White Beach, Puerto Galera. January 21-23, 2012. Melissa and Jihed came to visit us here in the Philippines! They pinky-promised us back in HK and they kept that promise. For the weekend, we decided to go to Puerto Galera since it is the nicest nearest beach (I think). Titi and Dom tagged along with us. Titi, a French exchange student in my university, is practically a local and he arranged the place for us since he’s been to White Beach already (and all the rest of the beaches in the Philippines!). Dom has just been here for a month since he’s part of a special foreign program which starts halfway through the semester. And so, together, we had a blast riding the banana boat (where Kathleen and Melissa fell before we were supposed to fall), island-hopping, snorkeling, taking pictures inside the cave, eating, swimming, stargazing on the shore, playing luksong-baka on the beach (I don’t know what they call it), and singing karaoke. Doing great things in a great place with the best company. What more is there?
United Colors of Benetton. Before riding the banana boat, Jihed asked me “Is it okay that people are staring?” I told her, “Of course, they’re staring because you look different.” Then she said, “But they’re staring at you two.” I hadn’t really noticed but she was right. People were staring at us. And I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised because it was indeed an unusual sight – two Filipino girls who look like little kids (or so they say), with an Austrian guy with green eyes, a very tall Portuguese guy (who’s actually French), a Tunisian girl (who’s also actually French) with curly hair and a French girl with light brown hair. What could explain such different-looking people sticking together and having fun on the beach? I can’t really imagine what everyone who stared at us were thinking. But when we were island hopping, Manong asked us if we met in school and we explained our part. And I felt really happy explaining. I was hoping that while I shared, I could be a concrete example that yes, people who look very different (Asians and Westerners) could very much like each other and get along well together. We were not tourist guides but we were friends.
My mom told me before that some guy told her that our society is converging into one big community – a world without borders. And I believe I like the idea of that. And if that’s the case, then we’re not heading to a such a bad place (maybe the place might have lesser trees, but we’re working on that as well). During my first two weeks in my exchange semester, I told Kathleen that it’s starting to sink in that cultural differences were indeed significant and it’s a little hard to talk to these different people. This completely dissolved away when I actually got to know these people (especially Jihed and Melissa), how their lives are back in HK and what they think about things. We don’t agree on everything (such as divorce and religion) but this never clouded our friendship. Not once. We shared our sides and views, respected them and sometimes just laugh at each other’s disbelief. These girls helped us a lot, I trust them completely and I know we’ll be friends forever (cheesy). I guess you can guess what I’m driving at. I believe in this world without borders because I have experienced it first hand. I know I’ve only met a very small fraction of the world outside my country, but this experience is still evidence that it is possible.
And so next time, when you see a diverse group of people (like my mom said we looked like an ad for United Colors of Benetton), maybe the first reason you should think is that they are just a group of friends having fun. It doesn’t matter that we don’t look alike and we probably didn’t grow up in the same place, because really, it doesn’t. They might call luksong baka in some other language and some other name that doesn’t involve cows but what simply matters is that we were enjoying doing it. Language, skin and eye colors don’t really matter. It is interesting , yes, but what matters, in the end, is that you respect each other’s differences and you appreciate this world even more because of them. And with that, world peace everyone!
On our last day while singing karaoke, Dom sang “Where the Streets Have No Name” by U2. He explained that the song is about the situation in Ireland (I think), where people discriminate against each other (based on religion, if I remember correctly). And he said, you will know which side one is on just knowing his street name. And so U2 writes and sings about a place where the streets have no name. I think the song is worth sharing. World peace na talaga ito.
I wish I could bake a cake at of rainbows and smiles.