With the instructions to be in the foyer by 7am… a few of us ended up being there a little late (I think we can be forgiven for that one!!!). We headed off in our crazy, stuffy, buses to Pastor Gary’s Ikthus church for eggs and bacon. After Mr. Pitman’s humorous stories of his past and a slideshow telling us everything we need to know about the Philippines, we boarded our unique traffic light buses (individually coloured red, orange and green for each school), making our way to visit His Life Primary School in Western Bacolod.
We split into two groups: half of us went into the squatter’s camp whilst the other half stayed in the primary school. In the squatter’s camp, we were given a brief tour of the place with invitations to come into people’s houses. It was a confronting experience, which challenged the way we saw others living in less fortunate situations.
On a brighter note, we were able to bring smiles onto little children’s faces through the making of balloon and pipe-cleaner animals and flowers etc… It was amazing how such a small thing could impact their lives in such a big way and how they could still smile despite their situation.
Boarding our buses… again… we headed back to Ikthus church for lunch and more of Mr. Pitman’s stories. After getting changed into bathers, we were on our way to VMA College/High School. We were greeted with a presidential-like welcome, feeling completely underdressed in our sports uniform! We were met by our Filipino buddies for the day and made our way to the Gym. Their assembly was a drastic change from the ones at Swan… they were just a little better! There were many performances by the students, as well as seeing Mr. Beacham’s towering height compared to that of the school president (who was under average for a Filipino), he might have been half the height, and that’s not exaggerating!!!
We were then led to the school’s training bar, where we were served non-alcoholic (there’s nothing to worry about, parents!) cocktails and the showcase of incredible bottle-juggling. We were then given a full tour of the school, classrooms, the mock bridge (fake ship interior), and a full-sized sea captain’s simulator overlooking Singapore.
We then hopped back onto our buses, accompanied by our buddies. On arrival at the VMA training facility, we got straight into activities in our separate school groups. We kicked off fighting a fire wearing inch-thick fireman suits in already hot humid weather (75% humidity, as opposed to the 10% in Australia).
Most of us then participated in jumping off a two-storey high ledge into water for a boat evacuation practice, where we practiced survival techniques. It was highly refreshing after fighting the fire. After all the awesome activities, we sat down for dinner of chicken and rice. We had a long hard-fought karaoke/ dance battle (the Filipinos won with the dance battle convincingly).
On our way back to our hotel, we stopped at a local 7-11, giving us all sugar-highs for the remainder of the trip. Arriving at our hotel, we came to the realization we were not going to be getting as much sleep as we want, another early start tomorrow!!!
Chloe Cheah and Jethro Lester