July 22, 2014 | 9 Thoughts
From the moment I started telling people that I was going to spend this summer in the Philippines, I’ve had trouble explaining why I was going.
People’s assumptions on my reason for going to the Philippines ranged from visiting family to study abroad to intern abroad. And although all of these are part of the reason I am here, I believe that why I am here is a lot more complex than that.
I would then try to explain my role as a fellow in Kaya Collaborative but once I mentioned the word “internship,” most people would nod knowingly and leave it at that. I tried explaining Kaya without mentioning the internship component, which always left people confused. People would be even more puzzled when I mentioned that I wasn’t getting paid to do the work I was doing nor was much of my trip expenses covered. Yes, the money I’m spending is coming out of my personal savings.
Everyone’s confusion is understandable. As one of the fellows in the first Kaya Co. cohort, I had only a general idea of what to expect. I was told I would be interning at a place I was matched with and that there would be weekly sessions during which the fellows would gather to work on several project ideas developed by the Kaya team.
It was all very vague so when people asked me what I would be doing in the PI, I tried to give as brief a description as possible and change the subject. I didn’t want to tell people until I myself had a real idea.
And after three weeks here, I can start to see why I am here. It starts with my personal narrative.
I’m what some call 1st generation and others 2nd generation. I was born in the United States to two naturalized Filipino immigrants, making me an American citizen. I’ve only been to the Philippines one other time with my parents: ten years ago for about a month during Christmas time. Back then, I had little to no idea what to expect and my love for my Filipino ancestry and culture was just starting to develop.
Since my last visit, I’ve wanted to go back every year but the costs of traveling to the Philippines adds up even if everything tends to be cheaper. And if I ever did go back, it was most likely going to be with my parents because the Philippines is dangerous. The idea of studying abroad in the Philippines was out of the question for years because of this belief that the Philippines is dangerous.
I’m not denying that it isn’t a dangerous place. But that’s not all the Philippines is. Neither is the Philippines simply a typhoon-prone country or home to millions of poor people or a set of beautiful tropical islands. It’s complex.
But I never would have been able to understand that if I visited with family or came to study abroad. Being here with family would have kept me in a bubble and studying abroad wouldn’t allow me the flexibility I have now.
Coming here as a Kaya fellow comes with a lot of opportunities and a lot of flexibility. Through my internship with Route +63 Travels, I get to see and participate in the effort to change the negative perceptions surrounding the Philippines. And because of Kaya Co., I’ve been able to meet leaders within the social enterprise community here. I can sense the positive energy occurring within the younger generations of the Philippines and I can see a lot of potential in this country’s growing social enterprise movement.
Why am I here in the Philippines? I’m here to witness the reality that is the Philippines. I’m here to experience for myself the very place I’ve heard so many stories about growing up. I’m here to experience it all so when I get back home, I can share with my fellow Filipino Americans the realities I’m encountering. There is more that we can do than send remittances or balikbayan homes. But how can we figure out that solution from our homes in the states? This is my chance to be part of something bigger than myself. And although it may sound too idealistic, just remember that successful ventures always start with an idea.
Yes, I came here with Kaya Co. and I’m interning with a social enterprise here but now, this trip has turned into a personal initiative. I’ve been wanting to learn more about where my parents came from and about the people who I believe are some of the most resilient individuals in the world. And at the same time, I needed a change of pace from my comfortable living in Seattle. I’m Filipino American, not just American. I needed to discover my roots and Kaya Co. has provided the perfect framework for me to do so.
In the past month, this trip has done more for me than I am capable of putting into words. We’ll see where I’m at in a few months but thank you all for your constant support as I continue on this personal journey in the PI!
I know I’ve been pretty slow about keeping up with the blogging lately. The past few weeks have been filled with a lot of experiences that I’ve had to take some personal time to digest. Stay tuned for more blog posts filled with pictures and the like in the next few days!Categories: Personal, Filipino, Reflections, Philippines 2014, Social Enterprise, Kaya Collaborative, Route + 63 Travels, Summer 2014, Kaya Collaborative, Travel
Tags: Citizenship, Feature, Idealistic, Naturalization, Parents, Philippines, Reason, Social Enterprise, Social Entrepreneurship, Social Venture, Start Ups