More than Words

A few words my family wanted to share about their experience in the Philippines.

A few words my family wanted to share about their experience in the Philippines.

What does it mean to love? Our society has many definitions. It’s usually described as sharing what you have with others, giving them your support, or even buying them chocolates and roses. However, love cannot be summed up in words alone. There are certain intangibles along with the physical. Love is sacrificial and non judgemental. It means putting others before yourself and showing up when things are difficult. It is showing care, regardless of circumstance or behavior of the other person. Love is entering into a relationship without the expectation to gain something in return. Love is being stretched past your comfort zone and choosing to still accept the other person in that moment. This is the love I was able to experience and see develop throughout my family’s time in the Philippines.

As soon as my family and I all arrived in the Philippines we were all excited, but unsure of what exactly would happen or what we would all personally experience. We got our assignments and half of the family worked at the school specifically made for the Ati people, and the other half of us would be running the medical and dental mission in the Ati village. Pastor Marissa, who is the woman who is in charge of the school, helped us get to know the people and the issues they face regarding inequality and discrimination. The Ati people are secluded from their own fellow citizens, by their town, and even in their school as Pastor Marissa shared about a time when she visited the regular school on the island, she saw only the Ati people sitting in the back in the room. She then was motivated to start helping the Ati children, by opening a school specifically for them. It is fittingly named the Mission of Love Integrated School. When our family visited the school, we were greeted with shy smiles and hugs from the children. This joy continued as we then visited the village, which seemed to us as a whole new world. The village was small and had many little buildings made of concrete. The length of the compound was easily a 5 minute walk, and the biggest areas included the church as well as a cracked concrete basketball court with makeshift hoops made with tree stumps. It was amazing to see a people living as they did while their neighbors on the island lived very different lives. Knowing that our family could help in a small way was motivating and encouraging as we started prepping for the mission day.

Finally the big day came and we all woke up bright and early and set up the medical and dental clinic stations. It was a surreal experience being able to see loads of people pouring into the village. As you walked along the different stations, you could see the beauty of sharing life with others and meeting others’ needs. The faciliations of conversations and laughs, even with language barriers, was unlike many of us have seen. Initially my family and I were shocked, coming from the U.S. where everything is easy to access, then seeing a very impoverished area; even the drive from where we were staying to the village had dramatic differences. However, there was one aspect of the trip that remained constant and it was the joy that the Ati people radiated and shared with us. Even with the little they have, they still seem to see the positive and take each day as something good. It was a great reminder to not take what we have, and the people in our lives for granted. It was humbling and inspiring to see how simply caring for someone can open your eyes to a bigger perspective. The world evidently does not revolve around us, or what is only happening in our immediate spheres. The world has many people with stories; the good and bad and everything in between. However, many of us tend to stay in our spheres and don’t venture outside of our comfort zones very often. But if there is something that my family and I learned, getting to experience life with others is one of the most scary, exciting, and fulfilling things one can do. Overall, love is more than just words. Love is the people around us, and it’s about our choices in how to act towards them.

Nikki Villarosa