Over the past few years I have been involved in an organisation which works with youth in urban situations, and was lucky to get involved in a project with a group of incredible people. We were invited to go to the Philippines to work with a community in Tondo, Manila. This was a two week commitment where we individually stayed with a host family within different parts of the community. Tondo has a population of 3.5 million people, which is half the population of London in an area only twice the size of Hackney. It was packed out with people in incredibly deprived conditions suffering in a situation very alien to London’s cultural capital.
It was quite a shock for us having never left Europe. However, despite being so far from home I have never felt so welcome or involved in a community. The Filipino culture is instated around hospitality and community where it is offensive to frown and the most common phrase is ‘Maganda’ which means beautiful.
As well as this, there is a great sense of despair and poverty as you see the extensive impact of capitalism and the corrupt global community we live in. Many of the families we were staying with were having to use illegal electricity in order to survive because of the
Returning back to the UK it was much more of a shock and was hard to re-adjust to the western culture. Realising how individualistic we are as a community and despite our enriched luxurious lifestyle, we are deprived of the presence of colour and joy that was so distinct as you walked through the streets of Manila.
It was definitely a life changing experience which is hard to process and also hard to explain. The only thing I can really do is recommend getting out of this western bubble, because despite how consuming it is, it’s so relieving to observe it from a 16 hour flight away!