There comes a time in most journeys when the mind and heart make the switch over from focussing on the travel and adventure to thinking about returning home. Yesterday was that day for us. For our last full day in the Philippines, we put ourselves in the hands of our partner, PETA (Philippines Educational Theatre Association). They led us through a morning of evaluation, an afternoon of preparing for our return home and an evening of celebration.
Beginning the day, my animator colleague, Danny and I handed out an evaluation for the participants to fill out. We appreciated the patient and diligent care that our group took in responding, but they must have been relieved to see Bong Billones, Program Director at PETA, take over for the rest of the day. From that point on, Bong led us through a far more dynamic and entertaining evaluation process. He had us playing group games, singing, acting and creating body sculptures to draw out the memories and experiences of the past two weeks, with recommendations for the future.
How do we share the wealth of experiences and memorable stories we gathered with our communities back home? Together, the 14 of us took a first good look at how to do that; breaking into smaller groups to sift through mountains of memories, information and photos. “It’s not that we are happy to see you go,” said Mura, the evening emcee, “but here in the Philippines when people go away, we have a party. It’s a despedida with pabaon (souvenirs).” And so the evening celebrations began.
We had our last sumptuous Filipino meal, sharing the table with folks from our partner organizations. Familiar faces at the party had us grasping in our minds to recall where and when we had met over the last two weeks of our busy journey. No problem! Warm renewal of acquaintances were easy and the conversations picked up from where they had left off. The evening flowed on with the gifting of pabaon, exchanges of warm words of gratitude and of course, singing and laughing.
It’s very challenging to find the right words to let people know how much their hospitality meant to us, and how deeply we believe in their work. This past fall action campaign had the slogan, A Voice for Justice. Over the passage of these past two weeks, our partners have helped us find our voice. Look for us this fall, when we hope to begin the sharing in our communities!