The 16th day of my Teacher for Global Classrooms field experience was the first July 4th I can remember that I wasn't on Nantucket with my family. In the Philippines, July 4th is "Filipino-American Friendship Day." To be honest, it has felt like every day is Filipino-American Friendship day, as people have been so outgoing and generous throughout my entire time in the country. Angelo, Jenn, and I spent the entire day traveling, even though our flight took only 45 minutes. We left Ligao City at around 10:30 AM arriving at Legazpi Airport just before noon. We had plenty of time before our scheduled 4:00 PM flight to Manila. The unpredictable traffic required that we give ourselves a big cushion. We ate lunch at the airport buffet with Noemie and Rose. Our flight was delayed and we didn't take off until 6:00 PM. We landed back in Manila at 6:45, just after the sun had set. Manila traffic is insane. Beyond gridlock. You can spent 5-10 minutes at a time at a complete standstill on the freeway before traveling a few car lengths and then stopping all over again. You know it is bad when there are vendors on foot walking on the dashed lines of the four lane highway hawking their wares to stationary drivers. We covered the 2.2 mile distance from the airport to the hotel in a little under two hours.
Our final two days in Manila were primarily for reflection on our experience and planning for the future, with three-to-four-hour-long sessions scheduled each morning in a hotel conference room. On the morning of our first day back in Manila we were treated to a panel of filipino ILEP alumnae. They had traveled from around the country to share how they had integrated their exchange experience into their practice and their communities. We were also joined by a TGC alum from Rhode Island who was returning to the Philippines for the first time since her TGC field experience three years ago. She was in the Philippines to visit her host teacher, bringing her family as well.
The alumnae panel gave me a great opportunity to ask questions that tied up the loose ends of my guiding questions. Rowena was an especially relevant resource for me as she now works at the Normal University of the Philippines--the premier teacher preparation university in the country--as a teacher trainer. I picked her brain to fill out my understanding of my guiding question regarding best practices in teacher development.
We received peer feedback on our guiding questions in a variety of ways, one of which is pictured below. We were supposed to have a single guiding question for our experience. I started with two. Now I have three.
In the afternoon, we visited the National Museum of the Philippines. The museum was separated into two buildings; one for art by famous Filipino artists, and another anthropological museum on the people of the Philippines. I particularly enjoyed the style and the bold statements of a series of woodcut prints by Leonilo Doloricon I found on the fourth floor, which I had to myself. I suppose I prefer bold art to subtle art.
It has been the rainy season here in the Philippines. This means that the afternoon is regularly disrupted by torrential downpours. We were on our way back to the hotel when the daily downpour struck, driving through a low-lying area. The streets flooded and the water nearly rose to the floor of the van. Our driver JR, and everyone else on the road, continued as normal.
On the morning of our 18th and last full day in Manila we worked as a cohort to wrap up our guiding questions and, most importantly, plan for the future. I'll have more on that in some later posts.
In the afternoon, we went to a massive labyrinth of a mall. A maze of vendors in tiny 6' by 4' stalls were organized by type of goods sold. The pearl vendors, in particular, were so tightly packed that getting lost upon entering the area was virtually guaranteed. An area dedicated to electronic devices and video games featured several dozen shops with computers set up for customers to drag-and-drop dozens of movies onto their phones. A guns and ammunition shop was a kiosk beside the toy store. But other parts of the mall were identical to anything you'd see in the United States.
After the mall it was a buffet specializing in traditional Filipino food for our farewell dinner. At this point in our experience we had already tried just about everything that was offered. It was cool to be at a local favorite, surrounded by families celebrating birthdays or other special events, and know what each of the food items were.
Then it was back to the hotel to pack and take a nap before our 4:00 AM departure for the airport. I'll spare you the mundane details of the 33-hour journey home, and instead share this photo I took traveling at 630 miles per hour 100 miles south of the Aleutian Islands:
My colleagues and I had all come so far, figuratively and literally, culturally and professionally, since we had left our homes and families three weeks before. I will never forget the friends I made--both American and Filipino--and will always cherish the experience they made for me.
I'll have more posts over the next few weeks regarding my guiding questions and my Global Education plans for the future.
I'll remember the students and faculty of Bicol Regional High School the most.