In the summer of 2009, I took a trip to Makati, Philippines, where a new window truly opened up a curious, yet remarkable world for me. Departing off of the plane and stepping into a foreign place, I was thrown off by what my eyes had witnessed. Compared to my small, familiar hometown of Stockton, this place was another universe. Next to the narrower roads & faster rush of people, the appearance of diversity was much deeper than I expected. I was greatly impacted by seeing how Filipinos lived, some as mere squatters who lived in cardboard lean-tos set against outer walls of rich villas.
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As opposed to America’s tranquil suburban streets, politely gathered lines in the grocery store, and developed city centers, the Philippines is home to rural neighborhoods, various collapsing make-shift tents covering marking filled with hungry citizens, and an endless swarm of bustling pedestrians, tricycles, and carriages. Despite this third-world setting that shaped a poor first impression, what truly impressed me lied beyond the nation’s primitive atmosphere. Looking farther into what the Philippines had to offer, I began to realize the unique characteristics of resourcefulness shown throughout the Filipino culture.
It first became evident to me when I took particular notice to the means of public transportation in Makati and discovered that jeepneys, popular public utility vehicles that fill the city streets today, originated from US military jeeps left in the country after WWII. When the war ended, these jeeps were stripped down and altered to more conveniently and comfortably seat passengers—a prime example of inventiveness in the Filipino culture. I then began to observe more and more of the apparent creativity among the people, such as improvised stoves made from rubble and bricks.
These people, though left with an insufficient amount of resources, are able to meet their own needs and create a great deal out of limited availability by virtue of their ingenuity. This experience forced me to see human nature in another light, opening my eyes to the way in which Filipinos, though at first glance appear uneducated, can actually be considered geniuses in the way in which they are constantly inventing and designing. I can now see how mental vitality is how much we can invent given what we have available to use in light of what we need. This experience has contributed to my growth and maturity in ways I couldn’t have expected, forcing me to open my eyes to different cultures and ways of life and truly appreciate them.
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