My Stay in the Philippines

By: Juan Olarte

Main Facts

Country: Philippines

Capital: Manila

GDP Per Capita: 4,300

Life Expectancy:

-Male: 68 years

-Female: 75 years

Key Issue: Human Trafficking

Population: 94.85 million

Languages Spoken: Tagalog and English (Official ones)

Regional Dialects: Bikol, Cebuano (Visayan), Hiligaynon (Ilonggo), Ilocano, Kapampangan, Pangasinan, Tagalog, and Waray.

The Arrival

I grabbed my suitcase from the overhead compartment. I was here! After flying for 17 hours from Washington D.C, I had arrived at the Philippines. It had been a smooth ride, but I slept most of the time. I mean, what else are you supposed to do for 17 hours?! Exactly my point! As I walked out of the plane and into the airport, I started taking in the different sights. I was here for the next year! However, I didn't have time to process it because as soon as I got through customs, I saw my host family. I recognized them from the photos they had sent me! The two children, Nathan and Bella, ran towards me. I scooped them up in a big hug. However, as soon as I went over to Mr. and Mrs. Vargas, I made sure to ask for their blessing. I had been taught to do this since I was young. This is something that you must do in the Philippines, and it's a form of showing your respect to those that are older than you. You must grab their hand and touch it to your forehead. After we had talked for a little while, we started for home. I knew I would enjoy my stay in this country.

The Malacanang Palace

The Vargas's live in a affluent neighborhood in Manila. Mr Vargas told me however, that this had only been achieved by a lifetime of hardwork. He was born into poverty, like many others in this country, but he worked hard through highschool and college to get ahead. That is why he managed to build a better life for himself and his family. Mr Vargas works as a tour guide in the Malacanang palace in the Philippines, which is where the president works and lives in. One of the benefits of his job was that he could bring visitors with him whenever he wanted! We drove to the palace, and Mr Vargas was kind enough to let me take some secret pictures, which is a big no no. But, I promised not to use them or post them anywhere. I had a lot of fun exploring the gardens, presidential office, main hall, and dining room. The guards were pretty creepy though, and there were some rooms that were off limits.

Family Life

Living with the Vargas's was really fun. Every evening after I came home from school, Nathan and Bella would ask me how my day went. It's amazing that they were so interested, even though it was boring. Filipinos are very courteous and friendly though, so I expected it from them. Ms Vargas would always serve me traditional Filippino meals as snacks, and they were very tasty. Except Balut. I refused to eat that. NEVER IN LIFE.. Anyways, when the children ate Balut I would just lock myself in my room. Bella and Nathan liked to come up chewing it with their mouth open and try to gross me out. Hence, the locking up. On weekends, the Vargas's had all their relatives over for karaoke. And when I say all, I mean ALL. Extended family is very important in the
Philippines. I think I counted over 60 people one night! After Karaoke, they'd just talk and share stories. And at seven o clock, they had to tune in to American Idol. Apparently, although Jessica Sanchez is just another runner up in the US, she's achieved a celebrity status in the Philippines. Filipinos are a proud people. To end it all, there was a big meal. I would always end up stuffed. Man, I really miss the Philippines. I love everything about it. Except the Balut. DO NOT TOUCH THE BALUT

Tricyle Taxis

Well, one year went by pretty quick. The time came for me to leave. The day of my flight, Ms Vargas, and Bella and Nathan burst into tears. This made me quite sad. I hugged them and told them not to cry. I thanked them for being the best host family ever. I promised I would write them every month. After patting Nathan and Bella one last time. I got into the car. One problem. The car didn't start. Oh no!! My flight was in two hours. We couldn't walk, we'd never get there! Suddenly, Mr. Vargas had a great idea. He called a friend of his, and in 5 minutes, he pulled up to the garage. IN A FILIPINO TRICYCLE?!!! I had never been on one of these before, and frankly, it didn't seem safe to me. But, I couldn't miss my flight. I got into the tricycle as I waved a quick goodbye to Mr. Vargas. After that, we speeded towards the airport. I must say, it was quite fun. We managed to squeeze between cars, and I got to the airport in no time. I thanked Mr Vargas's friend, and got off. Well here I was. Before I entered the airport, I touched the soil one last time. I had learned so much during my stay here, and I was sad to be leaving it all. Hopefully, one day, I would be back. Goodbye Phillippines!

It's More Fun in The Philippines

It's More Fun in the Philippines | DOT Official AVP

Short Message

Human trafficking is a huge problem in the Philippines. Many Filipinos are forced into slavery or prostitution in search of a better future. They are told that they will be working a lucrative job in the city. Parents are convinced to send their children to "schools" where they will learn a special skill or trade. The truth is, this never happens. They are usually sold to brothels, factories or sweatshops. Do you like your shoes? What's the brand you're wearing right now? Do you have any idea where they're made?