Jagna is the friendliest place filled with intangible qualities – peace, joy, helpful people, and, close neighborhoods. What’s more, there are plenty of tangible assets like the sea, sunset view, waterfalls, and terraces. Everything makes up my good stay here.
In Tubod Mar, I already got to know many people within one week’s stay. People care about each other and information flows fast. Every morning as I walk from home down to bus stop, I greet every person I meet even though we might not know each other. This habit has been established as I find every local does so. Very often, people inside the houses also say “Hello” or “Morning” loudly as I pass by their houses. I still remember on the third day I arrived here, several friends and I decided to go to the beach. As I walked past the basketball court, there was a van passing by. The driver stopped his car and asked me if I would like to take a ride. Meanwhile, someone in a house nearby leaned her head forward, pointed to the driver and told me he was her brother. Because they were very friendly, I decided to take the free ride. It was the first time in my lifetime hitching a ride! I had never done this before because it is something rare in Hong Kong. I got to know the driver, Troy, and his daughter, Stephanie. Troy lived in Tubod Mar during his childhood and moved out because of his job. This day he came back to visit his parents. He talked about his experience living in Tubod Mar and is proud of the peaceful life and close neighborhood, which are exactly what I have experienced in these days. Arriving at the bus stop, we ended the nice chat and said goodbye to each other. Troy is definitely not the only person who showed me the amazing culture here, the tricycle drivers who would remind you to be careful when you get off and have to cross the road, the fisherman who is enthusiastic about his job and showed me his fishing nets and boat, the little kids who play with me, the neighbors who are keen to recommend us the amazing places we should go , and the new friends I made with are all the important people who welcomed me with their open arms and made me feel the warmth and friendliness.
(My first hitching) (The fisherman showing me his equipment)
(My new friends – Allysa, Analie, Rosemarie and Riza)
Similarly, I feel plenty of hospitality and warmth staying with my host – Dulfa and her family. She asked us to call her Mama. Mama has always taken care of us very well and she is just like my mother. When I arrive home every day, she asks what I do for the day, which is exactly the way my mother asks me at home. If I come back early (probably at 4 or 5 pm), Mama asks if I want a Milo or Ovaltine drink. She always wants to ensure that we are not hungry, so she always tells us to eat more in dinner and also in breakfast. She is also a very good cook! I remembered before arriving this place I was not sure if I would like the Filipino food. Yet my worry soon disappeared after the first dinner. It is slightly more salty than what I usually eat but everything tastes good. That’ why the first two Bisaya words I learned are “Salamat” (thank you) and “Lami“ (delicious). I have admired the food more often than what I usually did because I realize this is a great compliment, especially in the Philippines’ culture. Mama always smiles whenever we tell her the food is great. Every morning, Maggie and I wake up at 6 a.m. to have breakfast with the family and we come back home before 6 p.m. to enjoy the dinner together. Sometimes Mama’s daughter, who lives in another house in Tubor Mar, brings her three sons to join us for dinner. We chat a lot during dinner. Opposite from my usual habit in Hong Kong, I have never brought my phone to the dining table because I think it is inappropriate to do so. But in Hong Kong, it is generally more acceptable because many people are heavy smartphone users and accustomed to keeping their phones beside them. I soon found out by putting away my phone, I pay more attention to the food and people around me. I slow down during the meal, savor the food, and observe other people’s reactions and feelings when we talk. This small change made me realize that saying NO to something (which can be an old habit) means saying YES to something else (which matter more). We all have the same 24 hours, but what makes us different is how we choose to invest our time. By shifting my attention from mindless social media browsing to meaningful connections, conversations, people, and events around me, I become more aware of my time, thoughts and experience here in Jagna.
(Dulfa’s husband, 8-month-old Mark and me)
(Our family photo)