Friday June 29, 2018
As Day 1 of our program comes to a close, all of the students have arrived in-country and will be resting up for the awesome orientation day and city tour we have tomorrow!
We got home late last night so today we’re sending our blogs from Days 2 and 3. Pictures will come separately
Saturday June 30, 2018
Fighting the Jet lag!
Our first day in the Philippines as a full group proved to be full of adventure. We started our day with breakfast and prepared ourselves for orientation. The group practiced getting to know each other with a name game, getting to know appropriate cultural behaviors with skits, and getting to know the code of conduct better with a game called “Find that line!”. We were all able to come together and work in various groups to act out silly, but important, activities and understand what is expected of us and discuss some of what we hope to accomplish ourselves. We had a brief intermission to try a delicious Filipino morning sweet, taho, and continued with the activities. We learned to always have our WITS about us (Water, Insect Repellent, Toilet Paper, Sunscreen). Ultimately, we created our own community agreement (which came out really cute) and all signed it.
The group had lunch at home base and headed out to a bike riding tour. (Those of us who don’t know how to ride a bike were offered to hop on with someone else, shout out to Michele for biking me around!) We learned a lot about Intramuros and the Spanish influence in Philippine culture and we were able to visit a few of the different historical sites. We stopped quickly at a church and saw a wedding taking place, an unexpected but beautiful surprise. The group finished the tour and headed to dinner nearby. There, we saw musicians and dancers performing traditional Philippine songs. It was so thrilling seeing the dancers jump quickly to avoid being hit with bamboo sticks, a dance called Tinikling; something I knew I definitely wasn’t expecting. We were even called up to try it out for ourselves! To top the day off, it was two of the performers’ birthdays that we were able to be a part of, another unexpected and sweet surprise. After a very fun, but tiring, day we couldn’t wait to get back to home base and catch up on sleep.
-By Victoria Guevara
Sunday July 1, 2018
Even though today wasn’t one of the most involved days of our trip, it was still incredibly educational and fun! We started out the day by visiting the Hineledan Cafe where we learned about the non-profit, the Cartwheel Foundation, and about indigenous people not only in the Philippines but around the world. Two indigenous people began the presentation by reciting a prayer. They then taught us a lot of valuable information about the true meaning of indigenous culture and how to advocate for its respect and preservation. While learning about their culture was extremely interesting, it was agreed upon that the best part of the day centered around the traditional indigenous dance that we took part in. After the seminar was over, we enjoyed a dish that consisted of a meat and rice that was once used as bird seed (it was still surprisingly delicious). We then went to the mall to quickly exchange currency and buy other necessities for the trip. Soon thereafter, we returned to home base to create lesson plans for the students that we are teaching tomorrow. We were then given a little time to bond with some of the other people on the trip, which was a nice treat. Finally, we watched a presentation on the materials that are wreaking havoc on wildlife. Luckily, we were also given some tips as to how to help prevent future natural destruction. At the end of the day, we had a short reflection and dinner and excitedly prepared for the amazing day we are going to have tomorrow!
-by Skylar Davidson
Monday July 2, 2018
Day 4 in the Philippines has been an exiting one!! Our first real day of working with the community. To start our day we visited Gawad Kalinga and helped with their efforts to build low cost homes. We carried bags of concrete and helped dispose of them. For lunch we got to try a traditional Filipino boodle meal which is eating with just your hands off of bamboo leaves. The food consisted of tofu, fish, eggplant, rice and the famous mangos.
The chance to work alongside locals at the construction site helping to put a roof over a family’s head was incredibly humbling. We were also beyond grateful to the locals who prepared the traditional meal for us and for showing us kindness.
After this we washed up and headed over to an elementary school where we got the chance to teach 5th graders from a storybook that we donated to the library. After the lesson, the children taught us some of their Filipino games. We learned games such as bahay kubo, tumbang preso, and siopao siomai suman. We connected with these kids on such a real level that when we were saying our goodbyes there were tears all around. The students were so open and welcoming. Playing with them, seeing their smiles, and sharing laughs were some of the purest moments. Their happiness despite anything they may be going through was inspiring to say the very least.
I can say with confidence that none of us will ever forget this day as it will always hold a special place in our heart.
