By Joyee Zhou
In the early morning of June 5, we arrived in Iloilo. At the pier of Iloilo city, I had the first glance of the island where we are going to spend 3 weeks. It is an indistinct green line between the magnificent sky and sea, standing out from the white clouds and blue water. The pump boat we took is like an airship with wings on both sides, flying toward the island hiding in the faraway clouds. The breathtaking scene gave me the first impression of Guimaras: it is a blessed island, blessed with the purest environment and vitality, shining in the rosy dawn.
I feel blessed I can be here.
The life here is simple. Famed for its agriculture, especially mangoes, Guimaras retains the artless life style. We pump the water to take a bucket shower, hand wash our own clothes, beat the heat of noon with electric fan, and sleep with bugs in our bed. At first, it was tough, but gradually I find it is an extremely special experience I can ever have. As my body is used to the air conditioning and bright lights, and my mind is addicted to social media and Internet, it immerses me into a totally different environment which is blessed with the sweetest mangoes rather than the strongest engine. When the industrial civilization is far away, and material well-being is unsatisfied, I am able to embrace every tender breeze and every starry night. Be happy of what you have, be grateful of life and nature, and enjoy the simplicity of living as much as you can.
It is great for us to live in a local family and have more interaction with local community. The house we are living in is one of the clusters in San Lorenzo. Nearby are all the relatives of our host mom, Salvacion, who has eight children and twin granddaughters. This happy big family always reminds me of the days in my hometown that I play with my cousins and run wildly in the field. I am the only child in my family, but my parents have many siblings. I enjoy the warmness and liveliness of a big family. I really appreciate that Salvacion treats us as a member of their family, offering us meals and care. In many afternoons we go swimming in the sea with the neighborhood kids. The heat and worries go away with the waves of water, and above us is only the boundless sky. When sunlight fades away, we chat on the dinner table or watch the soap opera together. Salvacion family are all hardworking people. They get up at three every day, doing farm work and family chores. I still remember one day morning after I got up, I heard music from the yard where they were washing clothes and chilling. It is really a harmonious scene full of love and peace, and I am happy to be part of it.
Despite all the fun of our stay, there is something lingering in my mind. After all we will go back to a metropolis with all the best material conditions. But the local people still live the same life, facing the privation and undevelopment. Imagine if we are going to stay here for longer time, years, or even our life, is it still that exciting and interesting? We are not on a vacation, at least I don’t want the kids here feel that we are making ourselves feel better through experiencing their lives. I feel ashamed of letting our host mom’s 20-year old daughter cook and wash the plates for us every day. Apart from doing chores, she also needs to attend college, but isn’t there anything she also want to do just like us?
Change is not an overnight process. We may leave this place and never come back, but we can leave something that is long-lasting and life-changing. Again as the little slogan of our blog says, we are here to transform the local business and ourselves. As you take one step closer to this blessed island and the nice people, you wish it will find a way up towards a better future.