and so, after a brief hiatus from blog posting, here is a little glimpse into my yesterday and today. 🙂
yesterday, i spent the morning participating in theater games and eventually teaching some theater games to the kids at an NGO here in baguio city…it was a free day for me, so of course i would end up at an NGO! i heard a lot of great things about the place and since we partner with them on some programs, thought i would check it out 🙂 it was so fun being able to play improvisational games again (last time was in high school!) and to witness the confidence level of these kids who have suffered greatly, at their young age. i assume their leadership and confidence level were not at these high levels, prior to joining this organization. just purely amazing!
Before leaving, i was able to reflect on the tremendous talent i saw within these kids and i thought about the kids that i work with every week at my NGO also. and then i thought about the other kids in baguio, who too, are involved with NGO’s, and how we need to really work on this networking, just a little bit more. and so…the wheels of my mind started going, and so, i have some projects ahead of me! really excited about it, and excited to have other volunteer friends here, that could further this collaboration. yes!
i left that building, skipping and ready to continue my day at starbucks, catching up on emails, updates for friends and fam back home, and to catch up on life, a little bit…as i headed up to town, i thought, hmm maybe i should go to mass first. so i did. i was a little fidgety, especially as there was a super loud singing competition going on RIGHT outside of church, but that’s ok, i was able to handle myself and not make it seem like i was TOO disturbed.
but then i thought of vocation, go figure. and then i reflected on vocations week at SLU, and then i thought of my capuchin novice friends and how much i missed them, but then i got excited at the prospect of seeing them that week at SLU. and then the next thing you know, i look a few pews in front of me, and i see the capuchin hoodies! i saw one of my capuchin novice friends, and it was so wonderful! after mass, i chatted with him, got the scoop on his life and heard the update on who was still present, and who left 🙁 when i asked him, brother, you’re not going to leave though, right? he said, “me? no! that would be a disgrace to my God!” and then i said, “brother, you’re awesome!” hahaha. as i left church, i thought wow, how funny it is that i got to spend some good quality conversations with CICM seminarians a couple of days prior, and then i was able to reunite with one of my favorite capuchins. it was definitely a blessing! 🙂
FIL-AM I AM
as i finally made my way to starbucks and started to catch up on things that i had put on the backburner, i reflected lots on how i blend in with the crowd. starbucks is such an interesting experience because you see LOTS of foreigners – perhaps that is the place that brings familiarity, a sense of home, to most (including myself), and so, it is fairly often that i see the same people in there, from time to time. it’s like, united nations/it’s a small world all up in that coffee shop. but i thought about how as a filipina-american, i internalize all of my experiences very differently.
from one end, the filipina side of me does not have to worry about being stared at or looked at uncomfortably as a tourist or a foreigner – for i blend in, and so i can take advantage of that. as an american, i think – wow, i’m learning so much just by sitting here and observing this culture. and then i hear filipinos speak about tourists sometimes, and yes, sometimes though, that is certainly uncomfortable! but i usually don’t mind it.
lots of identity issues come up when you are a filipina-american serving in the PI, and it is all worth exploring. the connections are different, the approach in communities is different, and it takes a strong sense of self to be able to accept that i do NOT fluently speak the filipino languages/dialects here, and that is ok. i have found for the most part though, that the communities feel happy that i spend my time with them. i try to communicate to them that WITH them, is exactly where i want to be! 🙂 it’s just honesty, that’s all it is. 🙂
today we had a meeting and evaluated some of the past major programming we held with our families – parents and high school students, and as always, other points came into our discussion. usually i am one to stick to the agenda because that is most efficient and that ensures that no item gets left untouched…and getting off on tangents, pet peeve – i don’t like getting off on tangents because i think it wastes time. i think that’s why i like to facilitate meetings…to ensure that we do NOT get off topic. haha, just an observation. 🙂 BUT, something i have learned here on mission, is of course, flexibility. i am flexible until it becomes inefficient and time-consuming, then it is time to get back to the agenda. but today was different…
while we evaluated the activities and the programming we put on in the past couple of weeks, we started talking about our work in general. i have been reflecting a lot on how important it is to really question the things we do, and WHY we do them. it is not simply enough for me to DO an arts activity with the kids because it is FUN. no, that is wasted time and energy, and it is not fully focused on the empowerment of our kids…yes, arts are great, and i am the #1 fan of it, but activities are NOT effective if they are only done, simply to give the children something to do.
the questions we raised are, “how do we empower the poor?” working with the poorest of the poor – it’s not easy. it’s not glamorous. sometimes this can be glamorized because they are the “best” pictures – showing the innocence of children and the candidness of their actions…but going back to the question, how can we empower the poor? through our work with our NGO, through all of our focused efforts – how may we be most effective?
