WYA President makes homes, friends and Filipino spaghetti

Presidential Tour 2007

So the Presidential Tour to Manila is over. Mary and Ann have come and gone – they have seen a lot of good, a lot of bad and a lot of potential. On that note, I’d like to think the trip went quite well – if not excellently.

The highlight of Mary’s trip was her immersion at GK Brookside. We made her stay for three days and two nights – and tried to expose her to as many programs as we could. As expected, we helped in building/painting/sifting sand. Hooray for manual labor. Truly though, I feel like I’m getting physically stronger. I think the monthly builds at Castaneda are paying off. We spent an afternoon at the Sibol school of Talanay – read Juan Tamad to the students, and taught them verbs in English and Filipino. Jump…Talon… Crawl… Gapang. And as they recited their new words, they would do the actions as well. Hay. Cuteness. And of course – the ever important Salosalo before the end of the visit. There was rapping, singing, dancing and more dancing…and eating and more eating.

The hospitality and generosity that the families in Brookside showed us was incredible. The way they accepted us into their homes, their families, their barkadas – the way they allowed us to enter their lives – was touching, enlightening and humbling. It always is. The immersion of Mary went as I expected it to. The building, the playing, the eating, the sharing – everything happened on cue. The laughter and the tears came at the right time, at the right place. It was as I had expected it to be – and yet, the whole experience, in fact, each and every experience I have with Gawad Kalinga, continues to overwhelm me.

The passion that the volunteers have for their work, for these people, for the movement, for their country is so contagious. One cannot help but feel empowered, hopeful and fulfilled when working with them – YAY for Greg, Zeus, Charisse and Chee. These young people, have devoted much of their time to working with Gawad Kalinga, They are all talented, brilliant people who have chosen to use their gifts for a very selfless cause.

Normally, one would feel such shame in showing others the biggest and deepest problem that their country is facing. There is no pride in showing a guest how poor we are, or how underdeveloped our infrastructure is or how inefficient our bureaucracy is. The resilience of the Filipino has never been as obvious as it is now though. The beauty of our culture and the values we hold as a people are enough to overcome our problems – if we work together.

It got me thinking. Maybe poverty is our felix culpa. Maybe it is the tragedy in our shared consciousness as a people that is making us stronger and better. Or at least on our way to getting there. I was so proud to show Mary and Ann our country – the bad and the good. The better part of it was that they saw the transition from the bad to the good. The best part – they were able to share in moving our country towards making it what we want it to be.