The fourth of September marked one year since I have been here at my placement site in the Philippines. I remember getting out of the airplane to the arrivals gate, and being surprised as I stepped outside as a hot gust of air hit me. It took me a moment to realize that the temperature I had been feeling inside, was actually artificially regulated, that is, the air conditioning. It was very surprising to me because it certainly did not ‘look hot’ to me, because my basis for a very hot day is from my own country – when it’s hot, the sun would be evident and very angry. I cannot say that even after a whole year I am not still amazed by this notion. For instance, on the occasions that I have to attend a seminar or a workshop in relation to my social enterprise work, usually they are conducted in an air conditioned room, so if I were to look outside the window, the scenery would be somehow correlated to the room temperature that I would be feeling  in that moment- only to be disappointed when I actually step outside.

I have learnt some very valuable lessons over the past year. I have learnt to be patient, to put my trust in God and rely on God at times that I would have felt like losing patience and hope. I have met a lot of people and befriended them some for just a short period, and some I know will be lifetime friends. I have gained and I have lost in some instances, but as the message was stated today, there are some things in life that need to be let go for us to achieve what God intends, in as much as there some things that need to be acquired to achieve what God intends. Looking back at the past year has me realize that things happen, and are linked, and all the purpose at the end is so that God’s promises can be fulfilled.

My first three months in the Philippines I spent in a city called Davao, where I had to take the required preparatory language classes for the Cebuano language. It being the initial place that welcomed me, there will always be a special place in my heart for that place. I am always happy to get a chance to visit.  As it so happened, last week my co-fellows and I had to attend to some business there and I was glad to get to reconnect with some friends. Most of the nights that I was there I would spend at the ‘night market,’ which, as the name suggests, is a market during night time.

There would basically be everything from clothes to food, and I was amazed to see that there would even be a place set aside for massages . Pretty much everything would be at affordable prices and it is very possible to bargain there. Thus, it is not too difficult to imagine just how many people would be there. The street would be packed. On one of the nights that I visited there, I passed by an artist and I decided to get a henna drawing on my arm of an anchor cross. He was amazed that I could master a conversation with him in bisaya. He kept telling people that “wow, she can understand bisaya.” Soon, I had a little audience around me as he was doing the drawing. I think I impressed him with my not-so-good bisaya, and he told me that I could come back any day to retouch the henna if it was starting to fade. I told him that I would come back. I was not going to turn that down – it was free, plus I had made a friend.

I did not however get the chance to go back, because we finished what we had gone to do in Davao earlier than we had anticipated. We had to come back to Iligan, so we did – on Thursday. I was so shocked to hear that there had been a bomb right there at that place the very next day. It is still hard to believe even up until now, but lives were lost, many injured.

I just hope and pray for peace. For everyone, everywhere.

img_20160614_100326Charlotte Chitambo

Ecosystems Work for Essential Benefits


GMF International, Class of 2015-2017






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