though the reality is that we certainly DO work with the poor, and that is the reality they live in, yes, we are to be in solidarity with them as our brothers and sisters, but we do NOT need to function and live in this reality. rather, we are to join forces with one another, and empower one another to rise in confidence and leadership among our communities – despite any economic hardships or circumstances.
through education, we can be better, and we can walk with one another to be better – for ourselves, for our families, for our communities. even little things like, calling people by their first names is a way to affirm – you are not just another child i see every saturday, you do not blend in the crowd, i know you. i know your name, and i will treat you with the dignity and respect that you deserve. every minute i spend with the children and in the communities at my NGO, i see it as a moment to build those relationships, and to treat the children to something different than what they are used to in school or in their communities.
the question is, how are we to be most effective with the communities we serve and work with? the moments of discovery and exploration take a while, especially as we begin to build trust and friendship among our families, but through solidarity, it is important to remember it is not an “us” and a “them,” our families are not “projects” to be worked on.
3 FOOT MIRACLE
the other day, i witnessed a miracle. i want to say a miracle because it came out of nowhere and it was the LAST thing that i saw coming.
one of the kids i work with is not exactly well-behaved, and i always have a problem with having him sit still, and always tell him to stop erasing what i write on the whiteboard! well, the other day, i was able to introduce him to one of my friends via skype, and i spent some time with the kids explaining to them how skype works. i think it was interesting for them because they had never seen anything like it! and my friend was in NY too, so i think that difference got them even more interested!
anyway, a couple of days later at our easter mass, i saw him again, said hi, and he was SO well behaved! he was not running around, he was just seated, and as he and his mom left, and i bid everyone farewell, he stopped in the middle of the street, let go of his mom’s hand, turned around and waved, and said, byeeeeeee ate crystal!!! i almost fell over and thought to myself, did that really happen? haha, i did not even think he knew my name! and THAT, was definitely a little miracle that i experienced! 🙂 but i attribute that moment to the fact that i was able to spend just a little time with him, not telling him, “don’t do this” or “don’t do that,” bur rather that i was able to teach him about something that was of interest to him.
after today’s lengthy meeting that was super productive, sr. t and i had a moment of reflection with one of our cabrini collaboraters, and this meeting was to prepare us for our mission work that we had ahead of us this year. with the vision to build leaders among our barangays and with the parents and children in our bible studies, we too, had to make sure that we were equipped and focused on our mission for the year. and so, we talked what it means to lead life as a VIBRANT missionary, we talked on how to discern the signs of God working in our life, and we also talked responding to God with passion.
that word right there. passion. that is EVERYTHING. i say it is everything because it is through passion that i find i, myself, can be most effective. if i am a missioner, but without passion or zeal for my role, how may i carry out the mission that i believe i am to spread to others? how will i be effective? it simply will not work, and my role as a missioner is incomplete. not to mention, i would just be wasting energy!
i think the most perfect example of this is when i was working for news corp…we would always have to do role plays because when we have client meetings, we need to be prepared and be ready to answer any question they have! well, when i would do my role plays, my body would not feel right. one, i was super nervous, but two, i realized, i did not believe in what i was saying! that’s why i was not doing well – sure i believed the products were great and would result in a high sales lift (perhaps), but i did not really CARE about it.
i worked hard because that was my work ethic and i practiced like crazy my sales pitch and everything, but i recall having to try so HARD…and it was never good enough. and i never felt 100% comfortable with the words i felt i had to memorize. it just did not fit with me. my schpeel was definitely not coming from my heart, but rather from my head, making sure to hit the key points that would for sure guarantee a sale. i was told i had a personality that people would buy from…but i don’t think i cared as much for that, than i did in delivering error-free reports and quality consultation for their business.
ENOUGH FOR NOW
and now, i find that when i speak about missions, when i speak on my experience with working on the grassroots level within communities, i can’t shut up. there is nothing to memorize, and rarely does anything come speaking out of my head – it comes straight from my heart of experience. clearly, this is blog post itself is going on longer than originally expected! and that is affirmation for me. that this is where i am supposed to be.
but that’s just it… when there is passion around something, i find that i personally, work better and harder. sometimes it takes a while to realize that passion…but when it makes itself known, you all of a sudden have this great sense of energy to continue on that path. but what’s important, is that 100%. a portion of self does not suffice for the plans ahead. and so, i leave you with this quote:
…if you cannot put your heart in it, take yourself out of it. -Hardy D. Jackson