I’m supposed to turn in weekly progress reports about how my internship is coming along as part of the requirements for the MScM Summer Internship course (a.k.a. PPD1B), basically talking about my experiences in the field, how I’m coping with a new environment, the challenges I’ve faced and how I’ve faced them. The first one is due today, a little bit after 1AM. I’d just opened up a new Word document and was going to start typing away when I realized…hang on, haven’t I been doing just that for the past week?
Itinerantly, I have to admit. I haven’t been as regular with updates as I should. Hopefully now that I have a weekly requirement I’ll be a bit more regular with these–you’re guaranteed at least one a week, huzzah!–although I can’t promise photos with every post.
Like this one. Because, really, all I have is photos of what I’ve been eating. I’m not out to turn my blog into Instagram.
This was my first week of Project TALK, which is essentially a series of conversation groups on different aspects of culture, country study, and the like, to encourage global understanding and pretty much help people practice their English. My role is less of a conventional English teacher and more of a trainer-slash-hostess, trying to get conversations started, answering questions, and pretty much, in a sense, “selling” the Philippines as a country that is more than a tiny dot in the United Nations logo. (Carlos P. Romulo, you are one BAMF.)
So far, with my current partner, Ciarán–again, to view his side of the story, check out his (popular) blog Ciarán Does Brazil–I’ve taught six classes, which is basically three groups, twice a week. Each session has a different topic or set of topics from a particular theme. This week’s was “Culture,” so the interns and I got together last Friday and talked a bit about our plan of attack. We came up with a list of topics that each team could talk about, and while each team is sort of doing their own thing, overall we’ve managed to cover the same ground this week.
(Personally, I think it’s next to impossible to have uniform modules given the different team dynamics, which is fine since after two weeks the partners shuffle anyway, so no Project TALK group misses out on the unique experience of having a hyperactive panda as a teacher.)
For the first round of sessions, Ciarán and I talked about food and sports–not my best topics, but I managed–and for the second run, we touched on pop culture (specifically music, TV, and film) and traditions. It’s been a fun experience so far, but I have to admit it is not without its challenges. Specifically, the challenge has been to talk about a country no one knows about, side-by-side with a country that everyone knows about and that everyone (including myself) finds cool.
How in the world am I supposed to convince people that the Philippines is worth noticing when I myself fangirl at the thought of Union Jacks and British pop culture? When I’ve even done a video (thanks, Jethro) in a British accent?
When, for crying out loud, my grand plan is to move to West End to become a serious theater actress?
I went home today after a not-so-stellar presentation on my part, with more than a little internal turmoil, wondering if perhaps I was the best choice for this sort of thing. Yes, I am Filipino, but am I Filipino enough to do twice-weekly presentations on my country? It doesn’t take much to see that I’m extremely Westernized–my supposedly “American”-accented English pretty much gives the game away. Also, I’ve tended often to fall into that trap of complaining about my country or comparing it unfavorably with another: something that many Filipinos are wont to do.
Perhaps I should rephrase that statement. It’s not if I’m Filipino enough, it’s if I’m proud of being a Filipino enough. To be honest, listing down reasons for why I should not be proud of the Philippines comes much easier than listing reasons for why I should be.
…And yet, I am.
Why? Because where I’m from, everyone’s a hero.
That slogan became popularized after the events of Hurricane Ketsana, known locally (and by locally I mean the PH) as Typhoon Ondoy, the most disastrous tropical cyclone to hit Metro Manila in years. (Click the link for more details.) It encapsulates the kind of people I come from: people who, when shaken out of apathy, can come together and get things done. It happened in Ondoy, when even in the midst of the storm people were mobilizing, helping strangers and planning relief efforts to get food to the poor and those stranded by the floods. It happened again in Sendong, which struck the provinces to the south and raised a tidal wave of online support and volunteers flying in from everywhere to help out. It happened in Habagat, when people who were rescued from the floods were the very next day at relief centers assisting and giving back.
It’s happened throughout history, from natural disasters to political upheavals (our bloodless EDSA Revolution, where we overthrew the Marcos dictatorship, is one of the nation’s finest hours), as far back as during the Spanish Occupation. The Filipino people are all, in their own way, heroes, simply because we instinctively want to help. We’re earnest when we need to be, giving out of our lack and smiling the whole time.
This is who we are. That even a country flooded with corruption and poverty and social issues galore can still rank number one in a global poll about which nation feels the most “loved.” That we’re ranked consistently as one of the friendliest nations in the world–we’ve even topped the list several times. That in the midst of tragedy and crisis, we are capable of finding humor and celebrating life (if you don’t believe me, Youtube search “Ondoy Olympics”).
Where else would you find a people who would wave, smiling and laughing, at the TV crews even as they huddle in an evacuation center?
We’re heroes because we help. We’re heroes because we love. We’re heroes because we find a reason to laugh at everything, and are willing to open our doors to most anyone who needs a few open doors. We’re heroes because we throw a fiesta but never forget the deeper meaning behind the revelry, and because while our Christmas is four months long, every second of it is infused with the knowledge that it’s not a season about gifts but about family and hope and joy.
I guess, in terms of cultural impact, my country may not be the “coolest” one there is, but it’s definitely worth some consideration. More than I give it, I think. And I guess this week was sort of a reminder of that. As much as my behavior can be a mish-mash of different cultures and cultural obsessions, I’m a Filipino, and I’m actually, honestly proud of it.
Well, that’s enough introspection for one night. Goodnight, Miss Jodie. Goodnight, Internet.