Overseas Trips
19th November 2014

Service Learning Journey, CSC, Philippines

The Philippines OCIP trip 2014 led by Ms Ng Shi Shi and Mr Jason Tan was from 19 November 2014 to 26 November 2014, lasting 8 days. 13 students and 2 teachers were involved. As a service learning trip, the students were meant to learn while providing aid to the village they were attached to through interacting with the children and their host families whom they homestayed with for 5 nights. They learned to be considerate of others, especially with their hosts as they were guests.

During their stay in the village, students presented a variety of activities prepared, from the areas of games, arts and crafts, songs, and english and math. This included games such as frisbee and Ice and Water, arts and crafts such as origami and colouring, songs such as Chicken Dance and O’ Macdonalds, and basic addition and subtraction.

The students also helped with the construction work in the village, helping the villages to transport concrete, sand and gravel, as well as paint the buildings and anti-rust on the steel supports of the school that was being constructed. This allowed them to see for themselves the value in teamwork, which allowed the work to be done more efficiently, as well as appreciate the effort that hard labour requires.

On the final afternoon, students also presented the prepared performance item of a song and a dance. They also watched a performance prepared by the villagers, showcasing some dances by various groups of villagers. The dances were interesting and of various styles such as traditional and modern. The effort that the villagers put in showed, humbling the students as they realised that what they had provided to the village in the five days meant so much to them.

The students were informed about how Gawad Kalinga (GK), the non-profit organisation in charge of the providence and execution of aid for this village, had a policy in place to vet villagers before accepting them, and that they had to help with building the houses to have a sense of ownership, as well as building up the community spirit, and that the village was mainly built by the villagers themselves. The students thus learnt about the importance of aid recipients retaining their dignity, and be assisted to have a higher standard of living while being independent, as this allowed them to be a self-sustaining village in the long-run that was not aid-dependent.

They also learnt about how to appreciate what they have, from seeing how the villagers were happy and contented despite having little material possessions as compared to them. They also learnt to find happiness in the simplest things such as having fun playing with the kids, and to not be attached to technology 24/7. Their stint in the village, despite its briefness, taught them that a hectic lifestyle is not always the best, and the slowing down and worrying less is a good thing.

The food there was also delicious and varied. On the first day, students had the opportunity to try bula bula, a sweet dessert with rice balls and sweet potato. Pancit, primarily consisting of noodles fried with some pork and cabbages, was also tried during their stay. Lunch on the last day of the stay was Adobo cooked with chicken and pork, yet another local dish. Hence, the students learned about the food aspect of the culture of the Filipinos through directly tasting it and being introduced to the food by the tour guide on the first day.

On the second last day of the trip, there was a pit stop at a gas station where students tried the beef burger from the fast food chain Jollibee, which originated from the Philippines, before a visit to the Crowne Plaza Greenville in the afternoon.

Dinner was with a cultural show at the Zamboanga Restaurant. Food included local Filipino dishes such as the famous suckling pig and the desert was halo-halo, something that was vaguely similar to the Singaporean local desert ice-kachang, with coconut milk for flavouring.

The cultural show mainly consisted of dance and music performance which told of the era in the Filipino history when they were colonised by the Spanish, with instruments such as the guitar, lute and xylophone as well as bamboos being used as a percussive instrument during the dance while being part of it: a few dancers had to step between and over the bamboo poles while other dancers moved the poles together in the traditional tinikling dance. For this traditional folk dance, females wore a dress called balintawak or patadyong, and males wore a uniform called barong tagalog.

On the last day, students visited the Intramuros, The Walled City. They learnt about its history, such as it being the old governmental building when the Philippines was colonised by the Spanish, as indicated by the architecture of the buildings where windows were large and open to encourage air flow as the colonial Spanish were unused to the humid tropical climate. A short film on the history of Intramuros was also shown in a theatre in Intramuros. The Jose Rizal museum was also visited, where students learnt about the Filipino National Hero Dr José Rizal, whose death led to the Philippines Revolution.

There was also a brief introduction to the recent political history of the Philippines, such as about the parent-child pairs of Presidents, and the existence of 2 Independent Days due to different accounts of the Filipino history. The students also saw San Agustin, the oldest stone church in the country which survived World War 2, amongst the ruins of 16 other churches, and was hence deemed to be a very holy place.

Lunch on the last day was at a seafood restaurant where students had the opportunity to eat without utensils, using only their hands. It was certainly a learning experience. They then proceeded to SM Mall of Asia, the 3rd largest shopping mall in the Philippines and the 10th largest in the world in terms of gross leasable area, owned by Henry Sy. A Chinese Filippino, Henry owns SM Prime Holdings, which also owns the largest and second largest malls in the Philippines. This was an interesting titbit of information shared by the tour guide, who had also talked about how Filipinos started the celebration of Christmas in September, and only ended it on 11 January. He’d also talked about how the Philippines was sometimes known as the city of festivals, with the famous shoe- festival in Marikina, the Shoe Capital of the Philippines, so given the title due to its notable shoe industry, and Holi, the Festival of Colours celebrated in Manila.

Excerpts of Reflections from two student participants:
“I guess the bond that was most deeply forged were the ones with our host families. Having stay in their homes for such a period of time, we have changed from strangers to friends and even to families. In the beginning, i felt like a fish out of water, in a foreign place, with strangers and an uncomfortable environment. However, through the interaction with the family members during our stay, we were able to communicate and managed to learn more about one another. As we shared with each other the lives of ours, we realize that all differences could be breached with love and understanding. It was as though our lives interlinked momentarily and the bubble we shared belonged to the special ones living that moment together. We were no longer host and guest, but together as one, with love for each other. Our host really embraced us and treat us as more than children, giving their best to us and always thinking the best of us. Perhaps, to thank us for the contribution to the village. This let me to stop and ponder, the actions of us in the city. Everyday, our Singapore is developing and building with the help of the foreigners that we may not welcome, yet it is an unspoken fact that without their help, Singapore would not be what it is today. Yet, how much thankful are me towards them?”

“Over the course of the trip, I have also learnt more about what it means to do service, especially during the homestay. The hosts were very hospitable, and generous, offering up their beds. They also let us use their only fan at night. Their selfless acts humbled me greatly. As my host was not proficient in English, I had to learn to communicate with her, such as substituting common words to get my meaning across, and being more patient despite my frustration. Despite the language barrier, we did learn a bit about each other’s lives, and I also learnt a few Tagalog phrases. This invaluable exchange, where both of us benefitted, is almost certainly what doing service is about: mutual giving and receiving based on respect.

Helping to build the houses was really experiential to me as I have not done extensive hard labour before. It made me appreciate teamwork all the more as we were much more efficient when we worked together than individually: transporting the gravel and sand were much faster when we formed a chain than when we lugged the sacks ourselves. Their food was similar but different too, having the same staple (rice) that we have, but with much more heavily seasoned courses.”

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