A few weeks ago my friend Adrienne returned from an 18 month church mission in the Philippines. I wondered what life was like for an American living there, and she was kind enough to answer a few questions about her experience.
I definitely miss the filipino people the most. I miss how loving they are and they make everyone feel so special. Some of my favorite things in the Philippines are the jeepneys, the food, and the kids. The jeepneys are great because they are the most popular form of transportation and very cheap which means every single time you ride one you are packed into it with ALL different types and sizes of people. You never know what you’re going to get BUT you do know that everyone will move over for you when you get on and everyone will help you with your things as you are getting off. Though everyone is a complete stranger, they all are so helpful and always give you a big smile. Can you imagine Americans having to do that and not complaining or not being glued to their cellphones in order to avoid awkward conversation/invasion of personal space? Haha.
The kids are great because they are all so cute. I honestly looked hard to find a kid that wasn’t cute and I just couldn’t. They are all adorable and so optimistic about life. They entertain themselves for hours on end with pots, pans, sticks, and flip flops and are incredibly respectful and obedient to their parents. I love that about their culture-everyone is just expected to help everyone out and not complain. It is such a beautiful way of life.
I read that the Philippines gets lots of tropical storms every year. Did you live in an area where that was a concern? Did you ever have to prepare for a storm or evacuate?
I didn’t live in an area where I ever had to prepare for a storm or evacuate which I am very grateful for. I did experience some flooding but it only got to the point where it was to our knees and we weren’t allowed to work for two days. But that is nothing for the Filipinos. Life goes on unless the flooding starts to get to chest level and then people start getting worried. We did help a few times in the clean-up effort and rebuilding effort two times that I can remember after a big storm where there was mild flooding and people’s things had been lost in the flood. It was so overwhelming and that wasn’t even that bad. I can’t imagine how they must be feeling right now with typhoon Haiyan.
Have you been in touch with missionaries or other friends in the Philippines since the typhoon? If so, what can you tell us about conditions there?
I have been watching the news and keeping in touch with some people in the Philippines, but no one who is actually in the areas that have been affected. Thousands have died and thousands are still missing. I do know that all of the missionaries have been accounted for, but there was one missionary whose mom, dad, and aunt were all killed in the storm. Him and his brother who is also serving a mission were saved. There is a lot of relief work being done in the Philippines and here in the states. I have seen some pictures of the wards that I served in putting together relief goods to send to the people in tacloban and leyte. I also know of one girl who I served with who has no contact with her family and we are definitely still praying for her. I’m sure it has been devastating and scary for everyone but I know the church is doing everything it can, the members are pitching in, and it’s a miracle that all of the missionaries are safe.
What is something that people might be surprised to learn about daily life in the Philippines?
People might be surprised to learn that toilet paper is not used in the daily life of a filipino. They also have major dental problems because of lack of hygiene. Some of the poorer people wait until it rains to take a shower because of lack of clean water. Many live with no electricity. At least once a day I experienced walking by or seeing huge piles of trash on the side of the road, rotting and covered in flies. It is a very big problem and I’m sure causes a lot of sickness. I can’t count the number of times I searched for a trash can at the beginning of my mission only to realize there were none and that is why everyone litters. It is sad and could be easily solved. But people just are not aware and have grown so accustomed.
I’m sure that your mission was a life-changing experience in more ways than one. Is there anything specific to having lived in the Philippines that you will take with you as you move forward in your life, a new tradition or practice or way of thinking?
Something that I will take with me as I move forward in my life that I learned in the Philippines is the emphasis they put on their relationships. They are loyal to their friends, respect their parents, and love so much. Their kids are their everything. I know that it is like that in the church, but I feel like with technology and our busy lives, our nation as a whole is slowly losing focus of what is really important. The majority of Filipinos don’t care if they have to work all the time to barely get by as long as they have their family. They are so happy and always give credit to God for the things they do have, no matter how little. Their humility is something I definitely want to incorporate more into my own life.
If you would like to read more, Adrienne has a blog where she posted the regular updates that she sent home during her 18 months away.
This interview is part of my ploy to get you to donate to typhoon relief. I'll be picking a jewelry winner at 5pm today, so there's still time to donate and get your name entered.