I have been sick for the past 5 days, so I’ve had a little bit of time to think on what my last blog post (besides my final reflection) should say. I realize I haven’t taken the time to tell you all about the amazing people I have met here, and there are so many. And each one of them has an equally amazing story, but there is not enough time in the day for me to share them all with you. Hopefully a little bit about some of them will do.
Tita Carla is my assigned Tita and she is the sweetest, most grateful, tiniest little woman I have ever met. When I got assigned a Tita, I don’t know why, but i figured she would be a grandmotherly type. But Tita Carla is young, I’m not sure how old, I would guess early 30s. She has 5 really cute boys and a husband named Tito Kyle who is a bus driver by day, and a very talented painter by night. Although I have never directly asked Tita Carla what her life was like prior to being given a home in the community, I cannot imagine it was very good. I can tell because she is so appreciative of every little thing she has, and is very proud of her home and family. She is welcoming, kind, warm, and all of the things I needed while I was away from home. She also did my laundry for me while I was here which I am very appreciative of! Her kids are great too. I will say, they fight a lot, but no more than a normal house of 5 boys would, I assume. They love fidget spinners, basketball, and drawing (and they are so good.) I hope they find ways to showcase their talents in ways where more people than just the community can see.
Not-Not is Tita Carla’s second youngest son. He is 6 years old and he is one of my favorite people I’ve met on this farm. I taught him a game/rhyme I used do when I was younger called “double-double this-this.” Now every time he sees me he yells “Ate Jill!!!” And then he runs ups and wants to do the hand shake game. He is really naughty, his mom says he gets in trouble at school a lot for talking. On his birthday, Katie and I bought him an ice cream and he returned to the houseful of children showing it off very obviously by yelling “look everyone!! I have ice cream!! No, none for you!!!” Like I said…naughty. But I will miss him a lot when I leave here in 5 days. What’s going to happen to him in 14 years when he’s my age? It’s hard to tell, but thanks to GK, his future is promising which I am grateful for.
Tito Ver is the one of the older Titos in the community. I actually read about his story in a book written by a British associate with the farm. First off, Tito Ver is a farmer and he reminds me a lot of my Grandpa Runyon because he doesn’t say a whole lot (in Tito Ver’s case, its mostly because he doesn’t speak English,) but when he does speak, he knows what he’s talking about. Tito Ver used to work as a security guard in Manila, commuting every day more than a couple hours by bus. He wasn’t earning money because all of his money was going towards the commute. His kids actually had to drop out of school because he could no longer afford it. One night, while working security in a port, he was shot by pirates! (Okay so that part doesn’t really strike me as a similarity to my Grandpa Runyon.) Anyways, from how I understood it, that was kind of his saving grace. His family was offered a home in GKEF, with Tito Ver working as a farmer. He loves what he does now, you can see it in his eyes when he talks about it, even if you can’t always understand what he is saying. One story I like about him is when the boys went to ask when they needed to help with rice farming. Tito Ver said Thursday. The boys said “Okay, what time, early morning 6-8?” And Tito Ver laughed right at them and said “No…all day.” I don’t know, that story made me laugh, maybe it’s not that funny. Maybe it’s because I thought of my grandpa or dad laughing at the thought of only working for 2 hours a day.
Tita Celia is a really prominent Tita in the community. For all of the hard lives people who live there have had , she has had one of the hardest. Her husband, the father of her children, was a very abusive man. But besides that, she also lost one child to an accident, and another to cancer prior to living on the farm. Her remaining children came with her to GK when Tito Tony offered her the help she needed. One of her boys, Denilo, was a trouble maker from the start. He had some issues when he first got to the farm, but Tito Tony set him on the right path and he graduated from the social entrepreneurship school this year as the classes’ top student. From when I’ve heard him speak, he is very smart and put together, and he’s definitely going places; places he wouldn’t have been afforded the opportunity to go prior to being given a life at GK.
Then there is Tita Veronica and Tita Lolite and Tito Jun and Tita Jenny, all of whom have made an impact on me in some way just by being who they are. Tita Veronica works in the Berjaya and is literally always smiling and says hello to me by name. Tita Lolite runs Hamlet and makes the amazing chicken burgers that I love so much. Us Americans have quickly become her best customers. Tito Jun and Tita Jenny have welcomed us in to their home countless times, fed us, and visited with us.
Ate Mia and Ate Mai, our supervisors here, have helped us, guided us, and made our time here more enjoyable. Both of them are such nice and fun people and I will miss each of them. Mia scheduled our trip to Cagbalete Island and Mai accompanied us to the rice terraces and to Taal volcano at the beginning of the summer. We couldn’t have had those great memories with out their help!
And of course! The children! All of the kids here are so cute and friendly. They love to learn and play new games. Their favorite intern is definitely Laurence, but I accepted that early on. I will definitely miss the children a lot. Their childhood is obviously a lot different than the ones most of us had growing up. But they are very happy children who have taught me a lot, more than the internship itself taught me. I will always be grateful to them for that!!
Not all of the people I have met are Filipinos, there are also many foreign interns who are wonderful people and who are really making a difference on the farm. Maxence, Guilhem (who has drilled me on how to spell and say his name), Philip, Coco, Clara, Marie, Lucas, Gaspar, Amadaus, Ammy; all of these people (and countless others) are just a few of the interns who work on the farm and who I have enjoyed getting to know. I wish that I had spent more time with many of them, but there’s only so much that can be done in 2 months. Plus, being sick for 5 days caused me to miss a huge intern party which is pretty unfortunate. I look forward to following all of these people on social media and seeing the contributions they make to the farm and the differences they make in the world. The french especially are huge assets to the farm, and GK wouldn’t be the same with out then.
I am sure I forgot to mention many people who I have met here, and I am sorry for that! Everyone I have encountered has made a lasting impression. One last mention goes out to my fellow Americans who have made this experience one of a kind. Laurence, Jake, Kasie, Katie, and Savanna: It has definitely been interesting, and it’s hard to believe it’s almost over. Only a few days left just the 6 of us!! Its been long, at times boring, many times funny, but all worth it. Thanks for everything!