-By Isabella Kasegrande and Alexis Kelley
Tuesday July 3, 2018
Highlights of today included sorting boxes for the Philippine Toy Library and addressing our personal “Little Haters”. The Philippine Toy Library is an organisation that provides rural schools with used games, books and toys, which they often lack. In the morning, we were sorting through, quality checking and labelling various items to be sent to these schools. For each of these tasks, one person stepped up to be the leader of their respective group to organise individuals. Initially, the adults were only expecting us to pack 5-7 boxes, but after 5 hours of hard work and a little surprise rain, we managed to pack 18 boxes. Two of these boxes were selected to bring with us on our visit to one of the schools the Philippine Toy Library supports. Everyone stayed positive and adapted quickly in the face of pouring rain.
The Little Haters Workshop in the afternoon gave us the opportunity to delve deeper into why we have this voice in our head saying, “You can’t do this.” This voice we called “Little Haters” and in the workshop we had to described what it looked like. This led onto deeper questions about how it makes us feel and when it presents itself. While talking in small groups, we were able to identify similarities and differences between our Little Haters. We were then able to combine into a single group and discuss solutions to overcome the things that may have been holding us back. During this experience, some of my peers thrived during this deep discussion and those who weren’t as verbal still gained a better understanding of where our weaknesses lie. In turn, discussions such as this forge a stronger connection amongst our group and open a new line of communication.
Overall, I would have to say being leader today was made easier by the attitude of the group and the advisors. They all work hard to make the most out of the activities and are determined to have a little fun while doing it. Thank you to those who said I did really well today at keeping the group moving, but I still believe there are some points I need to work on, but that may just be my Little Hater trying to fix what isn’t broken.
-by Noelle Grau
Wednesday July 4, 2018
Day 6 started off with a bus ride to the country. The transition from the bustling streets of Manila to the winding streets of Pampanga City was visible as we listened to music and gawked at the various animals we passed. As we arrived at Villa Maria Integrated School we were greeted with smiles from the excited students, for they had never been visited by foreigners before.
We entered the classroom and anticipated the tribal dance performed by four of the children. At the end of day 5, we had prepared a showcase of some of our favorite childhood dances for today’s event in return. Today, we happily danced “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes” and the “Hokey Pokey.” We then proceeded to take part in two arts and crafts activities with kindergarteners from the school. (Most of) the children gleefully decorated tote bags and colored pictures with our assistance.
After that was finished, we surprised them with Jollibee for lunch, but that was not the only gift we had in store for them. We gifted them two of the boxes of toys we packed yesterday. It was incredibly rewarding to see the effects of our work before our eyes as the students opened the boxes of toys. They eagerly pulled their future toys from the boxes, concluding our day. This was a humbling experience because we saw the struggle of these amazing children first hand. They were ecstatic to receive used and tattered toys while it could have be easy for some to discard the toys that were taken for granted in their own lives.
After we headed back to home base, the group took part in a leadership activity regarding culture and respect. Our word of the day, humility, really allowed us to reflect on the events of the day. The leadership activity helped to remind us to stay down to earth when experiencing other cultures similarly to how many felt humbled by our experience in the province today. Working with the children of schools will always be an activity we look forward to.
We would also always look forward to a celebration! We closed out the night with a cake that read, “Happy Fourth of July GLA Philippines.” Although not all of us celebrate this holiday at home, we were still able to come together as one to embrace the spirit of the day. Some might have missed the usual fireworks and barbecues, but we all came together and had an amazing night.
By Casey Ungarsohn and Amina Bejja
Thursday July 5, 2018
Week 1 done!
Day 7 began with breakfast and a 2 hour car ride to another Gawad Kalinga location, called the ‘Enchanted Farm.’ Along with building new homes, ‘GK’ aims to build new futures. A major issue is the lack of support from the rich to the poor. Because of this, the poor has to learn how to support themselves. The GK community built the Enchanted Farm with the purpose of making dreams come true. This is brought to life in the 50+ social enterprises on the farm.
After lunch we had a opportunity to buy natural beauty products that were made by entrepreneurs that are based on the farm. We were taken to make our own plush hearts. we saw how the people who make plush toys work and the process they go through to make each toy.
