Sunday, August 15, 2010

Immersion (A Post in 3 Parts): Part 3

Day 3

For our last day, we were still required to wake up early for a processing session with our formator at Mang Boy's house. Basically, we just shared the experiences we've had over the past two days, as well as some insights we've gained. Afterwards, we were invited to ride the kalabaw at the house of one of us. Unfortunately, me and Aileen had to go ahead home to help with cooking lunch and other chores.
Our last lunch at Nanay Rosana's house was the most delicious. We had fried fish, the sinigang from last night, tortang talong and fresh buko juice. We chatted for a while and then we all watched the movie adaptation of "Magandang Tanghali Bayan." I found it to be the funniest Pinoy film I've ever seen. We never finished it as we had to go to Mang Boy's house (as usual) to convene for the last time. Before that, we had some last minute photo ops...
...and then it was goodbye. At his house, Mang Boy and his fellow farmers (who were foster parents to some of us) said their last words. I was really sad at having to go so early...I felt there was so much more to experience and learn. Nevertheless, we all walked to the highway (where we were to wait for the bus home) with a heavy heart and a mind full of memories.
On the bus home, I sat next to some stranger, so I wasn't able to talk to anybody. Instead, I looked out the window and pondered about the past two days. I definitely felt lucky at having had a privileged life, that I didn't have to work hard for necessities such as food, shelter and tuition. However, I also felt a certain jealousy for the simple, peaceful life they lead..very close to nature which provided them with food, livelihood and shelter. But I am lucky to have had that experience, as it showed me another side of Filipino life: the farming life. It was hard because of the many economic and political issues they face everyday. However, I would like to believe that the farmers are partly rewarded for their hardwork with the distinction of being stewards of the dying Philippine agriculture industry. Having come out of the experience a definitely changed person, I hope to one day use my skills and talents in helping these people who have joyfully welcomed me into their homes and generously shared their food and shelter. I genuinely hope to one day do the same for them and more.
And this concludes my rather lengthy posts on my immersion trip. I am really grateful to have had this experience, and I wish we had spent more than 3 days there. I am also glad to have met all those wonderful people who have touched a part of my life. A really big THANK YOU to all of them. :'D

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Immersion (A Post in 3 Parts): Part 2

Day 2 (Wee hours of morning)

This part of day 2 deserves some attention for something very unusual to me happened. For some reason, I woke up at around 1 in the morning. To check the time, I felt for my cellphone which I put in the bed, to the right of my head. Oddly enough, instead of my phone, I felt something hard. I thought it was my partner's face, but I remembered that she was sleeping to the right of me. I sat up and saw, in the darkness, that there was a cat sleeping there! Right in front of my face. I know I was overreacting, but I was a bit shocked and traumatised as I wasn't too keen on animals, especially cats. I can tolerate them around me, but not when they touch me. I got my phone, and flashed the backlight at the cat, hoping it would get out (the walls of our room weren't connected to the ceiling, so it could easily climb the cabinets and get out), but it would not. I opened the lights and the door, but my partner woke up and asked that I turn off the lights (she immediately went back to sleep so I couldn't ask for help). I sat at the foot of the bed, waiting to see if the cat would jump on the bed. It did for two more times, at which point I was really terrified of going to sleep for fear of it sleeping next to me (or worse, peeing on me or scratching me!). I was awake for another hour when I saw that it was not gonna jump anymore. Still, I slept curled at the foot of the bed.
Note: Apparently, the cat was used to sleeping at the bed since the bed's original owner, Ann, was the cat's prime owner. Ann loved animals, as she also took care of their two dogs and the five (or four?) puppies. Actually, most of the residents in the barangay loved animals; almost every house I saw had a pet dog or cat.
This concludes my day 2 morning adventure, now on to the regular day 2.

