Cheska Sia: Write To Escape

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…the best lessons are from the worst events…

When I was given the opportunity to visit the Philippines, I’ll admit: I was reluctant. I was too busy enjoying the summer daze with my friends. I just wanted to work and save money. I didn’t want to leave Toronto (even if it was just for a short period). Yet, at the same time, I knew that it’d be a good idea to just… get away. I needed a break from the city. I needed a break from my daily routine. I needed a change of scenery. This trip was not planned at all, by me anyways. I actually went to visit my grandma, who was v ill, so I knew I had the right to escape. But, I won’t turn this into a sob story because it isn’t. Instead, this narration will show you how to find hope and cope (even under the most undesirable circumstances).

After landing in the Philippines, the culture shock was reeeeaaall. Between people being hesitant to attempt conversing with me in English, to the observation of traditional (non-Westernized) dating habits, I really felt as if I entered an alternate realm. It was different, but I was intrigued. What I’ve learned from my trip can be summarized by the 5 F’s: family, food, farming, faith, and future.

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Family is HUUUUUGE in the feels. Of course you have immediate family, but down there, it is as if everyone is part of your family… To Filipinos, a loving family is a healthy family. Your family is your support system. Your family will be right by your side when you fall. Your family is what gives you hope. Your neighbours are part of your “family.” The people you work with, and the workers of the surrounding stores, are your “family.” If they need something, you help them as much as you can, and vice versa. In many cases, if your neighbour is going through something, you will soon experience it too. Floods. Power outages. Lack of food supply. People are extremely hospitable, yet humble. They will go out of their way to help one another before all else. You’d think that they are all connected because 7/10 Filipinos have the same last name but, in reality, they are connected because they all believe in the same philosophy: “thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matthew 22:39).

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Food means rice, and rice stands for: Ritual.Is.Continuing.Eating (haha, just kidding. I made that up. But, in some aspect(s), it sort of IS true…). Wake up. Eat. Get ready. Eat. School/Work. Lunch. Afternoon break. Eat. Come home. Eat. Rest. Dinner. Sleep. Meryenda (aka “snack”) is my favourite part of the day, no questions asked; I eat snacks on snacks on snacks. It’s a horrible habit, but a very satisfying one… especially because Filipino cuisine is sooo good. Not to mention the exotic fruit that are easily accessible down in the tropics. Between the coconuts and the all-you-can-eat rice & bbq, I’d gain at least 5 lbs. every day!!!

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That isn’t to say I didn’t eat my veggies though. LOL. Farming: the next major key. For the majority of people, their lives (and their family’s lives) revolve around agriculture. I’ve neeever seen soo much farmland in the city, so of course I was in awe! Men are usually either farmers, or fishers. Women have the role of nurturing; they nurture their kids, as well as the fruits/food that their husbands grow. I always see women walking around with big baskets full of freshly picked vegetables, knocking on doors or walking down the highway. What caught my attention even more was the number of animals that each family owned. I’ve seen people casually walking their cows, or goats along the highway… which was funny to me because you’d never see that kind of stuff in Toronto. In Toronto, people walk their dogs. That’s it. They don’t even walk their cats. Sooo, seeing different animals (even HUUGE ones at that) on or off of leashes, yet so tame, was really eye-catching.

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But enough of the earthly stuff, let’s talk about faith. Almost everyone in the tropics is religious; the majority of Filipinos are Christians. They believe in God and constantly pray in order to communicate with him. People are sooo religious that they even hold masses without the priests – they literally go to church just to hear the word of God. There are also well-known churches that preserve miraculous statues which tourists are encouraged to visit. In addition, there are wells where you can retrieve holy water from. It’s cool though, seeing people so passionate and trusting in someone they’ve never seen before. It’s because of this faith that people are compassionate to one another. It’s because of this faith that people don’t dwell on the past or things that are out of their control. It’s because of this faith that people have hope for a better tomorrow. God works wonders. & through the actions and events I’ve encountered in the Philippines, safe to say that as long as you believe, you’ll be able to witness him in action, too.

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All of the four F’s lead up to this one: future. Though the living conditions aren’t the best down here, that’s really all they know. They make do with what they have, and I respect that. Seeing how happy people are gives me hope. Hope that the kids playing basketball in slippers will be able to experience playing with the proper equipment in the future. Hope that the kids tending the fields will be able to use that same hard working mentality to further their careers. Hope that the kids not exposed to technology continue to develop his/her communication skills. The future is alllll about the next generation(s) and it’s our responsibility to make sure that they learn as much as they can. Overall, this experience was v humbling. It has showed me that, despite the limited resources and opportunities that people have, the Philippines continues to raise awareness for nature, while highlighting how crucial human interaction is for survival.

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