When stepping off the airplane after a flight of over 15 hours, I was taken by bus to a hotel. Weary from traveling, I looked out of the bus window and could see immediately that I had now entered an entire new world in Manilla, Philippines.
Along urban regions that were darkened by the coming night, the reality of the Philippines as a 3rd world country became visible. The tiny, clustered shacks, tin roofs and cloth-covered houses stood in close quarters to the industrial Western influence – the large, Americanized billboards, the ‘Americanized’ malls & restaurants. Side by side with expensive Porsches, among other nice vehicles, I then looked to see the numerable rusty, self-assembled ‘Jeepneys’. Independent Taxi service is clearly big business in this big city.
After spending more than 10 days here, I have also seen the immense amount of joy and love among these people, despite the considerably frugal conditions that some live under. The Filipino, I have learned, consists of a great mix of heritages, ethnic backgrounds and traditions. Within that blend, I sense the type of important unity of a people-group who are greatly accountable to one another. Family is of the greatest importance.
The warm smiles and joyful faces are everywhere as we greet and wave to people. I dare to say that I do not think we in the West would quite readily embrace foreigners with the same level of welcome.
Many customs and practices remain unfamiliar and new. I am entering a place where everything I see is completely interesting to me. It is a world where I am the alien, and I know with certainty that there is much from this cultural experience that I will be able to bring with me on my return home.