In retrospect: Philippines Country Program

The last port-of-call before we embarked to Japan, was sunny Philippines. Before I start blogging on any of my SSEAYP excapades, I must apologise for my photo collection. It is a very small one. During the program, I find that my desire to take photos is next to no. This was I believe caused by the fact that cameras are shoved up our faces 24/7, or at least, that’s how I felt. But I did take some pictures, and those will be showcased in this blog. For more pictures, please feel free to browse through the official BPY 2008 blog.

Now, long post ahead! Enjoy!

The journey from Vietnam to the Philippines was the worst journey ever! I am generally not prone to seasickness, but with giant waves outside, and the fact that the ol’ faithful Nippon Maru was sailing against them created the worst kind of sensations in my gut. The ship produces a deafenning clang noise everytime it hits a wave, which we described as “telanggar ikan paus”.

Seasickness was agony, and it lasted for two whole days. Everyone was pretty much lying down all the time in the centre of the ship, on every floor, because that is where the swaying can be felt less. All cabins situated at the ends were described as hell. We were all numbed b seasick pills, which didn’t really do anything but keep us sleeping.

Some people tried hard to enjoy the shimmying and shaking. Smiles could still be seen in the morning. And no, my camera was not shaking, the ship was.

By noon, everyone had their own corner, equipped with some snacks, and seasick bags. Snacks, which had no taste or smell are a precious commodity for the seasick. It is important to eat someting so that you would have something to… eject. Otherwise vomitting would just be an extra painful affair.

Pillows and blankets were brought out to the public areas. No one, except for those lucky enough to have cabins near the centre of the ship stayed it. The common motto was, “its better to be seasick together than to be seasick alone”.

The Philippine Contingent had it bad. They had to perform their Cultural Show the night of the seasick. The girl sleeping on the floor is Anna, head of the cultural committee for the contingent.

Chris (PPY) all weak and plopped near the cushions. Chris joyfully sings the Parampampam song wherever he goes. 😛 But not when he’s seasick.

I truthfully thought the non-stop waves were very stressful. Imagine an annoying beeping sound, and imagine it not stopping for two whole days. And imagine doing that while puking your guts out, hungry, and sleepless. That’s how it felt to be seasick.

After we reached calm blue waters, beneath the fog, lay Manila. We berthed, and so began our country program.

With our Youth Leader, Ariffin, during the Welcoming Dinner at Manila Hotel, established in 1912. Check out our shellfish necklace! It was given upon arrival.

With one of the performers from the Malaysian Contingent (MaPY), Fadhlan, in costume for their comedic Joget piece. He’s also one of our favorite people on the ship! (Because he has the big can of magical sweetened condensed milk and with it, he makes MILO!!!)

A sovenir given by one of the Japanese delegates (JPY) while we were at the Manila Hotel. I love the writing and this was truthfully on of the most memorable things I’ve received throughout the program.

The next day we went to our respective institutional visits by SG. My SG, which was SGB, went to a famous TV station, ABS-CBN, the place where all the men were handsome and attractive.

We were brought all over the station to the filming sets, museums and such. Quite interesting.

But it probably was not as interesting as the homestay I had. On the first night, I slept not in a condo, not in a hut, not in a bungalow, not in a house, but I slept in…


On tables!

Do you have any idea how unsanitary a kindergarten classroom is?

I cannot even begin to describe the toilet (or “Comfort Room”, as they say). I can only say this: “comfort” was the last thing it provided me. I did not shower for 2 nights and I only did my “business” in shopping malls.

And, to clarify the picture even more, I’m definitely not picky. People who knows me would know very well how high my level of tolerance is. But after I saw the toilet, I immediately dialed the emergency number to my national leader.

The next night I was transferred to the host family’s house. But that night I could not sleep a wink until about 5am in the morning. Then I had to wake up at 6am so that we could begin the day’s activities, which I describe as…. peculiar.

No, we did not go to any of Manila’s famous tourist attractions. Our f irst stop, JAIL.

The drive there took at least 2 hours, and the tour around the facility took about 10 minutes, conducted 100% in Tagalog. A language that none of us understood. I was thankfully accompanied with 3 other host families who brought my fellow PYs along with them.

