Hanna Fernando-Pacua (PHILIPPINES) temporarily leaves her comfort zone to travel, serve, and perform around the world in five months. She hopes to share with you this very meaningful experience.

Up with People provides students with an extraordinary semester of traveling the world. As a student your perspectives on the world will never be the same. UWP is for that certain student who's looking for an intense, hands-on, involved global educational experience. The program addresses the very real need for young adults and leaders who have global perspectives, intercultural understanding, knowledge of worldwide social issues, leadership skills and a dedication to community service. For more information, visit www.upwithpeople.org.

HANNA's SATTELITE SITE and GALLERY (+ photos, videos, calendar) http://www.bananaspinuwp.multiply.com/

Monday, 17 December 2007

All Fired Up to Make a Difference

This was published by Manila Times yesterday. I wasn't able to get a copy of the paper -- but probably Internet is good enough! (Nothing beats newsprint tho!) I pasted the article here but here is the link as well:


“IN all the places that we’ve been to during this tour, it is here in the Philippines that I was able to feel the strongest sense of community, of helping each other out. I think that the concept of your Bayanihan is truly amazing,” so said Marita Mecke from Germany, one of the 70 new friends that I gained while traveling with the global education program Up with People.

Hearing that from Marita was like music to my ears and my heart burst with pride. Bayanihan—the Filipino concept of working together for a common goal (usually symbolized by a photo of people carrying a house to a new location) indeed is still very much alive up to this day.

For five months starting July, our group has traveled across the United States, stopping in Colorado, Arizona, California, Washington State and Nevada. We then visited European cities in Italy, Switzerland, Germany, The Netherlands and Belgium. The last month of this great adventure was spent in the Philippines. For most of the members of the group, this is the very first time that they have looked at poverty straight in the eye. It has been a shock for a lot of delegates—but most interesting for them was the warmth and steadfastness that the Filipino people exuded and the ability to still smile amid all the crises plaguing our country.

Through a comprehensive tour around Ayala Museum through the Ayala Foundation Inc. and Intramuros through the Department of Tourism, we were given a very informative walk through Philippine history. We also visited the Gawad Kalinga Baseco community in Tondo where we learned of inspiring stories about people working together to make a difference in the lives of others.

Our tour isn’t that type where we fly into a city, take a lot of pictures, buy souvenirs, and then say goodbye. Every destination was an intense, hands-on cultural immersion and educational experience. In every city that we visited, we learn about culture, history and current issues. We live with host families to experience life in its most real state. We perform community service with local nonprofit organizations and also stage a show that aims to spread messages of love, hope and peace in diversity. Throughout all these, we discuss about leadership, multicultural issues, listening and communication skills and respect for people and the environment. We were always tested on flexibility, patience and were constantly taught lessons on humility and acceptance.

After months of traveling with Up With People, it is only now that I am experiencing a stronger love and sense of pride for my country. My reaffirmed love for the Philippines did not come from my being homesick but for a strong urge to come back and serve my country again after hours of volunteering abroad. It came from knowing that we have hardworking kababayans abroad who are proud of our roots and are still planning to return to their homeland someday.

Here in Manila, the Up with People students are doing volunteer work every day for 13 days with local nonprofit organizations such as Gawad Kalinga, Habitat for Humanity, Virlanie Foundation, Kaibigan Ermita Outreach Foundation Inc., Philippine Association for Citizens with Developmental and Learning Disabilities Inc., Ortigas Foundation Inc., Assumption School, KYTHE, ERDA Tech Foundation, Makabata School Foundation Inc., and the Rotary Clubs in Valenzuela. Every day, the group is working alongside community members, other volunteers and organization staff members.

Seventy students from 19 countries make up the Up with People students. The past semester seemed like I was living within a microcosm of the world—and the program showed me that underneath all these differences, we all have a common goal and desire for a better life and future for all. The whole experience made me believe in the power of one person, whoever you are, wherever you are—to make a difference in another person’s life. Now that I am back in my country and the tour is about to end, I am all fired up and ready to make a difference in my country. I am proud to be a Filipino and I hope someday, the Filipinos will be proud of me, too.

For more information about Up with People please visit www.upwithpeople.org.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Manila (ila-ila-ila)

(The cast seems to get a kick out of singing Manila-ila-ila to the tune of Umbrella-ella –ella , which I believe was fitting for one of the experiences we had here!)

Believe it or not, I have not ridden so many cabs in a week before UWP is in Manila. Nor have I tackled rush hour traffic in a Philippine jeepney (a jeepney or jeep or “dyip” is a modified US-Army design jeep that is the primary mode of public transportation in the Philippines .. an example of Filipino ingenuity!). In my normal life in the Philippines, I avoid these modes of public transport. I either find someone to take me, or just go to places accessible by bus or by walking.

Yep, that’s right – I am not a city girl. I lived most of my “matured” life in UP Los Banos. I worked in the Makati Central Business District and made myself familiar with the route from the mall bus stop to my office, and back. Beyond Makati, I am in nervous shambles. I get tears in my eyes whenever I imagine myself living in Quezon City.

Honestly, taxi cabs for me are scary and jeepney routes are way too confusing. I am geographically-challenged.

But if I can handle public transportation in Denver, Berlin and in Milan – I should be able to conquer my fear of Manila. And that is how Up with People is squeezing me out of my comfort zone even in my own country. It is about time that I face the city !!!

As I said before, Internet access in my apartment has been erratic (I don’t even know when I will be able to post this…) so if this gets posted way after the cast left already, I am so sorry!

Manila decided to welcome the cast with torrents of rain. My CI site was located in a part of Makati where a few sprinkles of rain floods the streets. Lo and behold, during my first day of CI, the cab decided to drop us off at a street corner and we had to ride a tricycle to the main office of Virlanie Foundation. I was assigned at this CI site with Jules (Uganda), Patrick (USA), Lysan (Germany), Christine (Austria), Jessica (USA), Whitney (Panama), Vanessa (USA) and Mallory (USA). Imagine my horror when we had to walk through knee-deep murky water to get to our respective houses! I was not to grossed out by it, but the thought of having my co-UWP students brave this on our first day!

What a cultural experience!

Unlike in the USA and Europe, where the Cast saw each other everyday – Manila is treating us differently. We see each other (if we are lucky) only twice a week. And luckily the Cast activities are scheduled at the Assumption College which is only about two blocks away from my apartment (but Jules said, it’s far!)

Not seeing each other everyday was a bit hard, especially added to the drastic change in our cultural environment. I cannot help but feel bad and sorry for the people who cannot seem to adjust to the crazy Manila / Philippine environment. The traffic, the air and noise pollution, the language – the “balde” (a bucket filled with bath water) and “tabo” (a smaller “scooper” used to get water from the “balde” that you use to pour over your body to take a bath) , the lack of hot showers, and when available – the outrageous number of househelp in the homes of host families.

It is hard to face the negative feedback and negative feeling around the Cast. But I know that this will only get better as we move along.

Manila, by far, will definitely be the cast’s most memorable moment. The ultimate O.S* moment ….

(O.S defined – “Oh Sh*t” moments are moments in our lives that scare and surprise us. But as we go through it, it makes as stronger, braver and more learned. This came from a speech by Mr Steve Farber during our Denver orientation. I absolutely love the concept.)