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/

Friday, 11 January 2008

The Global Pinoys

Two weeks into the program, I was sick of speaking English all the time and was hungering for my native language. I was missing the Pinoy warmth, the Pinoy family and the Pinoy sense of humor. I know Pinoys were everywhere and I just had to find some.

In this blog entry, “Halo-Halo in Denver – I wrote about Pastor Carlos Bulalayao, Jr and the Crosswind Community Church and how they gave me my much needed Pinoy culture. We ate Halo-Halo, watched The Filipino Channel, had family bonding time and I had the chance to relax and listen to the Eraserheads in one of their friends’ cars.

In my Filipino blog entry, “Pinoys Around the World” – I was obviously so homesick and showcased here my small encounters with my “kind” But looking back, I think I missed a lot of stories!

In Sierra Vista and in Coos Bay, Oregon - I received some pocket money from very generous Pinoys who I just met. In both instances, these people also traveled the world with a youth group and knew how fun it was to be able to have ice cream on travel stops.

There was 14-year old MJ Magtanong from San Diego, California who proudly wore a “Filipino Pride” shirt. He was Stefan’s (from Germany) host brother. He grew up in the USA and has visited the Philippines (Subic) only once but had no qualms to say that it was the best place ever! We hung out a bit after the show (I remember we had Pepsi from the vending machine) and he uploaded a couple of hip hop songs AND Boom-Tarat-Tarat to my phone. Ah, and he can dance it, too!

I also remember this blog entry from Winston, Oregon where I encountered a Pinoy family falling in line in the food distribution CI I was in.

Of course, I also wouldn’t forget friends and friends of family who sacrificed some of their time to see me (and even host me!). My high school best friend Romilee who’s now in Tucson, my good friend Tiffany who drove alone for two hours to see me in Corcoran, California, my Tita Miriam and Tito Conrad who saw the show in Corocoran AND Las Vegas, my Tito Bobot and Tita Maria who hosted me in Las Vegas and my fun stay with Tito Eric, Tita Vivian, Noelle and Lola in Portland.

In Milan, Italy, one of my castmates had a Pinay helper in their house, unfortunately, I wasn’t able to talk to her. But I met a Filipina OFW on the subway and had a quick chat. My host dad’s boss’ wife (ang haba ah!) was also a Filipina and we talked on the phone. In Amsterdam, the Netherlands, a busload of Pinoys on tour got off right in front of where I was standing and to my delight, one of them gave me a big smile and asked, “Pilipina ka?” to which I enthusiastically answered, “Opo!” They must have been weirded out because my UWP friends all laughed and hugged me after that. Because, they too, were amazed at the number of Pinoys I met on the road.

Probably the most touching encounter I had with a Filipino came during one of our Internal days in Portland. I had just finished my Education internship and suddenly had a “less stressful” schedule than usual. With some idle time in my hands, and a pretty slow day (we were watching “An Inconvenient Truth”), it was the worst homesick-est feeling I had during the whole trip.

Thinking about home and my family, I went for a bathroom break and found out that half the stalls were closed because it was being cleaned. An old man was mopping the floors quietly. I studied him closely, he was the kindly, grandfather type with tanned skin and gray hair. I sneaked a glance at his name tag and sure enough, he was Filipino! I was just overcome with emotion and homesickness that I just blurted out,

“Hi Manong, Magandang Umaga po!”

His head snapped up and he stared at me and asked carefully, “Pilipina ka?”

With tears in my eyes, I answered, “Opo, Pilipino po ako!” – and without thinking, I hugged the lolo who was cleaning the bathroom. Soon he had tears in his eyes, too. Two of his daughters married Americans and convinced him and his wife to live with them in the USA. He badly wanted to go home to the Philippines where all his other kids and grandchildren were.

“Gusto ko nang umuwi. Ang hirap dito, may trabaho ka nga pero mahirap at malugkot pa din. Buti sa atin, kahit minsan walang pera, pero masaya tayo! Dito, kayod ka ng kayod, wala naman makuha. Pero mahirap naman basta-basta umuwi kasi mahal ang pamasahe”

It’s funny how easily we forget that some people really don’t have a choice when they go abroad, and that they don’t have complete control of their time and resources because of extreme need. Just like what I felt when I met the family at the food pantry in Winston.

We were performing a mini-show at the Oude Market Square in Leuven, Belgium – the stage was shaky, and it was freezing but the crowd was so happy that it felt really good. A girl in front of the crowd caught my eye, and like everyone, she was also into the performance. I soon learned that she was Malou, a Filipina! She was studying Theology at the University and was eager to introduce me to her friends.

That same evening I joined them for their Wednesday novena. It was the smallest Catholic mass I have ever attended! There were ten of us all in all, including two priests who both celebrated our small mass. We just gathered around a small table with a cross and some Bibles. I read the First Reading.

In my conversation with Malou, she told me that she was looking forward to the time that our media would start highlighting Pinoy achievers overseas and stop dwelling on mail order brides and abused domestic helpers. Apparently, the Leuven community has had its shares of Pinoy students and scholars.

“Na sana Makita naman nila na hindi lang mukha ng Pinoy ang mail order bride at domestic helper. May iba’t ibang mukha din ang Pinoy sa ibang bansa. Madaming estudyante, pari, doctor – na nag e-excel sa kani-kanilang fields”

Filipinos in Abroad already form a world and a culture of their own. It is a world with its own language, hierarchy, beliefs and values. Their experiences are so rich and very different from each other – that it is hard to generalize or stereotype them into one mold.

However, as Pinoys spread out all over the world, I hope they never forget their roots, be not ashamed to be Pinoy, and to always do what is right wherever they may be. This will be a perfect reason for us to celebrate our Filipino brothers and sisters around the world.

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