While we were waiting for our hearts to be personalized we were taught how bamboo straws are made and the effect of using bamboo instead of plastic straws has on the world. We learned about Ecobrick fences that last around seven years and are mainly made of plastic.
-By Julie Zierer and Kaisa Sazama-Framil
Friday July 6, 2018
Today was especially exciting because of the quick change in locations. This morning we packed our things and headed for San Pablo. After a long car ride and a stop to Pancake House for brunch, we reached Sulyap, our new home for the next few days. Upon arrival we unpacked our things and headed straight to the pool for a couple hours. In the afternoon, we all got dressed up for a tour of San Pablo sites and museum. It was so interesting to learn all about the beautiful culture and heritage of the San Pableños. Later that evening we took a stroll through the city, and ended our beautiful day with dinner out by the lake. Today was filled with bonding opportunities and lots of time to spend with each other.
Being today’s leader, I understood more about compromise and respect. I realized how important it is to meet the expectations of being a leader to others. The biggest thing I learned today was that sometimes things don’t work out the way you want them to, so you need to find quick and easy solutions to challenges that come along the way. I was feeling a little homesick today (hi mom if you’re reading this) but I found comfort in all the amazing friends that I have made here. We have truly created our own little family, and I’m so glad that I’m able to share this amazing experience with them. I’m so excited for what more there is to come this week, and we can’t wait to share it with you all.
-by Melania Zilo (Leader of the Day)
Saturday July 7, 2018
On Day 9, breakfast was at 7:30, where many of us indulged in American Breakfasts (consisting of toast, ham, bacon, and eggs) reminiscent of food back home. By 8:30 we were en route to the Malabanban Water Shed, where our tree planting activity took place. We were each given a seedling and hiked up a winding staircase towards the top of the mountain. We took some amazing pictures from a perch on the side of the mountain, overlooking the forest. I thought it was interesting because even though we were all sticky with sweat, hair strewn about due to the humidity, the pictures still came out great because of how happy we all were. Throughout the hike, we placed our trees in spots we thought they’d bloom, as a way of doing our part to help the environment.
Next, we grabbed lunch at Forest in the City and headed to a local farm to learn how ube is made. First, ube yam and cassava is cut up, boiled, and strained. The remaining paste is dyed purple, cooled, and packaged. We were given the opportunity to package the ube, and were graciously given a free taste of the finished product. Then we went to the market to practice bargaining in a scavenger hunt to find fruit for the lowest price. I’m proud to say my group got our 4 fruits for 5 pesos total! Afterwards, we ate dinner at [insert restaurant name here] and went back to Sulyap for a good night’s rest.
The day was quite the learning experience for me. In the beginning, I wasn’t totally sure of how to lead the group and what the balance of joking around and managing I was supposed to have. As the day went on, I leaned grew more confident and comfortable with my role; so now I know to trust my instincts and use my voice because people will listen. I also couldn’t have done my job as well as I did without the help of other people. Leading isn’t about doing everything yourself, the people you lead have strengths of their own that can help the group as a whole. I also learned that micromanaging isn’t really necessary- if you set the tone and expectations for the group right, the rest follows.
Most importantly, I’d like to wish my sister Alyana a happy 10th birthday from the Philippines! Shoutout to my family, I love you all. <3
-By Tala Garcia
Sunday July 8, 2018
Day 10 began with very tired faces appearing at the breakfast table this morning, with 6:30 being a very early breakfast compared to the last few days. Nonetheless, every person definitely perked up when they were greeted with an American breakfast and coffee, as well as the famous pineapple juice! We then piled onto the buses at 7am sharp with a 90 minute trip ahead of us. The scenic route granted a plethora of opportunities for photos of the landscape, something we have all appreciated being able to witness during our trip thus far.
Soon thereafter we arrived at Lake Taal where we were able to enjoy a ‘too good to be true’ boat ride across, enjoying the cool breeze and beautiful views. We then hiked 2km (sorry I’m Australian, I’m not sure how many miles that is) up the Taal Volcano. Despite proving to be difficult, almost our entire group made it up to the very top, with a few of us braving the last stretch more than once, but this time at a sprint! The Taal Volcano is still active today, and despite its last eruption being in 1911, we hiked up the ‘lava trail’, where the igneous rocks were red and steam poured up from the ground!
