No comparison to the «small» cities in the West, but still, everything seemed to be working: millions of vehicles were going into the city centre. On four-lane highways, there were usually five or more cars driving side by side and lots of scooters paving their way through the traffic. Even though traffic regulations didn’t seem to be important at all, there were hardly ever accidents.
The second evening, after an impressive visit to the city of «Las Piñas» in the southern part of Metro Manila – our home town every time we returned to Manila – we took part in the Welcoming Night. We had a blast! The 50 Chiro leaders presented lots of dances and songs. Each local group presented a special performance – what a spectacle. The highlight was a group of students from the local dance college, who tried to teach us some typical dances from the Philippines. We and the audience had much fun trying, failing and trying again.
After a short night we finally went into the city centre of Manila. Again we were impressed: There were poor districts with small huts and stinking rivers and modern skyscrapers just next door. When we visited China Town, the oldest Chinese district in the world, we realised how little space the people of Manila have to live in. The streets were crowded with people making their way through the crowd and small stands selling exotic fruits, electronic waste, dog meat … you name it. The intense smells seemed to be part of Manila.
Impressive life in Infanta
After these impressions in chaotic Manila we continued our journey; next stop: Pacific Coast. We went to the poor fishing village Dinahican in the region of Infanta by bus. We had the possibility to visit the «Sto Niño Day Care & Feeding Centre», which is the preschool supported by the solidarity fund of jubla.infanta. The children receive – thanks to Jubla – a daily warm meal and basic sanitary services. Furthermore they get support to manage their start in school. A specialized partner of Jubla, «Fastenopfer» (Swiss Catholic Lenten Fund) funds the school.
During the three days and nights in Infanta we – Jubla and Chiro leaders – lived with host families whose children go to «Sto Niño Day Care & Feeding Centre». Most of the families lived in simple wooden huts. But this didn’t seem to impair their lives. Our guest parents were happy to have us. Some of them had not seen a white person for a while, especially the children were curious. We could learn a lot from each other. It was hard for us to believe that those families can survive with 100 Pesos (2 USD) per week. As they live close to the sea, they mainly eat freshly fished fish. A short anecdote: a nice man in his sixties asked us if we were fishermen or farmers. We tried to explain that only very few people in Switzerland are farmers or fishermen. This, he couldn’t understand as every other profession was out of his reality and he could not imagine people doing anything else. He furthermore did not understand how we did not know the price for fish by heart. This made us realize how different our lives and individual realties are. In the mornings we went fishing and swimming, in the afternoon we played games with the children. It was wonderful to see how young people in the Philippines enjoy the same games as we do in Switzerland.
After saying goodbye to our host families we travelled to the archipelago of Visayas in the south. The City of Tacloban reached an unfortunate famousness: in 2013, typhoon Haiyan (also known as Yolanda) destroyed everything. Haiyan is deemed to have been one of the strongest typhoons worldwide. Apart from the impressive images of destruction the stories of survivors touched our hearts. We had the chance to meet young people who witnessed this disaster. Many of them lost not only their houses but also their loved ones. Even two years after this event, people cried. For us it was almost impossible to grasp those feelings. We had heard about this typhoon back home in Switzerland but it had been too far away to understand the dimension of this destruction. But suddenly we found ourselves in this place and could slowly understand what was and still is going on in Tacloban.
Our visit in the Philippines was very varied: after the rather rural area we travelled to the rather touristic place called Oslob. Close to the city of Cebu we met members of Chiro Oslob. We spent a great evening together, dancing, singing and eating included. We were even more astonished when suddenly the (in German speaking areas very famous) song called «So a schöner Tag» came out of the loudspeakers. Everyone knew the lyrics and dance moves. Obviously this song somehow made it to the Philippines! After a short night we could spend another day with leaders from Chiro Oslob: Snorkelling with whale sharks, swimming in the beautiful sea, and the visit to an impressive waterfall were part of the program- a proper tourist program.
Training instead of Swiss National holiday
Olan, the national leader of Chiro Pilipinas, had already asked us ahead of our visit to deliver some training during a leader camp. With pleasure we educated 50 leaders -one quarter of all leaders of Chiro Pilipinas- in the areas of methodical skills, organisation of local groups, public relations and motivation. Despite all the tips we had received from other Jubla leaders we were surprised how different the mentality during leader courses is. Our part of the course, for example, started with about five hours of delay. For us, the overly punctual Swiss people, it was not that easy to handle but after three weeks in the Philippines it was actually no surprise anymore.
In the late evening we came across something more familiar: while standing next to a huge campfire and performing the Swiss song «Rägebögler» literally for the hundredth time, Kilian suddenly waved the Swiss flag. It was the evening of the 1st of August. Far away from home we had nearly forgotten our Swiss National holiday!
Mountain villages, rice terraces and pure nature
The last week of our visit ended up in the northernmost region of the archipelagic state. While visiting the mountain villages Baguio, Sagada und Banaue we almost felt at home: much cooler air, less smog and a fantastic view of the mountains. In the mountains we experienced stunning landscapes and had nice encounters with the locals. The highlight was definitely the hike along rice terraces to a wonderful waterfall. After lunch and a swim in the little lake we had to hike all the way back – it took us three hours. On our way up we had a rest in a hut. Locals provided us with traditional clothes and we helped them roasting coffee and threshing rice – what hard work.
A tough farewell
Soon the last day came. Up on a nice hill with views of the metropolis of Manila we enjoyed the sunset and our last hours before our journey back to Switzerland. Again around 50 leaders gathered to give us a dignified farewell with dances, songs and speeches. These three weeks had gone by so quickly. In only three weeks we had made friends with so many people, especially with the Chiro leaders of Time 5 and all the others who were with us during that time. Despite the distance of 10,000 km and differences in culture we have a lot in common: the commitment to the work with young people. We hope to meet some of these great people again somewhere in the world. Salamat po!
Jubla Switzerland, Partnership Committee