As I flew into Bohol, I was greeted with thick white clouds. The weather seemed to reflect my clouded mind. How will I be able to live with complete strangers for three weeks? How will I be able to converse with them? Will they accept me as one of their own? All these questions disappeared the moment I met my host family, Adelfa and her husband Acedo.
As I stood near their house, they gave me a warm smile and Adelfa promptly guided me into her comfy home and showed me all the delicious dishes that she had cooked for us. She didn’t care that I was covered in mud and stank of sweat from the hike up the hill to get to the village. Her motherly instinct had kicked in and all she wanted to do was to feed me.
The delicious dinner that Adelfa had cooked up for me on my first day.
After I freshened up, we sat around the table for dinner. As I dived towards the food, Adelfa stopped me and said that they usually pray before we eat. Despite being from a religious family it was something that we never did. It was at that moment I realized how thankful and grateful I am for all the comforts I enjoy. It is one practice that I will be taking away with me from Bohol.
Since my roommate Chun had not arrived yet, I was the sole guest for the night. I guess they decided that I will be eating for the both of us because despite my many protests they continued to serve me even after I was full. Adelfa and her husband have been married for over 40 years. They have 4 sons who all work outside of Bohol and their daughter Ren Ren lives in another house with her 3 children in the same village. Dinner here is accompanied with conversations. Over the course of the next hour we both got to know each other and shared some good laughs. Despite not having fluent English, I was able to understand Adelfa perfectly thanks to her animated gestures. Unlike back in Sri Lanka dinner here is more of an event, an opportunity to for everyone to be updated about the daily events of each member of the family. Back home during dinner, my family just crowds around the TV with hardly anyone talking. I think when I go back I will put a stop to the mindless consumption of TV. In the middle of dinner Adelfa started to teach me the local dialect, Boholano. She expects me to converse fluently by the time I leave. I think I will be able to do it since I have an excellent teacher.
From left to right: Me, my roommate Chun, Adelfa and her daughter Ren Ren
Personally, the biggest challenge that I have to overcome during my stay is to wake up early everyday. Suhail has convinced (more like brainwashed) a few from the class to join him for a 5k run every morning at 5 am. As someone who is accustomed to skipping lectures and waking up in the late afternoon, exercise is a vague concept for me. As I stumbled out of my room at 9am after a 12-hour sleep the next day, Adelfa gave me bewildered look. She has never seen anyone sleep so much. I felt guilty for making her wait for me to have breakfast. I guess I will be joining Suhail for his morning runs in order to wake up early but I’m not sure it is a practice I will take back with me to Hong Kong.
Time seems to move at a different pace here. I feel out of tune with the languid lifestyle. Unlike in Hong Kong, no one is in a hurry. People seem to have all the time in the world. As I paced restlessly around the house on a Sunday evening not having anything to do, Acedo called me to porch and told me to just sit. “Don’t think, just relax” he said. I can’t remember the last time I did just nothing.
As I lay in bed contemplating the few days that I have stayed here, I realize that this is just the beginning of a memorable journey. I still have a lot to learn about the rich Filipino culture and I am lucky to have Adelfa and Acedo to help me learn. I hope that I can also teach them something about Sri Lanka and leave a good impression of my culture in their minds. I think the coming weeks are going to be something special.