The whole day, we laughed very hard at our predicament and especially when Denny (IPY) from Indonesia exclaimed loudly,

“Aneh ya kita dibawa ke sini!”

LOL. I don’t know what I would do without them. We laugh all the time!

This square sweet piece was lunch. The sweet, sticky rice cake actually tasted nice. Reminds me of wajit. However, I only had a muffin for breakfast at 7am. Cue laughing sounds.

By 4pm, we were really hungry. We were brought to some vocational school, for another visit. Here are the tired and hungry faces of SSEAYP 2008 in Manila.

Allez from Vietnam (VPY)

Hadi from Brunei (BPY)

Mei Ping from Malaysia (MaPY)

Mamul from Brunei (BPY)

Denny from Indonesia (IPY)

We were served more wajit-like snacks, and more sweets. None of which did anything to calm our hunger. However, I was thankful I was with these kids. In hunger, we laughed again at our predicament. It really put meaning into the saying that “together we are strong”.

After that we were brought to the famous Mall of Asia.

The hungry PYs made their way to McDonald’s and stuffed their faces there like there’s no tomorrow. Then they went shopping.

I can’t believe we only get to spend 2 hours in the Mall of Asia.

Then we went to our respective homes. I went back to a proper house this time, it was not a 5 star hotel, but much more comfortable than the classroom, and I fell asleep instantly.

The next day I took pictures of the house grounds.

This is a side of the Philippines that you don’t get to see a lot, I think.

Before sending us off to the pier where Nippon Maru was already starting its engines, we were brought to see the Mayor of Cavite. Maybe it was a courtesy call, but it felt like a photo session.

From the building, I took some more pictures.

Kampong Ayer! Isn’t that interesting?

As soon as I came to Nippon Maru, I immediately showered! I scrubbed and washed all the gunk away from my face and body. At one point, I even said to myself, I’d never go back there.

Well, if I do, it’s for the Mall of Asia.

5 thoughts on “In retrospect: Philippines Country Program

  1. Wow. I don’t know what to say. I admit I haven’t been following your blog for quite a while, so I don’t have a good idea why you were in Viet Nam or in the Philippines in the first place. I am guessing some sort of volunteer work? Anyways, it is indeed unfortunate that the country has its not-so-good side, as you may have witnessed. I myself have never been in those situations, to which I am grateful, and I totally understand your culture shock. Yes, comfort rooms are not made for comfort at all, and I suppose that is why I got the habit of not doing my “business” if I am not in my own house, something I still find myself adhering to nowadays.


  2. kumusta. I am Karen and I am a Filipino.

    I believe those who plan those “activities” want you to see/experience firsthand the life of a very normal pinoy for you to KNOW, REFLECT with and UNDERSTAND. As a person chosen to be part of SSEAYP, i can say that you are someone who have a wide understanding of life and of your fellowmen, that you have the ability to see things differently, to read beyond the lines.

    I would be very pleased to know what you have learned from those experiences.

    Sayang, you have only seen the other side of being pinoy thus i suggest that if ever you manage to return DO NOT ONLY STAY IN THE MALL. Stray from the paved roads and try to discover places and life beyond.

    P.S. biko, the sticky sweet or “kakanin” is only a snack. hamburgers and pizza are under that category too for a pinoy- a snack. are you sure they have not serve you other food? i myself cannot stand with having only biko for lunch.

    furthermore, bringing you to prison is not a good idea. it must be scary.


    1. LOL, I’ve definitely had not so nice homestay experience but I’m glad I came out of it with loads of laughs. I appreciate the time I had there now in retrospect.

      I was however quite cranky during the time I was in the Philippines because I was so hungry. Yes! Biko was the ONLY thing I had for lunch (1pm). And I had a little muffin for breakfast at 7am. And then we had no meals until 5pm where we only had sweet colourful things which were apparently traditional Pinoy desserts. Then nothing until 10pm when I specificaly requested she bring us to a McDonald’s or something! LOL. FAMISHED!!! I bought takeaway after that for the next day as I could guess it would be like that again.

      The prison was awful! Although we didn’t have any contact with any inmates the bad thing was the PYs only tagged along while the guide said a lot of things in Tagalog that no one cared to translate. It was walk here there here there yet understanding nothing.


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