By Candice Lui
After a series of transportation (from plane to truck, from truck to boat, from boat to van…), finally we have arrived our ultimate destination – Guimaras Island! My initial impression of this Island was that it was an island far from the hustle and bustle with an unbelievable tint of piece and beauty. However, after a few days, I realized that it was more than a peaceful island with beautiful beaches.
The homestay that I stayed with was so welcoming and hospitable, making me feel like a part of family. I remembered that the first day when we arrived, we were welcomed with genuine smiles from an old lady, 2 young women, and more than 10 children. The skinny old lady gave us a big warm hug , and that’s when we realized this gentle lady was Gloria, the owner of the house, and also the host that we will spend a month with. The 2 friendly young women standing beside her were her daughters, Marisol and Marianie, while the cluster of children are Gloria grandchildren and relatives. I was really overwhelmed by their hospitality and generosity. Not only have they lent out their bedroom to us, they have also initiated to help us set up bed nets and fan, and made wonderful meals for us. “Don’t be shy, just tell us what you want” was what we heard the most from them. Apart from this, I was also very impressed by the strong bonding among the family circle. Basically, all the neighbors are their relatives. They do have intimate and close relationship with each other. For example, Gloria’s sister who live next door brought some mango for us during our first dinner at their house. Nephews and cousins also gathered together every weekend (there were too many children that I couldn’t memorize all their names).
Since Marianie has worked in Middle East as a domestic helper, she has good command of English and acted as translator between Gloria and us. We spent some time chatting. She shared with us a lot about the local habits and economy, which helped me grasp a better understanding of the local lifestyle, custom. One thing that struck me most was the low wage rate here. She shared that the average income here is 250 peso per day, which means approximately 6000 peso per month (i.e. 1000 HKD). This is why a considerable number of Pilipino women opt to work in Hong Kong as domestic helper, enduring the separation from family or new-born children. From their perspective, it is a remunerative job that entitled them to yield almost triple of the normal income. In fact, college education here is also an unreachable luxury to ordinary citizen. According to Marianie, the official college fee is 40000 peso per semester, which is almost half of their normal salaries. Usually, only a small portion of affluent family can afford higher education. After listening to the hardship of local Pilipino, I felt so blessed for everything I harbor which I took for granted – the opportunity to study in college and to stay with my family.
Speaking of my hands-on living experience, the living condition here gave me plenty of food for thought. As this is my first time living in a less-developed country, I had never imagined how life would be with the lack of the most basic necessity – water. Adapting the life here was far more difficult than I expected. Lacking a sound water supply system and pipes, most locals have to pump water from the tank and store it in a few huge buckets for later use. To accommodate my roommate and I, I knew that Gloria and her family had to pump much more water than they usually need. I felt really guilty every time I consume the water in the bucket for either flushing, bathing or washing clothes. On the other hand, the hot temperature here is also another problem that I was battling with. As it was raining almost every night these days, there was blackout time to time, which meant that fans were no longer working. Those time without fans were really a torture as if we were stuck in a sauna for a long time. (That’s also when I found out how incredible the invention of AC was!) But apart from this two concerns, I truly enjoy every moment here, especially when I interact with the lovely kids here. Within this short period of time, I also realize how fortunate I am!