During Spring Break, I opened my eyes to a new world. For the first time, I saw a beggar. I saw life pass before my eyes. I saw cries for help that never ended. Most importantly, I saw something that was there all this time, but I never looked up enough to notice. In one week, I realized what I was missing in life, what I will become, and where I needed to be.
My journey began on March 17, 2010. My mother and I boarded a Korean Airlines plane that flew us from the DFW airport in Dallas, TX to Manila, Philippines. My grandmother was seriously ill and was diagnosed with Leukemia a week earlier. We landed at the Ninoy Aquino Airport in Manila, but we switched to a Philippines Airlines commuter plane that landed in Dumaguete City, Philippines. The first sentence I said when we exited was, “Man, it’s hot.” The temperature peaked at 102 degrees Fahrenheit and palm trees filled my view.
My relatives immediately rushed to greet us. Before I knew it, we were sitting in the house my mother grew up in. My grandmother was lying on the sofa. Relatives tried to reintroduce her and me, but there was nothing to say. We just stared at each other in curiosity. When I looked into her eyes, I saw innocence and pain, which made water leak out of the corners of my eyes.
After a few moments of complete silence, my cousins decided to take me to Jollibee, my favorite restaurant that originated in Philippines. As I approached the building, I felt a tap on my lower back. I turned around to find a young boy, about the age of four, looking up at me with an open palm. My cousins jerked me away before I could speak.
Later, we went to the San Antonio de Padua church in a city named Sibulan, about five miles away from Dumaguete City. The church was nothing like ours in the U.S. The building lacked air conditioning, but had a style that resembled a Spanish Villa. The people were very respectful, too. Children under ten didn’t say a word, nor did a mouse squeak.
By the time we reached their home again, my cousins and I couldn’t stop conversing and laughing until we stepped through the door. My aunt was panicking and another cousin was leaning over my unconscious grandmother. Seconds later, my police officer uncle hustled inside and lifted her off the sofa and into his cruiser. We were headed to the Holy Child Hospital.
The facility lacked air conditioning, too. I spotted desperate people crying on the sidewalks because doctors refused to treat patients without paying in advance, which is illegal here in America. All my relatives and I stayed at the hospital all day and night. The way we helped each other through the misery fascinated me. Even though we weren’t swimming in oceans or at an amusement park, I never felt closer my family. However, she died days afterward.
This experience taught me the value of life. It doesn’t matter how much money you have or where you are from. Life is short, and some aren’t as lucky as we are. Today, I am a Jr. High student in Texas. Tomorrow, I will be a philanthropic Oncologist serving residents in Dumaguete City, whether they are able pay or not.
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