A group of 12 Development and Peace members from the Prairies and the Atlantic provinces, accompanied by two staff members, are on a solidarity trip to the Philippines. They will be visiting eight Development and Peace partners and some of their projects in the capital city of Manila, in southern Mindanao and on the islands of Leyte and Samar – where Yolanda (the Filipino name for Typhoon Haiyan) first made landfall on November 8th of last year. We invite you to follow their adventures and learnings as they travel through the Philippines for the next two weeks.
The first thing that struck me on the drive from the airport to our hotel was the sheer number of people in Manila, our first place of connectivity with our Global South partners. The traffic is hectic and slow moving. Multiple types of vehicles from cars, buses, trucks of all sizes, tricycles (motorcycles with sidecars) as well as open-backed silver people-movers called jeepneys share the road with fearless pedestrians. All are vying for the same patch of roadway in what can only be described as workable chaos.
Manila is the most densely populated city in the world. The population of the ten cities that make up what is called ‘Metro Manila’ is 12 million although the larger urban area has 22 million inhabitants. Overall in the Philippines 100 million persons occupy some 7,000 islands. The land area that supports this huge population is just 30,000 square miles - approximately the same size as the island of Newfoundland, which has only 520,000 persons!
We are very fortunate to have Aida Vidal, who is based in the Philippines and works for Development and Peace, coordinating our visit. Aida has prepared a complete itinerary and travel plan for us for the next two weeks and will accompany us throughout our solidarity visit.
In one of our first orientation sessions, I learned that the people of the Philippines share a strong cultural value expressed by the word "kapwa" meaning unity, which runs counter to western individualism. When they combine the words mahal (love) and kita (me and you) they develop a simple concept of the integration of love interconnecting self and the other. Kapwa and Mahal kita have the power to connect all of existence, "us humans" and "the other" including the rest of existence in wholeness and love.
Secular and faith-based organizations such as Development and Peace are the threads that bind the world community together. We transcend borders, nations, cultures, race and ethnicity. We are the bonding agents that hold the tapestry of life together for the benefit of all. With our blogging, we hope to bring the voice of the voiceless from the Filipino communities we meet to our communities back home in Canada.