Despite spending half of my life in the Philippines, I have found myself being culture shocked by the hierarchy system in all parts of the Filipino society. From government to organisations, leaders or bosses must be obeyed or informed of any actions that the employees are doing. This is one of the reasons why it took a while for them to give us clearance to conduct our GFF projects.
Nevertheless, the school children’s obedience during our School Projects reminded me of how being polite and well-mannered was taught in Philippine schools and that I should carry this with me wherever I may be. People here are so polite that they never fail to address someone as ‘Ma’am’ or ‘Sir’. Formal language is used with one word ‘po’ to anyone older than yourself. They will excuse themselves when they walk passed two people having a conversation. These are just some simple things that reminded me of what it takes to be a Filipino.
This experience has given me the opportunity to connect with communities in rural areas and allowed me to learn more about my own culture. Though I have been exposed to disadvantaged areas in the Philippines when I was young, this was the first time I have been able to understand the difficulty of living situations in some areas. Most families we have met and encountered do not have a consistent source of income that they can rely on. Some have alcoholic problems within their households and some are going through issues that have been a result of broken marriages. Despite this, they still manage to smile and try to cope each day, living their lives with what they have.
Another thing I have noticed in these communities is that even though life has been financially challenging, they seem to more content. They are even happy with just a simple visit in their houses. There’s also been instances where beneficiaries offer us something to eat despite not having much themselves. Those things reminded me that I should be content and grateful not for the materialistic things but rather the people whom I value and values me.