Thursday, March 8, 2007

Gawad Kalinga Immersion Day 2

Wednesday morning we woke up at 6:30 so we could get to Talanay early for more work. We rented a jeepney to go to the other site, and a number of the SIGA kids skipped school to come help us build. It was the first time any of them had travelled to another Gawad Kalinga site, and they enjoyed the experience, although they said it felt a bit strange also. Having helped to build their own homes they were already experts and many commented that it was nice to help those in another community who were trying to achieve what they already had. Wednesday morning some of us again painted others of us helped make concrete. They had a big pile of sand that had to be sifted to remove the rocks. Two people held onto either end of a large sifter and shook back and forth while other people shovelled sand from the pile onto it. Once the pile of sand was big enough, the two people emptied the rocks onto a separate pile, while others filled up bags with the sand and transported them to another place where it was mixed with water to become concrete. The local kids were eager to help and loved sifting and shovelling sand. They'd work hard, tire quickly, and then run around for a bit before returning to help. A couple little boys climbed a tree nearby and would return with handfuls of small, red fruits from the tree which they encouraged us to eat. Even our Philippino friends had no idea what the fruits were, so I ate them and hoped I didn't become sick.

At breaktime the women were true to their word and gave us putopao. Putopao are little rice bread rolls with some sort of filling inside. No one in the community has a stove, so they must have gone to the local bakery to make them for us. They were so thrilled to offer me their local specialty, of course I was thrilled to eat it by then. I ate lunch with my sister Ann from Brookside at a local woman's cottage who owned a little sari-sari, a store which sells almost anything the community could need but in tiny packets for one meal or one day, which is all the people can afford to buy at a time. During our lunch break we sat outside and gradually most of the children came to play near us. One little boy in particular was such a clown, he would run at top speed towards almost anything or anyone, swerve just before killing himself at some incredible angle, then stop and grin at us waiting for approval. Philippinos, as a nation, are not camera shy. Once I took out my camera, the kids spent the next hour coming up with creative activities, poses, faces, anything so I would take a picture of them. I let one of the kids take a picture with the camera, and after that they all wanted to try so I had to tell them it ran out of batteries so I could get it back.

In the afternoon we taught a SIBOL class at the local school, of children 3-7 years old. Charisse and Ren taught the kids some english words, then we drew pictures together. One little girl came to the session late. There is a morning and and afternoon session of school for the children. This little girl generally attended school in the morning but she'd heard a foreigner was attending their school only in the afternoon so had gone home and cried to her mother. Her mother had then spoken with the teacher and she had received special permission to attend school in the afternoon to meet the foreigner. In my group, I had the little girl who arrived late, another little girl and a little boy. We each drew for each other what we wanted the other to have. Every single child in that school drew a house. A house was the best gift they had ever received, so when they thought of generosity they thought of giving a house. We then read a story to them, I read in English while Tam read in Tagalog. We sat at the front to read, and while I was reading one little girl began touching my leg, then another girl joined in, a little boy, then half the class was touching my leg. I think they wanted to check if my skin felt different to theirs. The teacher of course was mortified and told the children to sit back and stop touching my leg. Two little girls were quite creative and then draped themselves across my knees so they could continue touching my legs without getting in trouble.

One beautiful thing about my encounters with all these children, in all the GK communites I visited, was how open they were, within seconds I became their Ate. We didn't speak the same language at all, so instead they introduced me to their games and invented other ways to get to know me. One little girl named Aliah, from Brookside, about three years old attached herself to me within seconds of seeing me. For the next three days we were practically inseparable. I became her Ate, her horsey, her amusement park, and she became my little shadow. Her mom came up to me the second night and told me that Aliah wanted to sleep with me, it was heartbreaking whenever her mom had to take her away and she would cry to come back to me. When she did return she'd run up to me all smiles and pull at me until I picked her up.

Wednesday night we had our second talk on honour. I spoke on behalf of the WYA about Dignity and Honour. I mostly wanted to convey to the youth how special they are. They've come from tough backgrounds and haven't experienced much privilege yet they had been so warm, so generous, so happy, so filled with hope. So I spoke about dignity with them, and how it tied together all our experiences, and what they could do as part of the WYA to bring their experiences to others and how they could also continue to improve their lives and their communities through living out dignity. Their levels of english comprehension varied, so I tried to speak simply. One funny aspect was that I was playing with Aliah before I went up to speak. I knew I couldn't leave her behind or she'd be sad, so I just brought her up with me, sat her on my hip and had baby in one hand, mic in the other. Of course, all the kids thought it was hilarious to have me speaking to them holding one of their babies. After a while though my arm grew tired and I had to put her down. Without me holding onto her, she took one look at the crowd and ran for the nearest break in the chairs to escape the staring eyes.

WYA has volunteered for a while with another GK community, Castaneda. A number of the youth from that community drove an hour and a half to join us for that evening. Erika told me after my talk that one of the boys from Castaneda started to cry as I was speaking. After I finished speaking, we had a party together. Greg is a rapper and also breakdances, so he started the festivities, another volunteer did some freestyle. The SIGA kids performed a number of hiphop dances for us. They compete with other GK communities, and always win. They choreograph themselves and could win against many groups with professional choreographers, they were quite impressive and danced for more than 15 minutes with all the moves perfectly memorised. They called on a number of us volunteers to freestyle at one point, and I became one of the lucky victims. Greg, Zeus, some of the SIGA kids, myself and Gail were chosen to freestyle for everyone. Thankfully Gail and I were equally terrible, since everyone else chosen was a great dancer.

We also cooked everyone dinner, we made spaghetti and Erika brought chicken. Philippino style spaghetti would not be appreciated in Italy. Philippinos love everything sweet, including spaghetti. I don't dare give away the recipe but the kids loved our spaghetti, they gave us the highest compliment - that it tasted like McDonalds or Jollibee spaghetti.


tamara said...

YEY for Filipino spaghetti! It sounds like you had a great time. ;) So did I.

Anonymous said...

I thought that you should know that the 1st GK Global Summit held at Boston last June 12-14 this year is a big and a historic success! I'm not able to get there but according to their website, there are almost almost 700 delegates from the US, Canada, Singapore, Malaysia, India, Columbia and the Philippines who joined the event. This is a very good news to everyone! :)