Being back

This blog is for anyone who has, is, or will be going to the Philippines. Whether it is for work or leisure. As a former volunteer for World Experience Philippines (WEP) I would like to share my experiences and talk about how it feels to return home after a long time in Manila. Manila is crazy. I’m not sure how I would describe it otherwise. I’ve stayed in Manila for 2 years and 3 months. During this time I got to know the city quite well. When I say crazy I mean that there is a lot of stuff happening, good and bad. That’s what made it interesting for me. I have had more adventures in one week staying in Manila than I have had in the last 4 months back home in the Netherlands. I am missing the crazy life-style, always something to do, somewhere to go. Yes, I miss Philippines. It was cool, and I felt like I had something to offer, I could help. I think that is what I miss most. Due to my close connection with Juliette from WEP I got to do a lot of interesting side-projects that made me feel like I was contributing. Whether it is helping with one of WEP’s projects, giving a seminar related to my field of expertise (psychology), or just talking to new volunteers and sharing experiences over a beer (or two). There is always something you can do, and it is always appreciated. Sure Manila has issues, mainly in the poverty stricken areas but this only encourages to do more. Helping is quite easy as well, just bring an extra sandwich in your bag and you can make a street kid happy on your way to work. While working on big volunteering projects with ambitious outcomes is important and valuable, the fact that you can help with a sort of low-level threshold gives great satisfaction too. I started out as a volunteer but eventually got a job in order to take care of my expenses. Interestingly, the volunteering never went away. Honestly, back home I never volunteered but in Manila it was on my mind most of the times. When confronted with poverty on a daily basis you change the way you think and act. So even when I was working full-time I tried to help out every now and then with some volunteering projects. I think the best experience that I had was during the rainy-season. A friend of mine volunteered for Red Cross and there were a lot of floods (due to bad regulation of drainage systems). I joined them and we went on a boat and rowed around the city (!), giving food to people who couldn’t get out of their house. The water level at certain points was about 4 meters, so we ended up handing out meals through 2nd floor windows. An experience I will never forget. You will see that if you have an active attitude towards volunteering in Manila these kind of interesting and exciting adventures will occur regularly. Eventually I decided to go back to the Netherlands. In the 2+ years I had never gone back and it felt like I had arrived in a foreign country; it is such a big contrast. The first thing I noticed is how much space people have in the Netherlands. Empty roads and empty streets is something I hadn’t experienced in a long time. Quite soon I started missing the local people. Happy and friendly Filipino’s. Talking to them and sharing cultures with a certain mutual sincerity is something I experienced a lot in Manila. Compare that to the cold decadent western counterparts here in the Netherlands. On the other hand I am enjoying the luxuries here. Warm showers is at the top of that list. I showered twice a day for the first few weeks just to enjoy warm water. What troubled me when I was about to leave Manila was that I didn’t want to forget my experiences and fall back into my old habits. Meaning that I'd again start taking things for granted that most people in the world don’t have. Life in the Netherlands is relatively easy with a high standard of living. I try to appreciate all things a bit more and it helps to remember how it was back in Manila (guess that’s why I am writing this blog). As a result I got better in being happy with what I have. Furthermore, due to my experiences it has become easier to put things in perspective when something negative happens. All in all, going to the Philippines was a good choice and left me with a lot of valuable experiences, memories, and friends. To all you people reading this I would like to say: go and enjoy your time in Manila because it will be fun, interesting, valuable, and filled with crazy adventures. We might meet some day as I plan to come back! Ron

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