Every afternoon, without fail, it rains, hard. The skies darken and the downpour of rain is epic. There is no drizzle or mist, rather here, quite literally, when it rains, it pours. In the U.S. we generally take this expression as a reference to something negative, but today, as I sat in a humble classroom in the middle of a downpour, I realized, right now, here, this trip, life changing experiences continue to pour! Each day has brought new insights, adventures, friends and opportunities to see or do something unlike the day before. Warmth, generosity, kindness and respect continue to shower me with every school I visit. It is truly humbling, and I feel a bit spoiled. In fact, to any of my students who read this, I am expecting a very warm welcome when I get back...the Filipinos have set the bar very, very high!!!
A student at San Antonio National High School asked me yesterday what my favorite experience in the Philippines was. When I told her I couldn't pick just one, I wasn't lying, I really can't. However, yesterday's visit to Ilian, and the Bicol Trinity Missionary Learning Center, moved me deeply. It is a small school nestled in the palms, half-way up a mountain. The school has limited facilities, with students working at tables, and most sitting in plastic lawn chairs. Instructed by teachers who are mostly volunteer, the school has only been around for 8 years, but is unique because it serves local students of indigenous descent. These are students who are faced with significant struggles, many with great poverty, and yet the 77 students enrolled in school there, still manage to make it to school, to do the work and to obtain knowledge that may help them achieve more than they can imagine. They were exceptionally shy and reticent to speak to white, Americans, but they were welcoming in their own way and they were kind enough to permit us to visit, observe and learn about the school.
In stark contrast, we left Ilian and went immediately to the next school La Consolacion College, a private, Catholic school. With almost two thousand students, the school serves students from kindergarten all the way to university. They have well established tracks (think majors) and do several things thing that remind me of Benson.
This day ended at the home of my host teacher and her family. We sang karaoke, and indulged in delicious, authentic, Filipino food cooked by her husband. I am obsessed with adobo, and have even gotten used to eating rice with every meal. Spoiled by fresh papaya for dessert, I couldn't have asked for a sweeter end to my day. Appropriately, as I was driven home in the moto-tricycle and a thunder and lightning storm flashed in the distance and threatened rain, I was okay with it, in fact, I like the rain here.