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..

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