Nathaniel Hawthorne once wrote that, “Happiness is like a butterfly which, when pursued, is always beyond our grasp, but, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.” People say all they look for in life is to be happy and sometimes you find it unexpectedly. I’ve had many adventures in foreign lands and I never thought I would find out what it meant to be truly happy in the Philippines.
I’ve travelled many places around the world; the Philippines, all over Europe, Japan, Canada, and Central America and all of these places had different stories to tell. Experiencing all these different cultures, I learned more about myself and about the importance of life and living.
Wandering the streets of the Philippines, I saw poverty, destitution, and hardship. Around the plazas in Europe I noticed festivity, the hustle and bustle of crowded alleyways, and quiet towns of solitude. Gallivanting along the roads of Central America, I heard the sound of the maracas, felt feelings of excitement, yet saw distress along the roads of the poor. Japan, the land filled with new technology that remained connected with its past, gave the feeling of a new beginning to those that witnessed the blossoming of the beautiful cherry trees. But none of these journeys had an impact like my trip to the Philippines.
While visiting the Philippines, I saw families lose their homes in a matter of hours due to severe storms and flooding. I saw children wandering the streets without any clothes begging for food and money or whatever they could get their hands on. The most surprising part was, I never imagined my family had come from a place of such poverty. I had family in the Philippines who lived from pay check to pay check. They were hard workers who shared one house and would never make enough money to start a new life. Learning about this struck me; I was ungrateful for everything I had in America and I didn’t appreciate any of it. Seeing how the Filipinos lived I knew I had to change. It all started on one of the most memorable trips I had in the Philippines.
I remember going to a surgical mission in Bohol with the Maharlika Lions Club on my second trip to the Philippines. I recall a huge crowd of people patiently waiting to get checkups by American doctors who volunteered to serve there. One after another they were examined and you could only imagine the smiles they had and tears that rolled down their faces. Each tear was a symbol of thankfulness and a prayer to God. I never knew how meaningful a trip to the doctor could be.
The day that impacted my life the most was during the time when we gave toys away to needy children. We gave each of our own toys that we decided to donate.
It was the hardest thing to do because they had sentimental value to us. I remember this girl about five years old, with bright eyes and a light blue tank top and shorts the color of a setting sun and she had nothing but those clothes on her body. I gave her this crÃ¨me colored teddy bear about three times the size of her body. Her eyes grew bigger and brighter and she hugged the bear as tight as she could and hopped away with a huge smile on her face. That day I felt I made a difference to someone’s life. From then on, I understood what it meant to be happy.
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