Monday, November 19, 2007

Regional Learning

On Saturday, we had a great opportunity to learn a lot about the Philippines and area where we are staying. We first started our day at the Ayala Museum ( where we learned about the very rich history of this country. Often, history only talks about three occupying nations through history: the Spanish, the USA and the Japanese. But we also learned that the British were also a colonial power here for a couple of years. With so many invaders, the influences can be seen all over, especially the Spanish architecture very visible in Intramuros, the old walled city once reserved for the Spanish. It was interesting to see this beautiful place, and to put into place the cultural pressures put on this place as they were converted to Christianity and their ways to forced to change by colonial occupation.

In the afternoon we were invited to go to the slums and see the revitalization work that is being done by one of our partnering organizations Gawad Kalinga. In the middle of the corrugated aluminum and cardboard houses, there is an oasis of hope where brightly colored buildings are being built and community spaces cleared out. For our group, it was fantastic to see the potential of the work that we are doing here and to know that we will be making a positive difference for the people of these communities. With children holding our hands as we walked back to our buses we were then taken to a private dinner hosted by the Department of Tourism.

The sharp contrast of these two experiences was staggering. As we were ushered onto a red carpet walk, Cast B was greeted by the sounds of a famous bamboo instrument band called the Singing Bamboos. We were in an open courtyard with a full dinner set for us with traditional dishes from the Philippino culture. There is no way that we could have eaten everything there, and it all felt so extravagant. We then had a private performance from the Philippine National Folk Dance Company, Bayanihan. The group was absolutely amazing and it was hard to believe that this was done all for us.

Many people went home that night and tried to piece together the two worlds that we had come into contact with during that day. This will definitely be one of our struggles here as we continue our journey here in Manila.

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