New Mexico, Pampanga. July 27-29, 2012. Just a few weeks fresh from my Malaysian adventure, I headed out to another adventure in a nearby province: New Mexico, Pampanga. The town was quiet, simple, filled with children running around, sari-sari stores, pedicabs and one long and narrow road. There really is beauty in simplicity, or maybe, a unique kind of peace found only in simplicity. My initial worries quickly faded away as I realized that this new town was not unfamiliar at all, contrary to what I expected. The place resembled my mom’s hometown in Bicol which, like I’ve mentioned before, is still my favorite place in the world. It was small and uncomplicated and always so inviting.
This was my 3-day immersion and my group chose to immerse ourselves in the farming sector. Other choices included the areas of fisherfolk, indigenous people, home for the elders, etc. I think that the “unofficial” task was to see for ourselves how the people in the community lived, what their problems are and try to think of solutions, but really, all we had to do was simply live with our host families and talk to them about our lives, their lives, or really, anything under the sun. We ate what they offered (the food were always so fresh and more than enough for us) and we entered their homes where we slept in our host parents’ room after lunch and very early after dinner at around 8 pm, we walked through their town and played with the extremely energetic kids.
The experience exceeded my expectations. I just love how easy it was to talk to my host family, and how welcome they made us feel. I loved that we got to go to the farm and try out the tractor (my favorite part of the trip). I was so scared it would run away from me and destroy the fields. I loved that, despite me not really being a kids person, the kids were still so playful and I do miss them and their big smiles and their carefree attitudes. I loved that even our neighbors welcomed us into their homes and fed us. And finally, I love how this experience proved that this short trip can make a huge impact; an impact that I hope will last me forever.
Where to start? Listening to the farmers talk, I realized that their problems exist in every level of their work and which affects many aspects of their lives. The farmers do not own the land. They face risks due to pests and weather changes. They do not have much control over the selling price of their rice because they are only small farmers. They also do not have control over increasing input costs such as gasoline and fertilizers. Most farmers also just borrow machines and lastly, the present generation is not expected to continue farming these lands. It’s difficult to see how a college senior could help. I felt that to truly help, one must be able to have solutions for all these interconnected problems. And this gigantic problem can easily swallow you up. I remember my previous philosophy teacher that when confronted with a situation like this, that famous piece of advice is appropriate: Lundagin mo, baby.
I must admit that we’re still in the process of actually jumping into the problem and I do think our chances of solving this huge clump of problems are very small. However, I must say that the impact I got from this trip was again not what I expected. It was not about me directly solving their farming issues. It may sound selfish but I think what I mainly got from the trip is really just for me and it’s pretty simple. I have come to the realization (and hopefully, conviction) that what I would do in my life eventually should be relevant. Relevant, not necessarily in the sense of sacrificing all material wants for the greater good (not that it’s bad but I don’t think I’m that noble); but relevant that I need to see how it positively relates to society. I would want to see how my life is impacting these different sectors or at least one of them because these are the ones that need help, and frankly, these are the ones that make up majority of this country. It would be difficult to invest a huge part of your life in something that doesn’t help anyone else but the people in your familiar circle (in whatever way possible). Naks. I’m writing this with the main goal of not forgetting because I know that there will be a huge possibility that I will forget what I learned from this trip. Immersions are not overrated, I realized, when you open your ears and minds, it will soon find its way to your heart – I can vouch for that and I know many of my friends can as well. Pictures from Dissa, Pearl and Tammy
Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not. -Ralph Waldo Emerson