As we were hiking, some of us noticed that we were the only ones taking the route by foot, with others opting to ride horses. To say that we, the leaders of the day, are super proud of our group for doing as well as we did is an understatement! After making it back down to the lake, we once again enjoyed a boat ride back to the mainland, before driving up a windy mountain for American burgers and fries for lunch! Despite loving all of the Filipino food we have been enjoying, I think it’s safe to say that we all enjoyed this treat very much.
After lunch we went to a few souvenir shops for some quick shopping before a bus ride home to arrive to a yummy meal of rice noodles before a quick night time swim. What a day!
-by Olivia Thurston and Michele Srour
Monday July 9, 2018
Teamwork: a quality that everyone in the program has demonstrated throughout our adventure in Lake Pandin especially during the bamboo building activity.
Even before we got to the vans to drive there, everyone’s excitement to build and learn about the lifestyle of the fishermen showcased which affected the group positively as a whole. As we hiked to get to the lake, we were all in awe with the view of the mountains, the rice plains, and the coconut trees.
Once we got there, the Filipinos welcomed us with smiles. They were also very considerate and patient when they were teaching us how to make the rafts considering the fact that the language barrier made it difficult. But that didn’t stop us.
It was very impressive to see the efforts everyone put in during the activity. When separated into two groups, no one wasted a second after it; everyone got to work. Whether it be helping someone wrap the wire through the bamboos, handing out bottles of water, or re-applying sunscreen on each other, everyone contributed massive efforts.
Although a torrential downfall had occurred in the middle of the day, overall, the day was very adventurous. If anyone needs help building a raft, just ask one of us!
GLA Philippines 2018
Tuesday July 10, 2018
Day 13, our final full day together here in the Philippines as a group has definitely been bittersweet. We began the day at 7:30 which means that all of us got to sleep in later than usual. Sulyap served us our last breakfast and then everyone headed to their rooms to start packing before we were given a tour of the museum at Sulyap. There were many antiques there including wardrobes, machines and clothing. My favorite was the type writer even though it didn’t really work anymore.
When the museum tour ended, we had about an hour to pack before we headed back to Manila. We had a half hour to settle into our rooms before we headed to a conference room to have our closing activites. Each of us were given a sheet of paper to draw our 5 most important and memorable moments, the 3 people who inspired us the most, and 3 accomplishments.
When we finished, our mentors passed around sheets of paper with our names on it and had us rotate and write on each person’s sheet of paper what we loved about them. It was so nice to be able to tell people the admirable qualities that you see in them and come back and read what people wrote to you. Even though the activity had everyone pretty emotional, it was really special and helped us to reflect back on the memories that we created with each other.
When the activities ended, we went to dinner at California Pizza and then headed back to our hotel to hang out, pack, sleep, or all three. Although the day didn’t sound very eventful physically, it took a toll on all of us emotionally. Spending time with a group of people constantly for two weeks, making unforgettable memories, and being immersed in a new culture has been such a privilege that all of us are going to remember for the rest of our lives. Thank you so much to our mentors Steph, Anne, Leanne, and Rein for being incredible leaders and helping us to have an amazing experience. Thank you to Loulette (Mom) for helping to facilitate everything.
And shout out to everyone who decided to embark on the first ever GLA Philippines trip! You are all incredible people and I feel so blessed to have met you and spent two weeks of absolute insanity with you, loving every minute of it. Never stop being curious about the world. There is so much to learn from it. Here’s to the memories, the laughs, the hardships, the new experiences, the rice, and more adventures to come. ❤
Also, shout out to my family for encouraging me to go and for helping me make it happen. I wouldn’t be writing this if it weren’t for you. I love you all more than you can ever know and am grateful for your belief and support in me everyday).
-Written by Anna Gardiner
Thursday July 12, 2018
It has been an incredible 2 weeks with an amazing group of young people, and today we said goodbye as each returns home, never to forget the lasting community that we have built together. Hugs to everyone!
Everyone is now on their way!