I was only back in
In the busiest moments… I have to confess I do forget how fortune I am. That week in
But as exhausted as you do get, sleeping fitfully on flights, waking at 5am in hotel rooms, I think these times are cherished after the event. I’m already smiling thinking about the trip to the
The Friendliest People
I never feel confident enough to make conclusions about a country after visiting as a tourist. It doesn’t stop me making some assertions – as I did about every country I visited on the Big Trip – but they are always qualified observations. There’s something about the tourist experience – visiting tourist sites, flitting from place to place, filling the voyeuristic, detached role of the tourist – that puts a barrier between you, and truly knowing a country. And by knowing a country I mean knowing its people, knowing how the society ‘works’, how people treat each other, and how they treat outsiders. That’s why my visits to
So I was delighted to be able to experience the
The retreat was a revelation for me. Our Filipino partners are hard-working and have a level of dedication to poverty relief that you will not see in many other countries with a history of microfinance. But the summer camp is as much a celebration of the unity and shared mission of the staff as it is about any technical aspect of microfinance. There was much singing, dancing and ceremony. Religion is a very important part of life in the
In fact the atmosphere seemed odd and a little unnerving at first. It took me a while to realise that the reason the atmosphere seemed odd to me was because people were so relaxed at the event. The Filipinos are truly a people that are laid-back in social situations. They are the most social people I
have ever met. No wonder one-sixth of the world’s text messages are typed and sent in the
The second day saw me presenting to a break-out group of about 100-150 people. This seemed to go fairly well. I’m not sure my accent was the simplest to understand, though peoples grasp of English in the
And then on the third day we went white-water rafting. As well as being a good laugh, this was my first chance to see some of the natural beauty of the
Why under-sold and ignored? Well, the Philippines has a strange demographic – it’s a place that’s hard to get your head around – an incredible 4,000 inhabited islands sitting lying shards of broken crockery in the South China Sea, connected by a hundred ferry routes, and more recently by almost as many domestic flightpaths.
In Cagayan de Oro, a town in the north of
So that was the working part of the trip. I hope I’m privileged enough to return to return to visit our Filipino partners in the field. I can’t wait to see how they work with clients – I’m sure it will be a really enlightening experience.
Next update will feature encounters with typhoons, scuba diving, boxing matches and an imprompto meeting with a taxi driver who has just started protestant Quakerism in the