The last few days have been so busy, I officially only have 5 days left at my work placement.
I experienced my first ever earthquake. I was in Cebu City Hall, right at the top floor when it happened. I arrived at the meeting rather early, and there were a few other Filipino volunteers around. I felt a small rumble from the ground and I thought it was someone thumping. Then the chair I was sitting on started to shake and move. I panicked, it didn't feel real at the time. Once it stopped, I stood up and ran to the corner.
"WHAT WAS THAT?!"
I was absolutely terrified. The Filipinos seemed rather laid back and said it was an earthquake. I couldn't believe it.
Later that day, my host mother told me 1000 people had to evacuate, because of the earthquake - it appeared on the news.
One lunchtime at work, I had a long discussion with the teachers, sitting outside. They were asking me about life back in the UK.
One of the teachers, Tess, lived in Alaska for a short while. She said she knew how I felt - that I would feel overwhelmed to be back home. And then I asked her if she liked Alaska (it's America after all). She said no straight away.
"But... Why?" I was rather taken back.
She explained that it was too cold, everything was too ordered, everyone is very open minded and likes to express their opinions.
"But, that's the problem. Filipinos never express how they feel. How are we supposed to know when you're happy or sad? Filipinos are very accepting."
She agreed. Going to Alaska opened her eyes, but she will always love the Philippines, and embrace the Filipino culture.
She then asked me why I was so shocked when I came to the Philippines. I was lost for words. I didn't know where to start for ages, so I just said, "everything." Absolutely everything. The way of life, it shocked me.
A student then walked past, in the middle of the conversation. She explained - that boy really shocked me the other day. I was interested to know more.
She thought he was lazy, didn't want to go to school as he missed school for 23 consecutive days. In the Philippines, the law says if you miss school for 10 consecutive days without reason, you get kicked out. But because this school was under 'SPED' (a school for 'special needs or a disability'), the rules are more flexible. She decided this wasn't on, and decided to visit his mother. She took another student with her, as she wasn't sure where he lived. After many hours of travelling, she was shocked he lived so far away.
Then there was a river, exposed sewage. The student explained that she had to cross it, to fetch him. They put wooden planks on the river and climbed to the other side. There came a bridge, and there, that was where his family lived. Under a bridge.
From that point, she realised - he couldn't afford all the jeepney fares to get to school, and the living conditions were awful. She promised she would never assume that a student is lazy if they miss school.
I was absolutely amazed.
I did a presentation to the school on Deaf Rights and Deaf Identity. We played a 'true or false' game, and statements appeared on the board such as 'deaf people are dumb.' The amount of hands that raised to agree that it was true - it was shocking.
There were statements such as 'deaf people are regarded'. 'Deaf people are mute.' The hands kept on coming up whenever I said true - and I felt angry. It hit me then, and I was just furious at how they're being treated. Why do deaf Filipinos accept that?!
I carried out a few more activities - and shared my experience back in the UK. They were interested, and I got their views and experiences too. A lot of them complain about the lack of communication in their family home. I don't blame them at all - it really saddens me when they say that. Hopefully after the presentation I've done; their views have slightly turned to another perspective - as the Filipino volunteer that I work with shared his experience too. He's so proud to be deaf, and has a strong deaf identity. He's a perfect role model to the kids, and together - we explained that if we weren't deaf; would we have been friends? Not at all. The deaf community stick together, help each other and they should be proud to have that special connection.