On July 11th of 2015, with volunteers from the call centers of Sykes in the Philippines, together we embarked on a journey to the deep parts of Pasig to a Habitat housing area of 120 families. These families were relocated from the near the river because they faced constant threats and damage from continuous flooding of the region. Because of Habitat for Humanity, these families were given a safe and inhabitable land to settle upon and grow as a community. Residents who constantly face unsought or unexpected visitors, some sort of hostility would appear in the atmosphere, but ever since we had arrived, the tenants were nothing but hospitable and accommodating (maybe because we were painting their houses, but oh well).
I’ll be clear. I had NEVER done something like this before in my life, but I always was and still am open to new experiences. And that is how I took this day, a day for a different experience, but boy, by the end, it meant so much more than I presumed it would be. The day couldn’t have started off worse with me being utterly useless due to my lack of skills in the painting area. I was teamed up with a volunteer from the call center and I felt bad for him as he had to be paired up with me.
Hours flew by and I realized how much faster the other groups were compared to my teammate and I. During break time, I decided to continue painting “my house” to catch up with the others. The first thing to make my day was a woman, carrying her babe in her arms, walked over to me and offered me some of her McDonald’s food that was originally meant for her and her family. I had to decline respectfully because it was for them and she had a family to feed. I really don’t know how to describe how I felt at that moment, but it left me smiling for the rest of the day.
My partner returned from his break, but this time, things were different. It seemed as though he respected me for staying in during my free time to help with our job, and ever since then, we got along just fine.
Curiously yet unusually, the best part of the day was not with the task we were given to do, but the kids. I’m not afraid to say it, I LOVE THEM. They taught me so many of these filipino slang terms such as “nosebleed” which basically means having difficulty speaking English with a fluent or native English speaker (doesn’t necessarily have to be English). They laughed hysterically whenever I pointed at someone and said nosebleed, and even though it didn’t make sense, I couldn’t help but ‘chuckle’ at times as well.
The kids loved basketball and so did I, so they took me to their backyard to play basketball only to realize that they lost it and their hoop was on the verge of collapsing. I felt really so sorry for them, but what it made worse was that one kid there knew more about basketball than I did. He loved the sport more than I did, but he couldn’t even play it, and that made me tear up inside.
I remember the names of two kids there: Jan Jan and Ana, but I wish I had time to learn all of the rest because they each played a role in my experience there and they each contributed and made sure I had a great time. At the end, when it was time to leave, they all huddled up and conversing quietly in Tagalog, then Ana came up to me and said, “We love you.” They each gave me hugs and when I was leaving in the van, the kids ran with the van. In the beginning, I came in with the mindset that I was fortunate in my life and they were not as much, but I was wrong BIG TIME. Some have money, some have love, some have a community, but one thing’s for sure, we are all fortunate in some way.