[By John Chen]
After several days of intensive preparation, we were finally on the flight to Philippines. Apart from exciting and curious, I felt a little worried and nervous. Although I had been to lots of other countries, this time was quite special as we were going to stay in the rural place of an unprivileged country. Some confusing news about the president’s election in Philippines and foreign affairs against China made me quite worried. I was afraid that the local people were not friendly to Chinese and I could not incorporate myself into Philippine culture.
However, things went far better than I expected!
After overnight travelling from Hong Kong to Guimaras, we finally arrive in San Lorenzo, a town of Guimaras. We are so lucky to have a super nice host family! They welcome us with their warmest smile. They can not speak very fluent English but I still feel their warm and kindness through smile, words and gesture language. The host family is really a huge family! Our host has seven brothers and sisters who live in houses nearby. Our hostess Peso and her husband were farmers and have a grocery store near the main road. They have two boys, Galo and Angelo, who are 7 and 11 years old. They are in primary school but now is summer holiday, so they spend a lot of time with us. Out host and hostess are very busy. So they ask their cousin, Elenor for help. Elenor is a kind and gracious old lady. Actually we just call her grandma! Lots of other people nearby come to greet and welcome us which makes us feel really surprised and excited.
Language is not a problem!
There are many children living around. They are so happy about our staying here, especially boys! They always gather in the balcony and look at us. They are shy but so lovely. We walk out to talk to them. They just laugh shyly looking on us. They can not speak English but that does not matter at all. They bring us to the beach nearby in the late afternoon. On the way there, we chat through gesture and laugh. I am not sure whether they are shy or it is our funny gesture that make them laugh. Everything is so natural and peaceful. Windmills are spinning slowly; cows are resting near the river lazily; breeze are touching us smoothly. Although it is one of the hottest place in the world, but it has the coolest people and life. It is hard to imagine in Hong Kong that people can have the relaxing and comfortable life like this. Fast and stressful life in Hong Kong sometimes easily traps our mind on something and we get unhappy. Nature is the best cure. When everything around is so wild, wide and peaceful, mind is open for change, for inspiration and for future. When we arrive at the beach, we catch fish and crab with Galo and Angelo. The crabs always stay in the hole on beach. We dug into the hole together carefully. Suddenly, the crab escape quickly from the hole. All of us run after the crab crazily on the beach. It was the first time I feel so happy playing on beach after getting adults. The breeze, the sea, the sunset and the laugh make me feel like in paradise.
We always play basketball with the boys. Me and Ricky usually separate into two teams at the beginning. Then, we act as judge for them. We teach them some basic rules of basketball and enjoy the time together. Language is never a problem for us. We have fun, laugh and trust.
“Grandma” makes home!
Our hostess Elenor is just like our grandma in Philippines. She is so kind and smiles at everyone. She looks after us like a grandma. Me and Ricky eat a lot more than normal Philippine people. At the first two meals, we are always hungry and “clean up” all the dishes on the table in a short time. It is quite impolite and embarrassed to ask for more food. Grandma understands that the food is not enough for us without our notice. She prepares more for us and always asks us whether we are full. She is also a considerate grandma. I have to travel a long distance to my business. She asks her nephew to drive me there. Every day, she asks for my plan and gives me some precious advice on local culture. Once I am washing my clothes at noon, she is afraid that it is too hot for me to stay outside. She helps me wash it together. She is also a funny grandma. I get sunburnt after getting back, she makes jokes on me by comparing her skin colour with mine and says “me brown, you black.”
Although the living environment is worse than Hong Kong but living with the host family is the happiest things. I can feel the love from the them which gives me a sense of home. I want to help them but really do not know how to help. I think trying best to integrate into the family and spend more time with them should be the best help. I take a Chinese calligraphic folding fan for them as gift. They display it in the living room right towards the main door. I am really happy to be part of the family.
In an island with the similar size of Hong Kong, people have a very different life. There is no air conditioner; there is no bus; no electricity all the time; no clean toilet. However, people here are happy and sincere. They always smile to us and treat us like their family. Staying closely with family helps me understand more on how people live and work here. People love their own lifestyle and enjoy the nature. My host family told me,” we were not Boracay and we wish we won’t be.” Doing business here should really care for people’s feelings and understand the local culture. What makes Guimaras so attractive is their original nature, their peaceful life and their kind smile, which are also their pride and treasures. This is unique from other resort island like Boracay, Bali, Phuket Island. In the coming days, I will stay closely with the local people to understand their values by working on site, talking to customers and learning from staff. Looking towards the real consulting work!