By: Gordon Ho HSUN
“Come on in.”, said the professor. I walked in the room, and looked around it. It was the most tidy office room I have ever entered in HKU, and there was nearly no documents and textbook on the table.
The interview, actually more like a chatting, was only about 10 minutes. The professor stated at the beginning that it would not be a formal interview related to GPA, internship experiences, and those kinds of records. Instead, it would be more like a matching to see whether I fit the course, and vice versa. At that moment, I made up my mind to take the course, and knew that it would be an unique experience for me. I cannot really remember what we then talked about after that. The only thing I still recall is the professor’s reminder that the living conditions might not be satisfying, which I did not take it seriously at that time. In fact, I was actually quite confident to get used to the living environment, there fast due to similar experiences from past voluntary projects. Also, different from the past few trips, I promised myself not to set any expectation in advance so that I can really feel the atmosphere, culture, and people there with pure minds.
Three months later, I finally arrived in this tropical country. It has already been a year since I last visited here. The warm air and the sunshine are still so familiar to me. Apart from this, I did not have much feeling since I have no pictures in mind to compare with. On the way from the pier to Laktawan, I just calmly observed this lovely island, placing myself in tranquility in order to feel the island genuinely.
The village and my host family’s house looked quite nice at the first sight. “Here I am ”, I said to myself, “This is the place I will be staying in for the coming one month.” I walked in the house, and began my one-month village life I have always longed for. In the next few days, I tried a lot of things which I have never done and may not be able to do again in the future.
For example, I went fishing with my hosts. We departed at 4 am and waited in the middle of the sea for hours for the fishing nets to be loaded. During the time we wait, we drank coffee, had breakfast, learn to count from one to ten in their dialect, chat, watched the sunset. I could never forget how clear and broad the sky was. Living in a rushed metropolis like Hong Kong will easily make people forget to look at the blue sky and forget how simple life can be. Besides our boat, there were a few other boats nearby. “That boat is my brothers, and that is my cousin’s.” It seemed that all the fishermen on the sea know each other. In villages like Laktawan, you can never imagine how closed the people are. Their connections are so strong as if the entire village is a family. When our boat arrived back at the coast, the tide was ebbing. Thus, our boat cannot be pulled into shore. My host then asked for other fishermen for help. “Here in the Philippines, we helped each other without asking anything in return”, the host said to me proudly. I kept pondering this sentence for a while. We Taiwanese are always proud of our kindness, but, comparing to Laktawan, Taiwanese are still much more indifferent than the villagers here. Developed countries are usually highly urbanized. However, throughout the development process, it seems that we will definitely lose something. We gradually forgot the tight bonding between people, and started to seek for materials that are much more than what we actually need.
Besides all the valuable experiences I got from here, I am also thinking about how I can make contribution to the village. As I saw in the village and the beaches, people here usually just litter everywhere, on the ground, in the ocean or even in the yards. I went on to discuss with my host about this. She said that they had tried to set up a system before but it did not sustain long. This issue is not only about the villagers’ wrong habits but also the subsequent dispose of the garbage. Difficult it may be, our host and I both agree we can still give it a shot. Now I plan to meet the village representative on weekends and maybe we can start to deal with it starting from next week.