Day 2

On Saturday, we woke up at 5:00 in the morning, in order to make it to our 6:30 am call time. We were finally gonna plant and farm today! Nanay Rosana prepared a pretty big breakfast for us, knowing that we were gonna do hardwork today. All of us were to meet at Mang Boy's house so we could all walk towards the field where we were gonna plant.
We were given a 1/10th hectare of land to plant on. At first glance, it looked small and manageable for all 18 of us (plus some local farmers who volunteered to help us), however, we found out thereafter that it was a very long and tedious task. All of us stood on the pilapil, anxiously debating whether to plunge in right away in the mud. The planting was full of large snails (whose broken shells could cut through your foot), and me being the very maselan girl that I am, I was very afraid to step in. Only after a few of my groupmates went did I follow.
The mud was very cold and mushy. It felt as if I were stepping on chocolate pudding. Still, it was like having a free foot spa, although it was hard to keep your balance when your feet sinks in the ground with every step. Since we weren't given any instructions as to how to go about, the kuyas and manongs were glad to assist us as we started. We were to take a bundle of rice seedlings (punla), and then plant 3 or 4 of them. Ideally, I wanted to do area with 3 straight columns to the other side, but before long, they became wavy lines. Still, I was proud that I was one of the faster workers.
We were able to completely plant on our field. It was rewarding to see our previously empty lot full of planted seedlings, that hopefully, could one day grow into palay. The heavy feeling bought about by sweat and dirt clinging to our bodies was trumped by the feeling of accomplishment we had going back home (Interjection: I actually got lost on the way home. Aileen went ahead since I stayed behind with my groupmates for some photo ops. For some reason, I missed the narrow pathway to my house since it was hidden by trees. My only clue was the number of dogs we had. One house I thought for sure was the one turned out to have three white dogs. We only had two dogs, one white and one black/brown. Thank god for those forsaken pets I guess.)
Back home, me and Aileen helped with laundry and lunch. For some reason, I had forgotten being tired from the farming we did. After the chores, I still didn't feel tired. I don't why.
After lunch, I met with my groupmates so that we could practice for our presentation later at community night. We did a musical skit entitled "My Romantic Immersion." Basically, we were going to reenact our immersion trip and incorporate a love story within. The romantic angle involved a guy and girl falling in love during immersion. However, when the girl dies (due to falling out of a window after being harana'ed), the guy then falls for his best friend. WHO IS A GUY. Yup, this was a tragicomedy all right. The comedy parts being expertly supplied by my groupmate's impersonation of our long haired and half-Korean formator, as well as by our planting choreography to the tune of Lady Gaga's "Telephone."
Before the community night, all of us had a group session with some of the people from AMTG, who gave us a national situationer on farming. It was a certainly eye-opening talk, as we became aware of the many issues certainly not reported by mainstream media. For one, my full-fledged support for CARPER has now become conditional, as I found out that it didn't fully benefit farmers. We also learned some math, as we were told of how many spoonfuls of rice was equivalent to how many grains of rice.
After the talk, we were given a full tour of the barangay, and we went to the road which was constructed by pouring concrete on 20 hectares of cultivated land. That was probably the biggest injustice that was done to the farmers. That 20 hectares of land could have put a lot of meals on their tables and a lot of means to pay their children's tuitions. However, the capitalists have again trampled on the rights of the weak and asserted their "superior" selves.
The tour certainly took its toll on my legs, for once we were back home, my thighs started to ache. We ate a hasty supper and then went back to Mang Boy's house for the night's gathering.
Community night was a blast! Our presentation was a hit, as well as the other group's dance number. I also enjoyed the "Hep Hep Hooray" game for the kids, especially when one of us impersonated Pokwang. The Pinoy Henyo game was also fun, especially when one of the pairs were teased as being bagay. Another fun moment was when the keyword was "santol" and the guesser still couldn't figure it out even if there was a santol tree right above us. It was really one fun night. :)

PS: Sorry for the grammar and typo errors. I was on a writing frenzy when I wrote all this. :)

to be continued...

Friday, August 13, 2010

Immersion (A Post in 3 Parts): Part 1

Hi my lovelies! For one I'm in a much better mood today, much better compared to what I was feeling when I wrote my last post. Anyway, I'm treating you guys to a nice long post (three parts in fact) of my immersion trip, because it was really that memorable. I was gonna post this last July 12, the day immediately after I came back from immersion, but as usual, school came in the way. So here now is my recount of the three of the most extraordinary days of my life.

A background explanation: The immersion is required for all college seniors. It a part of imbibing us with social awareness and responsibility, as well as bringing our Theo lessons in liberation theology (look it up, it's pretty eye-opening) close to home. I wish not just Ateneans experienced this. I'm quite sure a lot more people have a need for this kind of experience.

