That One Fateful Trip
Name of village: Barangay Matimbo

That One Fateful Trip

”OMG, I feel like pulling out of this.” That was my first impression of our legendary lecturer-in-charge of my group. He goes by none other than the name of Rajan. I can vividly remember how he scolded us on the 1st day of our meeting. Entering the classroom, I casually sat at the first row with my friend, Yusuf, whom I acquainted with through EEE ambassador. Seats were slowly filled, with the guys all being on the left and girls on the right. It was at that moment, insults were hurled at us and strict expectations were set. Everyone was taken aback and stunned for words as it was something we do not see often. But, in the midst of the chaos, a girl stood up, complimented him for his direct and straightforward attitude which in turn stunned him for a while. Many things happened. Okay, this would go on for days so I'll just cut to the chase.

On the day we arrived at the airport, my team was still indecisive as to proceed with the trip or to back out as we had to “deal” with Rajan for 2 weeks straight. For most of us, our idea of this trip was to actually just clear a module and at the same time enjoy the trip. But we feared for our grades and enjoyment as this was one tough person to handle. I was also going to miss my CCA Freshman Camp which was something I really looked forward to. We pressed on and decided to proceed forward with this trips without any high hopes of enjoyment.

Touching down at Clarke Airport, we made our 2 hour long journey to Bulacan State University (BSU) in the school's charted bus. It was one of the most dreadful moments in my life where I had nothing to do for 6 hours straight, from the flight to the road trip to BSU. At least dinner was nice, that was what I thought. My first bite into the "black pepper" beef made me fall out of my chair. It was something that I did not expect. It tasted as though as it was a candy that was shaped like a piece of meat, words cannot describe how sweet it was or how much sugar was added to that dish. Soon after, Rajan came over and started talking to us, being fearful students we were, short one words replies were given in which he did not stop but continued the conversation. This was one of my most awkward moments in my life.

So the circled part of the picture is beef. To many, it looks just like ordinary black pepper beef, that is, until you take a bite out of it. Roasted chicken seats on the right side of the beef (top picture), if my memory serves me right, it was honey roasted. Man, this dinner was sweet.

Okay back to the project. Our task, actually our project statement is Diabetic Preventic & Management, but this was not only confined to the village and the Philippines as the problem of diabetes is plaguing the world as I write this. And our 1st meal we had there was already sinful to our project itself. Throughout the whole trip, literally whatever we ate was sweet in a way or so, which we figured that might be one of the main issues that caused the high diabetes rate in the village we were assigned to.

During our interviews, we got to visit each of our patient's apartment, that's right, it is not a house but a small segment or a smaller room in a larger building. The room was less than a quarter size of our typical average SP classrooms, it was dark and cluttered with torn clothing sprawled all over.

Insects were crawling all around and no one seems bothered. The condition was worse than what I had expected. And since the room was so small, we had to interview our patient outside, by the road. Many were economically active but with little income, some were even unable to afford more than a small fish for dinner. So, getting alternative healthy food was out of our options.

Interview being conducted in the alleyways. The rooms were too small and cluttered to fit all of us in. (Right) 3 members of our team went into the house to look around and conducted an interview (left)

A narrow alleyway between the “apartments” of the villagers. Note that they stay in small rooms instead of the typical houses made of wood and straw as we had thought of.

Living in this tight confined spaces with narrow walk ways also hinders daily exercise, which is detrimental to their health. Thus, teaching them some static exercises was one of our priority. With the homes of these villagers being so small, we were unable to have a homestay with them, but instead we stayed at their medical centre and main office. This was at least a 30 mins walk from their homes. Distance is also one of the reasons they do not really come for the FREE medical check-up that was provided by the clinic. Because of this, many of our solutions were tossed.

We also realised that many Filipinos are family orientated, thus we started crafting a solution that can incorporate both adults and children alike. Which led us to forming a roadshow, with booths that has both games and learning points.

Floor plan of the roadshow. Vibrant colours as to entice people and to catch attention. Booths ideas are shown on the mini post-it pads.

Some booths were tested by our villagers and health workers and they enjoyed it. One particular booth that I favour was the “Eye Spy” booth. This particular booth showcases the adverse effects of diabetes if not managed properly, which is diminishing eye sight, where black spots will form and slowly fog out the sight of the patients. This was one of the booths which was complimented by the villagers for the use of recycled materials to bring across an idea. As we made an eye wear to show the effect of this medical condition by only using cardboard and clear tape. Another booth in which many enjoy is the “Toilet Squat” booth, where many simple static exercises were taught to them, as many are living in small tight spaces or sitting down at their mini-mart or “sari-sari” stores daily. They enjoyed exercising together and learning together as a whole, it was unlike any experience we have in Singapore where we only ask people to answer a few questions but received glares for answers.

The homestay was not really the homestay I had expected due to complications I have mentioned above, but sleeping together on the floor and talking to the late nights has brought us closer. It was something that I would not have experienced even in Singapore. One of the greatest impact our community visit has impacted me was that everyone was open to us, maybe it’s because we are foreigners? But nonetheless, they greeted us warmly, shared their joy and laughter with us like we are friends, oh, did I mention that they are very humble too? Although coming from a low income family, many are very appreciative that they have a roof over their heads and food on their table, this is very unlike Singapore where we would complain if we don’t get what others get.

Our “homestay” it wasn’t that well equipped with the facilities we need, but it was enough to get the ball rolling. Although it’s just a small room for us to discuss, have our meals and rest, it was a large place for experiences to be shared and stories to be told. It was then we got closer and understand each other better.

All in all, this trip was a fruitful one despite the bad introduction we had together. We have gotten used to Rajan’s ways of bring points across, which thus did not stun us, but only our BSU buddies. Oh, and talking about our buddies, they are like our pillars of support, being a cheerful bunch and playing around, our group was not as dead as what I had expected from the start. From forcing me to eat balut, to our tearful final words, this journey was filled with fun, joy and laughter. As distance may separate us, our friendships will remain and we will meet again one day. CHUCKYYYYY!

To our many years of friendship! Last picture taken before we left. 8th April 2016 (7.16pm)

Done by: Jonah~ That One Typical Storyteller