Deaf Community in Bohol, Philippines - My Family Travels

After 15 hours cramped in a crowded plane, I found myself standing on a battered tarmac surrounded by a wild and humid, yet beautiful jungle.  We had finally arrived in Bohol, a small island located in the Philippines.  My family had traveled far in order to visit a ministry to deaf children called IDEA (International Deaf Education Association.) I knew this was going to be the trip of a lifetime.

            During our two week stay my family and I visited many of the incredible places Bohol had to offer.  Despite its small size, Bohol boasts towering, grassy mountains called the Chocolate Hills; secluded waterfalls with balmy, swimming water; clear, turquoise oceans teeming with exotic creatures and creepy, deep caverns begging to be explored.

            Despite its beauty, the people of Bohol suffer afflictions common to third world countries such as extreme poverty and sickness.  The latter is the reason why IDEA was established in the first place.  Because of the island’s incredible humidity, illnesses breed rapidly.  Many families are either unable to afford the medication for a simple ear infection or are altogether ignorant of the possible dangers such an infection can create.  Thus there are hundreds of deaf living in the jungles and cities of Bohol. 

            These deaf were the focus of our visit and we traveled to IDEA’s schools in order to meet them.  At the high school, Bohol Deaf Academy, I was surrounded by a group of excited peers who proved to be just as curious about me as I was about them.  They were enamored by pictures of America we had brought and asked countless questions, especially when we came to pictures of snow and raspberries.  I in turn was intrigued by their strange jackfruit and pedicabs but was most surprised when they hopefully asked if I had a Myspace account!  Due to my rudimentary signing skills, communication was slow but the students were incredibly patient and helpful. 

            During our visit to an elementary school in Jagna, the students performed a special dance for us.  Though they couldn’t hear the music, they could feel the rhythm through the tile floor.  I was inspired by these children who, despite disabilities on top of their poverty, seemed to be so incredibly happy.  Their lives were a testimony to the fact that happiness doesn’t come from things or abilities, but from your attitude towards life and its sometimes unexpected circumstances.

            As we flew home across the massive Pacific which separated my world from theirs, I contemplated what I had experienced.  Though I was an American and they were Filipinos, we both had access to things such as Myspace.  Though our homelands and cultures were as different as night and day, we both shared the desire to succeed.  And, though I could hear and they could not, it didn’t stop us from communicating and becoming friends.

            Because of my trip, I can look through travel magazines and the exotic lands no longer seem so unattainable.  The world is a big place filled with exciting countries to be visited.  Who knows, maybe my trip to the Philippines wasn’t the trip of a lifetime.  Maybe that trip is yet to come…


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