Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

By Ji-Le Tolimao

Somewhere after your “teen years” you reach a point where you start to doubt yourself and the world. Questions like “what is next for me out there,” “did I really make the right decision this time,” is the world ever gonna change,” or something like “how do I trust again,” or “when will my next raise be,” pop out of your mind.
And that’s when the World Youth Alliance comes into picture. It’s a funny story really how I met WYA. I signed up for the organization during the 4th MDG Summit, thinking that it was, in the words of my late grandpa, “an interesting blob in this crazy world.” Sometime in June in 2010, I received an e-mail from WYA thanking me for showing interest and inviting me to join it’s other activities. I replied. Fast forward, Ate Ren, the Regional Director for Asia Pacific, invited me to meet up in Davao City (where I am studying). It was a cloudy afternoon in my parents’ city and they’ve just finished watching the suspense movie “Taken.” For some reason they called me and asked where I was. Being the kid who hates explaining things, I told them I was going to some hotel to meet a Chinese lady I met online (which is true). I hate lying to my parents; but at the same time, I hate explaining to them, so I told them something which is not really true and at the same time not at all false. So my mom panicked, my dad got angry and that’s how I met WYA.
When I was invited to do the Track A training online for members, I was hesitant. I claimed that I loved reading (which Lord knows I do really); but after seeing the 300 page philosophies and whatnot that I was required to read (even if I can actually do it on my ‘own pace’), I felt like my senses died right then and there. So I decided to skip it and learn about WYA from it’s website- Never did it cross my mind that I had to actually read these pages in the future.
My curiosity about WYA peaked when I heard its stand on the RH Bill. It was against it. Being the youth who has always been a supporter of the Bill and so full of questions, I finally decided to get an internship with WYA in March 2011as part of my on-the-job training in my university. Luckily, I got accepted before UNFPA e-mailed me and the U.S. Embassy called me that I got accepted into their offices too. But for some reason again, I chose World Youth Alliance. You wanna know why? Ask my hypothalamus. SO packed with my necessities, my OJT uniform and my Spanish 101 book- which I never got the chance to review, by the way-I traveled to Manila. And lo-and-behold! First day in the office, guess who welcomed me? Drum roll please! The Track-A Manual in all it’s glory- printed and bounded this time! How devious indeed.
Being an intern in WYA taught me creativity and patience when everything you devised for your assigned project(s) don’t go as planned, consideration and perseverance when my housemates have all these bizarre cultural practices and beliefs, excellence when picking choices, independence and innovation when making decisions, friendship among peoples with various backgrounds and most importantly, value on myself and my relationships- with my family, friends and even strangers. But even with all these concepts of love, family solidarity, dignity and freedom being taught to us and even with the discussions I had with Ate Des, the Regional Director for Operations, I still have the feeling that it is not enough- that something was lacking. You know that feeling when you are ready to leave your home and yet you feel like you forgot something? That is what I felt. I may have understood the gist of all the chapters in the Track-A Training Manual; But I still did not really understand what WYA is and why does it go so far as to protect this dignity of the human person and stuff like that. I know what you’re thinking. I am an intern so I should know the answers to the questions to these questions by now. But it doesn’t go that way actually. As a kid with lots of things to learn yet, I want to know more. And I mean MORE. I want to understand WYA more. Since I was in high school, I’ve always believed in the practicality and reality of things around me. Then here comes a group of youths who try to tell me the opposite thing: believe in the power of humanity. It was hard on my part to shift beliefs so suddenly and to trust again because of past experiences. Nevertheless, my mind was beginning to question itself again.
So when I heard about the WYA Summer Camp, despite the fact that it was expensive for a student like me- considering that all my savings go to a kid that I am sponsoring in school- I decided to join the Camp. To be frank, I joined for three reasons: one, because I wanted to go swimming in the beach- what is summer without the beach? Two, because my parents did not allow me to go mountain climbing during my fellow intern, Joanne’s dignity project in Batangas- so I bargained with my parents. And three, because I was seriously desperate to understand WYA.
Coming to the Camp as a participant, was worth it all, to be honest. It was one of my best summers. And frankly, I felt more empowered and learned after reading the 300-page Manual. It wasn’t sayang at all. God knows how much mental and emotional- even physical- stresses I’ve been though the whole week at the Camp! Nonetheless, I truly enjoyed the lively sharings, and the interactive discussions, the everyday jokes, the heartwarming laughters, the sweet smiles, the corny remarks, the midnight study groups, the love stories brewing, the brief exchange of ideas and talents and the simple Hellos from everyone. Despite the age gaps and other dissimilarities, we were able to reconcile our differences and were able to reach out to each other.
Before the day of the Summer Camp came, i was actually worried that I might not be welcomed or that I might not fit in with the rest of the group- so I did what I was best with: wearing my silly smile and talking in the most country-tone that my voice can get. But differences be damned. I realized that I can actually be one with them. The warmth of the friendship and everyday exchange of words let me feel special. Indeed it might take a while before I shift my opinions entirely from one boat to another. One week is not enough really. But one thing for sure, those points when I started to doubt myself and the world are soon about to change. And I got to understand WYA better. Imagine that.
My experience with the WYA 2011 Summer Campers was one heck of an experience. I will definitely miss Lui’s “ahh, no!” moments with all the insects around the area, Alex’s jukebox random moments, my team mates Celeen and Miko’s continuous sweet pestering, Kuya Art’s 14x optical zoom camera, Kuya Jan’s Glee IPOD Disco nights , Cath’s Labada 101 tutorial, Ate Nicole’s red marks on my papers, Lovely’s wild sleeping poses, Darren’s extremely stupid but funny comments, Ate Ren and Ate Des’- uh, well, we will see each other at the office after this, and Kuya Joe’s big, round head. Two pages of yellow pad paper are not enough (yes, I’m writing on yellow papers). It’s an experience of a lifetime indeed. The memories I’ve made with WYA will always be with me- garnishing me of important life values- like meatballs on my pasta.