinos, but also someone from Pakistan for the first time. The camp was a different experience, and I have nothing but good relationships and memories to bring back home with me. Now I am not worried about coming back here because I have enough friends to take me around the different regions in the Philippines!

I have spent a quarter of this year in a place and culture that is completely alien to me – from the food, to the language, and even the celebrations. Yet that was the beauty of this whole experience. I really wish I could have spent a little more time, met more people, experienced more things and explored more places, but whatever I had made out of my little stay were satisfying and memorable. I will be leaving with a smile on my face, loads of memories in my bag and a wish to return once more.

Salamat po for all the smiles, for all the dances, for all the care and for all the love, Philippines!

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Written by Ahsaas Vermaformer intern at the WYA Asia Pacific office, and a Summer Camp 2016 graduate.