A 14-day journey, Philippines volunteer work
What did you do during this summer vacation? I had a very interesting experience through volunteer work abroad. I was in the first team of volunteers to the Philippines, and my team name was “Hallo.P”, which means Hallo, Filipino. My group had twenty members and was composed of ten women, seven men and two professors. I’d like to tell you about my volunteer story in Philippines.
July 13th, 2009
At 7 pm, on Sunday night, July 12th, my team gathered in the auditorium in school to take the next morning’s flight, and we weighed our baggage. After preparing, we watched a movie and took a late-night snack because we had plenty of time.
At 3 a.m. we started for the Incheon International Airport by bus. We were so tired that we fell asleep as soon as we took a bus and we arrived at the airport at 6 a.m.
Arriving at the airport, we checked in for the flight and went aboard a plane at 8:35. It made me excited that we would arrive in the Philippines very soon. We arrived at Manila International Airport at 11:25, after a three-and-a-half-hour flight. We could really feel we were in the Philippines through the hot and humid weather, unfamiliar smell and exotic atmosphere. We went to another airport by bus because we were planning to do volunteer work in Bacolod City.
We went to La Salle University as soon as we arrived at the Bacolod airport. We saw exotic scenery such as boundless sugar cane fields, cemeteries, palm trees beside the road, lots of Coca-Cola signboards, noisy sounds of car horns and the Filipinos who looked at us with an amazed look.
The guesthouse of La Salle University was better than I expected. We unpacked, took a shower, and had free time after eating dinner.
The Philippines volunteer work begins tomorrow; I am really curious about what will happen to us.
July 14th, 2009
Our first day in Philippines started with morning gymnastics at 6 a.m. After breakfast, we had an orientation at La Salle University. They gave us special necklace as a welcome. The necklace was colorful and fancy and it was a human face with a colorful mask. Bacolod holds a “mascara festival” every October, and they said that the mask and smile are symbols in the city.
We had a campus tour after the orientation. The campus was not different from our campus. There were a cafeteria, gym, auditorium and language center. We visited the town ‘Punta Tay-Tay’ by ‘jeepney’, public transportation in the Philippines. We also visited an elementary school and day care center where we would do volunteer work tomorrow. I was so thankful that the villagers accorded us a more enthusiastic welcome than I expected. In particular, I was deeply impressed by students in the elementary school. They welcomed us with limpid eyes, innocent looks and bright smiles. I am excited because I will teach them tomorrow.
July 15th, 2009
Today, we planted ‘mangrove’ trees. Mangroves were planted in the mud flat with mangrove seeds, supported by board and string. It will prevent floods and protect the forest from being destroyed. We entered the mud flat wearing long boots and we started planting trees in pairs after hearing the native’s explanation. The villagers helped us. I was surprised how well kids planted the trees. It was simple, repetitive labor: cut a furrow, plant a mangrove stem in the furrow, stand the supporting board, and tie the stem and the supporting board. But we were exhausted because the weather was too hot and the road was so muddy that my foot sank into the mud on every step. We planted mangroves for three hours, singing songs. We took a break at the cabin after work. Suddenly the rain began to fall. The heavy rain had caught everyone by surprise and it fell steadily. So, we pushed our jeepney because the jeepney got stuck in the mud on our way to Punta Tay-Tay.
July 16th, 2009
I woke up again at 6 a.m.
My team was divided into two groups, a cooking team and cleaning team, and we did volunteer work until afternoon.
The cooking team prepared lunch for kids in the day care center and the menu was chicken stew and macaroni soup. The cleaning team swept the outdoor auditorium with brooms and picked up the trash. After lunch, we taught Korean culture. Because I was a member of the Korean education team, my team went to the day care center and taught the kids. The day care center was a kind of kindergarten, so there were young kids whose ages were four or five.
We taught “body words” in English and Korean, sang a Korean children's song and played games. After our education, we made a card with the Korean art team. We used Korean paper to make a card and then wrote down messages. Teaching was so easy because of the students’ attitude. All of them participated actively in class.
Taekwondo education was really popular. Students followed demonstrations of the Taekwondo team and some team members corrected students’ posture. The students’ great interest about taekwondo was very moving.
July 17th, 2009
It was the last day of educating children for three days and I had to say goodbye to them. We had an ending ceremony where many villagers and elementary school students attended. In the beginning, the villagers spoke a brief greeting and then a head of our team did the same. Our team showed a performance after that. First, we played Samulnori: Korean folk music accompanied by four percussion instruments. I felt my body shudder and many people were excited. Next, it was a dance performance that was explosively popular to the students. The music and dance tempo were fast, and the youth shouted and danced joyfully altogether. Taekwondo was the most popular performance. Performers did a taekwondo dance to the music and smashing bricks was the best part. Finally, all of us danced together. It was the moment when our preparing performance for over two months was proved to be successful. After finishing the whole performance, we were hardly able to say goodbye. The children shouted our names, gathered towards us, and I could see their sad facial expressions. Some of them even cried. I felt it was too short a period for spending time with the Filipinos so I wanted to stay with them longer. Everyone kept silence in the jeepney on the way back to our accommodation after parting with them.
July 18th~19th, 2009
Today is an overnight trip to Punta Bulata!
After driving a car with vibrant heart over three hours, finally arrived at Punta Bulata! There were white sands, white beach and an especially blue sea, which I couldn’t see in Korea and was impressive.
After changing clothes, we started to have fun in the water. There was heavy rain yesterday so I worried, but today is sunny so I was very excited. While swimming, taking pictures, getting funny with and touching starfish, we had a fun time without noticing the passing time.
Dinner was a buffet. After we played in the water, it was even more delicious. At night, we had free time with refreshments. I had a sincere talk with team sisters and brothers and went to see the stars with another team. Setting up a mattress from our lodgings, we enjoyed seeing numberless stars while lying on it. The numerous stars that I couldn’t see in Korea, even never thought to see, moved me. Lying on our back, we sang a song talking about first love and we wished on a star and slept on the beach. It was absolutely impossible in Korea.
Seeing the stars, I was very blissful. How many romantic moments like this do I have in the rest of my life? For two days and one night I was really excited and happy.
Still now, I can feel my pounding heart and the wishes that I prayed watching Punta Bulata’s stars.
July 20th~23th, 2009
Since the 20th of July, we did volunteer work in an area far from downtown. We helped build houses for the poor. What we did was to prevent rain from leaking into the houses by putting soil and mud on the walls.
A couple as one team prepared the pile of soil, and it continued for several hours. While working, we bought and ate corns from a resident. After a few days of work were over, we painted the house’s walls. We became satisfied while seeing the houses turn colorful. Although my clothes and cap were stained with paints, I felt like it was a prize. The weather was too hot and work was tough while we did volunteer activities. However, we could happily complete our work well because of the clear, blue sky and the Filipinos who are going to live in the houses we built.
July 24th~26th, 2009
Volunteering in Bacolod City was over yesterday. And we left our beloved Bacolodo, we went to Manila to join the second team for the Philippines. We arrived on a plane to Manila. As a capital, Manila was very crowded. We moved by bus in Manila but it took longer than I expected because of traffic jams. We arrived in the Bulacan State University later than 9 p.m. It was neat and polished. We were very tired so we went to bed early.
The next day, I went to the Pagsanjan Falls with the second team for the Philippines.
July 26th was the last day in the Philippines.
We had free time after sightseeing at Pagsanjan Falls and we wrote a letter to each team member.
On the plane back to Korea, I realized that a 14-day journey was over, reading the 17 letters.
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