Renewed gratitude after Lumen Christi Philippines Immersion trip
“We often think that we should be grateful for the things that we have but it is not until you get to a place like the Philippines that we really understand how much we have and how much we should be grateful for. One of the things that struck me most was how joyful the kids were despite the fact that they had nothing. This made me understand that all of the material goods that we value in our country really aren’t important. What is important are the relationships that we have and the way that we treat others.”– Maddison Pettigrove-Barr, Year 12
On January 4, eleven students from Lumen Christi, Pambula, including myself, travelled to Pontevedra in the Philippines to immerse ourselves into the lives of the Franciscan Sisters of St Anthony for two weeks.
The trip was like no other. We have never laughed or cried so hard. Our days were spent exploring the local surroundings, helping people in need and singing. We fell in love with the nuns each for the individual qualities; Sister Farrah for her intelligence, Sister Anita for her warmth and smile, and Sister Marianna for her hysterical laughter and sense of fun.
Upon reflection there are three vivid moments that stood out to me. The first was when we arrived at the convent in Pontevedra. We were welcomed by over one hundred local community members with big smiling faces and open arms. It was incredible to see how our arrival meant so much to the people of Pontevedra. The congregation had spent months organising and rehearsing their dances and songs for the day. It meant a lot to all of us as we were so far from home but we all knew that we had found a new family.
The second moment which stands out was when we visited the homes of the Lola’s (which are the elderly). We were appalled and deeply saddened by the conditions that the elderly were living in. In particular, there was one woman who was living under banana palms by the river.
It was overwhelming to see how proud this lady was of her home despite the limited protection it provided her from the elements. This woman taught me that having the latest electronic devices and big houses are no longer important. It is who you are on the inside. Who you are will always trump anything that you own.
The final memory that had the biggest impact on me was on one of our final days when we visited The Boulevard. This was an illegal slum settlement located on a beach close to the mega-mall S&M in the city of Bacolod. We were visiting the slum to help out with the local aid program run by the Good Samaritan sisters in Bacolod that was delivering nutritious meals once a day.
The nuns had informed us that three people had died in the past two weeks in the slum due to preventable diseases, When we arrived we were swarmed with many people, young and old, holding a single cup each. They queued barefoot awaiting their meal.
I was once again shocked at the conditions that these people lived in. After the service, we explored the slum and visited local community members. Each home was small and hosted upwards of 6-7 family members. The saddest part is that these people do not own the homes or the land and they could be moved along any day if the owner of the area decides to sell off or re-develop the land.
These three days, among many others, have really changed my perspective and has encouraged me to be more grateful for all that I have as a young female living in Australia. This trip has inspired me to consider other ways that I can help communities in need when I finish school.
Marcel Proust famously said “the real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new sights, but in looking with new eyes.”
I believe that this quote holds true to the Philippines Immersion experience. Moving forward I am willing to embrace new opportunities with open arms and be more willing to take on new experiences as I certainly have new eyes.
College Captain – Lumen Christ College, Pambula