Journey Overseas: My First Experience in the Philippines

I gazed through the windshield into the street. I breathed a prayer of gratitude that I would not have to drive here, and then smiled at our driver in appreciation. The streets of Manila were packed!

Several drivers waved and grinned as they passed my vehicle. Everybody I encountered made me feel welcome. By the time I met the group of people my team would be working with daily, I had fallen in love with this country. Some strangers even came up to me and posed for pictures in smaller cities outside of Manila. I later discovered that many had never seen white people outside of television and believed me to be Drew Barrymore.

Manila suffered from extensive pollution. Outside the big city, however, the country was beautiful! The tropical Philippines boasts of warm weather, white sand beaches, and palm trees.

I traveled with a team of interns from the Christian, non-profit organization called Convoy of Hope. We were greeted by a group of Philippinos who worked at the Convoy of Hope office based in Manila as well as many members of a local church. We came to help them administer feeding programs, perform dramas, outreach with the gospel of Jesus Christ, and assist in any other way possible.

Everyone I met showered our team with hospitality. I wished I had learned the native language, Tagalog, before I entered the country. Nevertheless, our new friends spoiled us and spoke in English much of the time for our benefit. Many apologized for their poor grammar, but I was very impressed by how clearly they spoke English.

Several acquaintances in the States had warned me that I would lose weight while overseas. I’m not sure where those people had traveled, but I lost no weight in the Philippines. In fact, I gained weight. My Asian friends shared fresh mangoes and papayas with me. I instantly deemed mangoes my favorite fruit. I drank from a coconut for the first time in my life. The meat they fed me over sticky rice was always deliciously seasoned. One afternoon spaghetti graced the menu. Expecting the Italian-style spaghetti I find in America, the sweet taste of Philippino-style spaghetti surprised me. I loved it. For fun, the locals also encouraged the Americans to try “balut”, which is a a baby duck or chicken that has been boiled while still in its eggshell. Although the event was built up like a scene from Fear Factor, I did not think balut tasted too bad. I had a blast sharing stories about it when I came home.

I enjoyed every bit of my month-long trip to the Philippines. I have not been back, but I hope to go again someday, or perhaps live there. The people are so friendly and relational. I felt very much at home, despite the many cultural differences. In the meantime, I still talk on Facebook with some of the friends I met there. I will always cherish the memories of that first travel experience.

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