Day 1

THe night before July 9, I slept at around 11:00 pm. I was going to sleep earlier but I still had to pack my bags. I woke up at 3:30 am to make it the bus station at around 5:30 am. I arrived at 5.
My first time waiting in a public bus station was actually pretty eventless, I just watched people with lots of belongings come and go.The toilet with the brown water was really disgusting though.
On the bus going there, I sat down next to a girl who wasn't my Theo groupmate (btw, I'm the only girl in my Theo group) and we spent the whole time talking. She was my first new immersion friend.
The bus dropped us off two blocks away from our destination. As we walked, I could sense a change in scenery. The concrete building and houses immediate ly became wide fields and trees. The road was dustier and rockier the farther we walked.
The first house we stopped at was Mang Boy's place. He was the leader of the AMTG, a local farming union. He, his wife and their friends all welcomed us into their community. After some talk and introductions, we were to be paired up, with each pair assigned to a house.
Our house was one of the farther ones, with a narrow dirt road surrounded by fields leading up to it. The house of Nanay Rosana and her family was concrete actually bigger than my house, although it was unpainted. Still, I surmised that they were one of the more well-off families in the area. We arrived there to find no one home, save for their househelp Kuya Boyet and Nanay Rosana's brother-in-law Mama Aming (Mama is Kapampangan for "uncle"). Immediately, we were asked to help in drying out the palay (unmilled rice), since they had gotten wet by the rain the day before. Two long strips of tarpaulin were laid out on the ground and we had to spread two sacks of palay all over. I was surprised that we could step on them even with our shoes on (Later, I saw that a tricycle actually passed over it. Turns out it doesn't matter whether the outer covering gets dirty, it's not gonna be eaten anyway - although I worry about some of the unmilled rice that gets included.)
Anyway, after working, we rested in a small hut outside the house, while Kuya Boyet went to get some water. I was glad to finally get to drink something cold, however, I had to take only a sip to find out that the water had a very metallic taste. It came out of a water pump, directly from underground. Although it was clean, I just couldn't stomach the taste. Good thing I bought some of my own.
We got to talking with Kuya Boyet. Turns out, Nanay Rosana sold some snacks outside of a public school and would not be back until 5 in the afternoon. It was only just 9 in the morning, so we had some 8 hours to kill. Kuya Boyet told us some things about their life, like how the family used to own a fishpond right outside of the house. But due to hot weather, many of the fish died, and they eventually had to empty out the pond (This sucked because I've always wanted to try fishing.). He also told us how farming wasn't a very lucrative livelihood, since millers buy the palay at very low prices to sell the rice themselves for a very high profit.
As we talked some more (We also found out that Kuya Boyet was from Mindanao, and that he worked for the family by recommendation of a relative in the area. Sometimes, he would go to Manila to work as an insurance agent for police officers), we suddenly saw Mama Aming come toward us with some hopia and a bottle of RC Cola. Kuya Boyet told us that it was hard to talk to Mama Aming because he was hard of hearing and that he could understand very few Tagalog. Nevertheless, we found him to be a very nice old man (albeit a rather eccentric one - he liked to just walk around the house and stop at odd intervals to state into space. We found out later that he was born with a mental defect, and late detection meant that he wasn't fully cured. He has always been in the care of Nanay Rosana's family).
A couple of hours later, Nanay Rosana's second oldest child came home from arranging some documents in the city.
Ate Rocelle had just graduated from nursing school and was just waiting for the bar exam results. She wanted to find a job to support her family in the meantime. She told us how life was not very easy in their place, that you really had to work hard to make it through. Still, she wouldn't exchange her life in the province for one in the city, noting that the quiet, simple life was the one she preferred. She was very nice to us, although a bit shy. She offered us some santol, and mymy, it was my first time to eat santol and it was really good. Kind of like an oversized lanzones. Anyway, she left us alone for awhile while she cooked dinner. Me and my partner Aileen decided to wander the area for awhile.
The barangay of Sta. Cruz was rather big, but the community was very close-knit and open to people. It was easy to say hi and walk up to people without looking at you like strangers. We played with some children and met some locals. We tried visiting the homes of our other companions, but they were nowhere to be found.
Back at the house, Nanay Rosana and her youngest child, Ann, eventually came home. For some reason, Nanay Rosana reminded me so much of my own mother. They were both on the plus side (hehe), both owned their own small businesses to get the family by and both were very motherly. Nanay Rosana had four children, the oldest was in Manila, the next was Ate Rocelle, the next was in college and the youngest was Ann, who was in her first year of high school. Her husband was in Iraq, working as a handyman. Another thing that Nanay Rosana reminded me of my mother was how they both liked to chat and talk, in a very cheeky manner.
Nanay Rosana told us how their life is not always very comfortable. The money she and her husband earns was only enough to support their basic necessities. The rest they had to borrow from friends and lenders. Still, according to her, they never lose hope, as long as she has her children and their education to rely on. For her, a good education is really the best tool for getting success out of life.
For dinner, we had sinigang sa santol, another new introduction to my tastebuds. It was very good, with the santol adding the right amount of sweet and sour to the dish. After dinner and washing up (not very easy. Washing dishes is another level harder when you had to pump for the water. I definitely felt some muscles start to form in my arms.) We then slept right after for we had an early day tomorrow.

to be continued..