My stay at Puerto Galera under the World Youth Alliance (WYA) was marked by several hurdles I had to overcome, along with a mixture of people coming from different backgrounds, and above all, an invaluable learning experience; all contributing to one of the most memorable experience of my life.
My journey with WYA began with my desire to further understand the organization. Though I realized that this trip was one that will help me deepen my grasp of their beliefs and the values they uphold, joining the trip, for me, was more than a matter of desiring to participate. Being a resident of Mindanao, distance was a problem. Atop this hurdle was the fact that I had little resources, coming from a family that is not well to do. Fortunately, Ms. Aliah Dimaporo, a fellow member of WYA, was kind enough to provide for both my airfare and pocket money. I was all set for the trip.
Apart from myself, I had two other colleagues who were selected to join the summer training camp as representatives of Mindanao. We really felt fortunate to be chosen as representatives of our region. I must admit I was quite apprehensive of the fact that I may not be equipped for such an honorable privilege. Having the possibility of being selected for the New York Internship in mind, I was worried that my background may affect my chances. I came from an average school and I am not as fluent an English speaker as I hope to be. However, I still am very optimistic, and my desire to fulfill my dreams will not be easily shaken. I will not back out, especially when the opportunity is right in front of me.
May 27, we left Lanao del Norte for Cagayan de Oro City for our flight the following day. I found it so amusing that it was the first time flight of Meljane, my colleague. Like me, she was also excited for the trip and was also thankful for the opportunity that WYA gave her. Finally, we arrived at Manila and met with the facilitators and co-trainees. They were all so nice and accommodating. We stayed at fellow WYA member Ms. Tamara Tan’s house. Her parents and brothers were also very kind to us and we really enjoyed our stay at her place. The Tans never failed to make us feel part of their family; and what an ideal family they are!
The following day, we left Manila for Puerto Galera. I experienced for the first time how it is to ride a ferry boat. Finally, after a long trip, we have arrived at our destination. Still, I remained excited as I was when I first heard about this trip. We stayed in a house similar to the one in Pinoy Big Brother. It’s so great! I mean, it’s really like all of us are housemates, just like in the show. The trainees were divided into three tribes called DIGNITY, FREEDOM, and SOLIDARITY. I was placed in the DIGNITY TEAM. Each of us had our own designated area to maintain and clean. Every 7:00 in the morning, we did some exercises followed by some activities. Afterwards, we would pause for breakfast and then we would go for a swim. Afterwards, it would be time to get ready for the plenary and discussion. The hardest part for me was when we had to answer the questions about the reading material. I am just not used to being under time pressure. I wanted to take the time to finish answering before going out to have some fun so instead of relaxing during our free time, I really tried to accomplish all that had to be done for our training. We were also given a chance to speak in front of a crowd to share some insights on the article that was assigned to us. During these sessions, I was able to share what I learned about the government in other states and their problems. I really love of discussing international issues not only because I am a Political Science graduate but also because it’s a simple way of showing how concerned you are with other people and their situation. The training motivated me to be responsible to myself and to my community in order to help attain peace in our nation. Believing that the training had this positive effect on me, I made it a point to make the most out of every moment Iâm in it.
However, amidst all my enjoyment and enthusiasm, I did find myself having to deal with another hurdle while in camp. To be honest, I really had a hard time dealing with some of my colleagues. I just found the cultural boundaries difficult to adjust to. Coming from a poor family, I am not used to mingling with those from wealthy families. The language barrier alone was a difficult obstacle for me to overcome. From where I grew up, it is not our custom to speak either Filipino or English as our primary language. Another significant difference between myself and the other wealthier members of WYA is that it is easier for them to talk about family. Coming from a poorer family, I can not say that it is easy for me to talk about how families are supposed to be the primary support system of individuals. These discrepancies between myself and the other WYA members made me feel a bit uncomfortable.
Yet, this negative perspective of mine about such cultural differences changed after we had discussed the concept of dignity. And this was where I gradually lost my insecurities with my colleagues. I learned that all people are created EQUAL. Poor and rich are the same, they have DIGNITY! Being poor would not hinder me from spreading the word of WYA. It would just be a mere obstacle I would have to overcome. WYA inspired me to be active: to work and be of help to others. Letting people know their importance as a human persons who possess DIGNITY could potentially lead everybody into making a climate of PEACE and prosperous and united country.
All in all, I can say that I am glad that somebody introduced me to WYA. I feel that this is where I belong. Now, I aim to help to my fellowmen and my country and this is where I hope to achieve such feats. After learning the things I did at the training camp, especially about dignity, I have been empowered to work for social change. The training really helped me realize how important each person is. For that alone, for having my eyes opened to the treasure that is the human person, I feel gratified. The Puerto Galera Summer camp made me feel that much more fulfilled as a person. This is why I will never forget the incredible experience I had with WYA.