The Pearl of the Orient
From the moment we stepped off the plane, into the dark, warm, humid air of Manila I have been struck by the storied kindness and warmth of the Filipino people. Each person I have encountered has done so with a genuine smile of welcome. It is quite refreshing. Day one in Manila was replete with learning; learning details of Filipino history, culture and education I was quite ignorant to until yesterday. However it was not the presentations by our host teachers Norberto and Alex that were most profound, rather, it was our explorations of the city and the trip from our hotel to dinner, through the streets of Makati to Intramuros. I was taken by the jeepneys, the crazy traffic, the stands selling goods and food along roadsides, random basketball hoops and very simply the hustle and bustle of a major SE Asian city. As we walked the streets of Intramuros, I was also reminded, humbled and struck by the extreme poverty many in this country are faced with. I was drawn to an amazing outdoor basketball court enclosed by walls covered in vibrant murals. The best part was that it was a smooth concrete surface so they were playing with bare feet. I was greeted by a young man who asked where I was from. When I told him the United States, he said "Ah, man me too, all of us, we're all united!" I couldn't help but smile and had to resist the urge to kick of my shoes and jump in the game. He reminded me that it's true, we are all united, maybe not by the same race, ethnicity, religion or language, rather we are all united as humans, and sometimes in the craziness of our lives and the worlds we live in, we forget that. So to the shirtless, shoeless balla' in Intramuros, thanks for putting it all in perspective. And as our host Norberto said, "the Philippines are 7,107 [the number of islands that comprise the archipelago] times beyond your expectations," and he's right, in two days it has been.