Having my birthday in the Philippines was something I was always unsure of; whether it would feel like any other birthday in the UK or different. But maybe because I've been here a while, this place starts to feel like home, that I'm not missing out on anything.
Waking up in the morning, the host family wished me a happy birthday as I ate my breakfast.
"You need to go to the shops and buy some cake." The host mother said.
I laughed nervously, hoping she was joking or something.
"Or maybe some chicken if you like?"
I thought she was messing around so I agreed with her sarcastically.
"No seriously, it's the Filipino culture, if it's your birthday, you go buy your own cake."
"Where's the surprise?" I thought to myself. I laughed, no way was I going to buy my own cake. It just doesn't feel right at all!
I opened the cards from my mum and dad, that was given to me before I flew over. It wasn't the same opening them without them there of course!
And then I got videos through whatsapp, of my family wishing me a happy birthday. Now this got me emotional, I knew what I was missing out on!
I showed my host family the videos, and they were amazed at how similar me and and my sisters were! I disagreed of course, I'm the better looking one haha! They prepared me a birthday lunch with "no rice" and it was spaghetti with bread. But then they couldn't resist the bowl of rice on the other table so they had some rice with their spaghetti and asked me if I wanted some. You can guess what the answer was.
It was a quiet morning, I washed the dishes and cleaned my room as some sort of distraction. But it was okay, I was going to meet my friends in the afternoon!
We went to the spa, and it was so nice! The first time I got a proper Asian massage, and it's definitely recommended! I got a seaweed wrap (very strange, but it was part of the package!), and a facial. Definitely worth it - I think I forgot the meaning of luxury now!
All volunteers went out for dinner in TGI Fridays. I was so worried, I knew it was too expensive for the Filipinos, but they did say it was fine, and I wanted to carry on the family tradition - my birthday has always been at TGI's! (Yes, I know, it's shocking there's a TGI Fridays in Cebu but it's full of white, ugly, overweight men with Filipino women.)
I guess the Filipino volunteers had a small taste of the British culture, they were amazed at how big the burgers were, the prices of course - so they ended up sharing food, and that's when I felt bad! It was a lovely evening, and I'm grateful for those who came!
Thinking about it, it's November next week. And then I'm going to be saying "I'm going home this month." I don't know how to feel about it of course, it's starting to feel like 3 months isn't enough and I'd need to stay longer to feel that I've contributed enough to the deaf community in the Philippines. But this is a difficult task. Deaf people will always be seen as of lower status than hearing people - and deaf Filipinos themselves are unlikely to make this change soon. They've grown up in a society where they were looked down on, so they are used to it. They avoid signing on jeepneys because they don't like being stared at.
"Stare at them back, you're like everyone else, you only speak a different language." I say to them.
But of course, it's the little things that count. For me, I feel that I've contributed a lot at my work placement, helped my Filipino counterparts to become more confident and increased awareness about access for deaf people. I think I'm going to save this particular topic for the end, I've still got 5 more weeks and who knows, things may change as A LOT does happen in 5 weeks, especially when you're in the Philippines!