Deeper Understanding

“People should be free to be who they are, what they want to be and to reach their full potential.” – Sadiq Khan

December is around the corner. The holidays are in full swing. Holidays as in Fiestas and Christmas! I had the privilege of being a part of the fiesta here in Campalanas. For a pre-fiesta celebration, my Barangay held an event called, United as One where multiple barangays from around the area gathered for a mini celebration. There were a lot of performances from the surrounding High Schools, Elementary Schools, and other various entities. It was a cool experience, except the event was way longer than I anticipated. I never had to wait so long to do a 5-minute performance. I guess that’s just how it is, haha.

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As for the fiesta celebration, it was quite the sight. I felt bad for the pigs though. There were multiple homes around me that were slaughtering their pigs. I could hear their screams loud and clear. The process is a bit harsh, but that’s how it’s done. I am a hypocrite since I do enjoy the food afterwards, haha. The pigs were slaughtered, sliced up, and prepared for the day! Some pictures below. It’s sad that their purpose to live is to die. I can only imagine if the world was reversed. Creepy, right? Sorry, it’s always fun to theoretically flip the situation. Back to the Philippines. During fiesta, it is a custom to open your home to anyone! I mean anyone. People would come in and out of the house to enjoy the food and each other’s company even if they didn’t know a single person. Definitely something you don’t see in the states.

I actually had to leave the fiesta the day of to attend my Local Language Intensive Training (LLIT) in Dumaguete. This trip was quite the treat. I was still within my first three months at site, so the Peace Corps travel ban was in effect for my batch. It was awesome being able to stay a whole week in Dumaguete to enjoy the city and hang out with some fellow PCVs. I ran into some trouble getting to Dumaguete though. The boats were all cancelled that Sunday night so I had to find a ride to Larena to spend a night to wait for the morning boat. I legit arrived the morning of the first class—rough times. Thanks, Eric, for letting me stay!

Gary, Eugenia, and I hit off the first class determined to learn as much as we could. It was extremely helpful to have this formal classroom setting. I learned a ton. The best part was hanging out with Gary and Eugenia. We had a chill time in our down time. Some pics below of our little adventures. Being able to talk about our experiences is relieving. Peace Corps Volunteers have a deep understanding of each other. No one has gone through what we’ve gone through. We understand the sacrifices we made to come here and the struggle we go through every day while at site. It’s an understanding only PCVs will ever know. I never was able to appreciate it until I spent a few days with these two. I can’t wait to spend time with other PCVs as well J We know how cool it is to have met each other, but the unspoken respect we have for each other cannot be described in words.

The adventures on my bike have been quite limited due to it being broken (guba!). Jessica and I took an adventurous trip to Siquijor, Siquijor to get our bikes fixed! We found a nice little shop that our former buddy, PCV Tommy, used to go to for his bike. It was fast and convenient. While we were waiting for our bikes to be fixed, we realized that neither of us walked around Siquijor City because we would always go to the port to catch a boat to Dumaguete. It was a chill day. We even met up with Eric! It was the first time the three of us met together while on Siquijor versus in Manila for PC stuff. Good times. Hope we can do it again! Not going to break my bike to do it though. Haha.

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Keep in mind that I may make everything sound amazing. The Peace Corps is no easy task. I assure you the hardship of this experience is immense. It’s the events and the people that make up for it. The moments I am able to forget about my worries and feel at home are the moments I most appreciate, no matter how short they may seem. Whenever I dive into a book, toss a Frisbee with whomever, ride my bike to school, or anything that makes me concentrate on the moment are all things that help me through my service. I’m sure I missed a few things, but I’m sure you get my point. Self-preservation takes on a whole new meaning while living in an entirely different culture. We all must stay true to ourselves to move further in our journeys.

For me personally, I am stubborn in a way that helps me never give up. I will finish what I started. This service is everything to me and I will do everything in my power to ensure that I don’t fail. My friend, PCV Robbieana, posted on her blog about some of the hardships we face here in the Philippines. Our friend, PCV Katie, gave her some wise words of advice,

“I was SOOO feeling that way (still am) but I realized my mission are the students not the teachers. I now focus on making sure the students are prepared and learning and that they will be the change agents to their world. It’s the ONLY way I survive. The students know and see what BS it is for their professors to cancel, but they can’t do anything about it. But I take every opportunity to share my knowledge and work ethic and values so they see what it’s supposed to be like.”

I haven’t experienced the same issue, but we all have different experiences. I just want to emphasize her main point. No matter what happens, we are here to touch the lives of the students. To all my fellow PCVs, never give up. 

The one thing that I remember Peace Corps told me was, “Integrate, but don’t let go of yourself.” I take these words to heart as I know who I am and I know why I came here. I will fulfill my duties as a Peace Corps Volunteer and hope to make an everlasting impression on those around me—a good one, I hope. It has been quite the challenge thus far, but I know I can pull through. The support from my family and friends from the states has helped me greatly in getting here and it will pull me through to the end.

Thanks for reading my blog! I want to wish you a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! This is the first time ever that I have missed Christmas with my family. I get to experience Christmas here in the Philippines!

I’ll make a blog post after the holidays! I’ll tell you about the Christmas Decorating Contest at my school, Christmas in the Philippines, and New Years with other PCVs on Bohol!

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One thought on “Deeper Understanding”

  1. Alex, we are proud of you and fully support what you are doing. You and your fellow PCV’s are making a lot of sacrifices to do what you are doing. It takes courage and determination to go to some unknown territories and volunteer to help those who you didn’t even know, but need your help. You and your fellow PCV’s are going to make a difference in their lives. In return they are going to make a difference in your life also. Now that you have learned how other people live and what kind of obstacles they have to deal with. Somehow they survive just as we all do. They know how to maximize with what limited resources they have and make the best out of it. I think they actually know how to enjoy life better than we do.

    During our last trip to Denali, an environmentalist was talking to us about the survival skills that all animals have. To be able to survive they all prey upon each other . But the ones who will last, they are not the strongest, not the smartest, but the ones who are most adaptive. Because they have the instinct to adapt to their environment. And this applies to humans also. That’s how most people in under-developed countries live and they actually have better adaptive skills than most of us.

    it’s always hard when you have to leave your family and friends and be alone thousands of miles away. especially during this time of the year. I remember the first year when I came to the States, I was alone living with a couple of friends in a basement. During Thanksgiving and X’mas, when everybody else was celebrating, the few of us had nothing to do and nowhere to go. We couldn’t afford a TV and the only way to communicate with families back home was US mail. So we all wrote long letters home. Some days we even wrote 2 or 3 letters a day. At some point our spirits were so low that we all talked about quitting and go home. But we know what we came for. We all have a purpose and we have to stick with it. It’s not easy but we all got over it.

    Keep focusing on your purpose when you joined PC. It’s difficult now but when you get over it, then everything becomes clear. We will be there in a few months to give you whatever support you need.

    Stay Strong!

    Like

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