Philippines is somewhere familiar yet alien to Hong Kong people. On one hand, there are 140,000 Filipinos in Hong Kong; on the other hand, the local residents are mostly ignorant about the rich and zealous Filipino culture. There seems to have a veil hanging between us, blocking our sight, and discourage us from knowing each other. But, our journey to Tubod Mar, Jagna in Bohol has changed it. The days we spent with Henry, the host family, and other villagers bridged us together.
I and Foung are going to stay at Henry’s beautiful tiffany blue house for three weeks. Living there are Henry, his two sons, and his old mother. It is surrounded by coconut and banana trees, that provide fruits for the family. Out at the balcony, there are wooden armchairs and desks, which become the perfect venue for families and friends to gather and chat. At the back of the house, you can find pigs, chickens, dogs and cats. Such a close bonding between human and animals is not what we can imagine in Hong Kong.
Henry the host is a local Filipino. He runs a grocery shop in the village. At the same time, he is also a self-sufficient farmer who has his own fruits trees and animals for food. Since his wife is working outside Bohol, he takes the responsibility of raising two sons and looking after the old mother alone. He is considerate to take care of us, preparing everything we need in advance. As English is not his mother tongue, we tried to communicate using simple words together with body language. It turns out that in most of the time, we have no difficulty sharing our ideas. He taught us lots of Filipino culture, for example, how to prevent the bone when eating fish, why they would smoke the fruit trees by burning the coconut shells. We become good friends in just three days of time. For the rest of the three weeks, I expect to learn more about the Filipino agriculture from him.
Ernest and Rheymarbest are sons of Henry. They are very cheerful and friendly. At weekends, they invited us to go swimming together at a beach somewhere near the village. I was surprised by how easily they can swim on a sea with huge waves. In the same beach, there were also some other kids who are enjoying the water. It seems that no one has taught them how to swim, while swim has become a second nature to them. Maybe that is the natural way we humans learn: learning through acting. The two brothers are also very keen on playing basketball. As told by Henry, they joined a league team together and practised in the court every day after the school. Our groupmates were honoured to form a team and play a match with them, while their daily effort paid off and defeat our team.
In this family, there are also many other children, whom are not sons of Henry. They are kids of other villagers, but they walk in and out the house as if they are just part of it. Perhaps these kids take Henry’s house as one of their playground, and Henry welcomes them too. Villagers are very kind and know each other very well, therefore they do not mind other kids to play at their places. It is what we Hong Kong people really need to think on: why we do not even try to know our neighbours? As our society gets more wealthy, we just get more distant with people around us. Here in Philippines, even we are just newcomers, people greet us and talk to us as if we are old friends of theirs. I feel the geographic distance does not divide us. We can be emotionally very close to someone, even though we are living in different side of the Earth.
The barrier between us is, indeed, not our geographic distance, not our cultural difference, not even our languages, it is whether or not we are willing to open the door deep in our heart, and try to accept someone who is different from us. Experience here in Philippines let me realise that we can get along well, and learn from the different. It is definitely a loss to ourselves and our society to neglect any minority group. Bearing this in mind, I am going to discover more about their culture in the coming three weeks. At the same time, I hope my knowledge in business and economics can help our cooperated business and the host family as well.