Volunteering in the Philippines - An Insider's Look
As part of IVHQ’s third instalment of the IVHQ Video Tour, our videographer (and two-time IVHQ volunteer), Andrew Ahmed, shares his experience visiting our volunteers and program in the Philippines…
How is everyone so nice in the Philippines? I think that’s the one thing that really stood out for me on my trip there. Absolutely everyone I met was so warm and open – from the local staff to the volunteers to the children and random locals I met along the way. On my first day, the tricycle driver (essentially a motorcycle converted into a three-wheeled car) sang a song to me as I was being driven to the volunteer home. Upon arriving at the hospital (right beside the volunteer home, also used as the popular wifi hangout zone), I was attacked by loving and energetic children climbing onto my back and shoulders.
It was hot – around 35 degrees most days – but the nights were perfect, and filled with some of the starriest skies I’ve seen. With a backdrop of stars, and a foreground of coconut trees, it makes for a stunning location. The markets during the day are bustling with interesting and unique foods for sale. Later on I was able to taste typical local foods like durian fruit (‘smells like hell, tastes like heaven’), and the native halo-halo dessert – a seemingly random mix of sweet tasting things that, when mixed together, become a refreshing cold dessert soup.
The next day we toured a couple of the projects – childcare and construction – both conveniently right beside each other. The childcare project was in a beautiful location under a tree, as the kids did some hoola-hooping and craft-making. The kids were full of life – totally immersed in the activities the volunteers were leading. Really beautiful to see all the smiles – kids and volunteers alike. Construction seemed like a good workout, with lots of smearing of cement onto a wall with the heat adding to it. Everyone was having a good time though, joking with each other and listening to some popular local music.
Wednesday was packed with action. We started off visiting the special needs placement, where the volunteers helped the kids with various therapeutic games. This was a very fulfilling project it seemed, with the kids very obviously enjoying and appreciating the time spent with the volunteers. Everyone was in good spirits, and making important progress.
We then visited the hill tribe project, which was fascinating. The locals were living very simply there, with no electricity that I saw, and children and random animals roaming the little village of about 80 tiny houses. This seemed like a place I’d love to live for a while – off the grid, and removed from the complexities of modern lifestyles.
We took a trip to see some endangered eagles in a conservation site, which was really great to see, and then a cooking class, where we learned to make a couple traditional meals – fried banana and a stir fried noodle dish. Tasty treats.
Visiting the nearby hospital was interesting – everything seemed structured, yet simple, and much care was being put into the patients, which was nice to see.
Thursday we took a trip to a nearby island by ferry, and relaxed in the water for a while. A nice little get-away. There was a cluster of waterfalls nearby as well, which we climbed up, jumped from, and crawled through a cave underneath the waterfall. That was a lot of fun. Quite intense seeing some of the local kids climbing up to the top of an overhanging tree and jumping into the pool of water from it – some real daredevils. It was a grand adventure.
We finished off the day with a lovely meal, and a trip to the local karaoke bar, where everyone let off some steam with beers and debatable 90% scores on the karaoke machine. A fun way to end my trip and get to know everyone a little more. Wish I could have planted my feet here a little longer. The warmth – both in temperature and spirit – shall be missed.