By Aditya Kumar.
13th June 2017. It has been 10 days since I’ve been living in Tubod Mar, a small village or Barangay as you call it in the Visayas and the experience has been special. I have been living in a small shack right across Celda’s house, my mummy in the Philippines. I’ve been living with three brothers and a sister and have become a part of their family. I was welcomed with Adobo, a Filipino specialty with rice and orange juice. It was delicious and it felt like I was eating food cooked by my mother because of the love and affection it had been cooked with. Dorotheo, my papa is a land broker who works in Panglao, near Tagbilaran and comes back every night and plays the guitar for the family after dinner, while my Mummy stays at home and take cares of the family.
The first day when we were being brought to our houses and being introduced to our families, Chad, my youngest brother, followed our jeepney shouting James Harden while pointing at me. I was confused as to why would he call me that. But on reaching home, Mummy told me as to how I look like James Harden, a famous Houston Rockets player known for his beard. Basketball in this village is a way of life. The people start their days by watching basketball on their small television sets and end it by playing a game of ball on the old basketball court before going to sleep. I was introduced to this lifestyle on the second day of my stay when the whole family sat and watched the semi-finals of NBA, after which Kenneth, my roommate and I played a game of basketball with the kids on a small hoop attached to the branch of a tree next to the house. We went to Can-uba beach after for a swim where I was made fun off by every kid for being too scared of the water. We cleaned ourselves and showered after out of a well where I was in charge of removing water from it because of my height. It felt like a communal shower except, instead of the shower there was a well in the middle of a jungle.
Time here goes by very slowly, and if you don’t have the right company, it gets depressing. Thanks to these kids and my mummy papa, my stay here so far has been compelling. My mummy would prepare breakfast for us every morning before we wake up and dinner would be kept on the table by the time we return home from our respective businesses. In spite of the limited resources available to them, they never made us feel like we needed anything.
Every night after dinner and a game of basketball, the whole family gets together in the living room and plays ‘Sungka’, the tank shell game with the television broadcasting news in the background. On one night, I decided to show the children of the family a movie on my laptop. It started off with three children but by the end of the movie, there were 12 from all around the neighborhood. So now, every alternate day is movie night in my shack where all the kids gather around the benches and watch a movie. On other days, the children from Tubod Mar come over and sit with us in the shack and drink Tuba with us. Tuba is a distilled coconut wine that every person drinks here irrespective of the time. The fishermen here drink Tuba in the morning, go fishing, come back and drink, eat dinner, and then again drink before sleeping. Honestly, it tastes good at first but by the end of it, it’s just vile. It is like any other cheap drink that makes you ‘hubog naka’ or drunk very quickly. Rice is another dish that these people love eating. Among the many new things that I’ve tried here, Santol, a locally grown fruit is perhaps one of the tastiest fruits I’ve eaten. The kids and I sit down every night and crack open a santol and eat it. I’ve adopted two children here, Joseph and Chad who have agreed to come to Hong Kong with me and live with me. They’ve started calling me papa and every time I come back from work, run towards me and hug me.
On the weekend, my friends and I decided to go to chocolate hills where we took along with us Chad and Chellie. We stopped over for lunch where we all ate fries and drank shakes and the speed and attention with which they consumed this meal was worth watching. It was like a baby talking for the first time. They had never eaten fries before and you could see that in their eyes. You could see the love for this newly found heaven they had tasted for the first time. I just stood there and marveled at the fact that the people here are so happy and satisfied with their lives whereas us city dwellers are always cribbing and asking for more. My family has helped changed my perspective on life and has taught me that you don’t need material things to be happy.
My family here is the only thing helping me get through these days here without the internet and other amenities. They’ve made me realize that love and affection and relationships are more important and valuable and entertaining that materialistic pleasures. I’ve been living in my home far away from home with my family. They’ve treated me like their own son and have made sure that I feel comfortable and at home. I may have made new friends at the end of this trip, but the most important thing I’ve gained out of this trip is a new family. Thank you for integrating me into your family and treating me like your son.