CABUYAO, PHILIPPINES – JANUARY, 2019
EMPOWERING DAUGHTERS IMMERSION PROGRAM
By Amber Scanes and Georgia Hickling
Four weeks later and we still can’t believe it! What an amazing immersion experience we had. Our lives have been forever changed and we couldn’t be more thankful to Adamson University in Manila, the Catholic Schools Office in Lismore and to Helen, Tony, Janine, Kathy, Katie and Fr Fred, the 6 other missionaries that we embarked on this journey with. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you. Mahal ka namin (we love you)!
The Empowering Daughters Immersion Program in the Southville relocation community of Cabuyao, Laguna has been running for the past 4 years. These experiences are made possible through a partnership with the Integrated Community Extension Services (ICES) of Adamson University.
The Immersion Program provides participants with the opportunity to integrate themselves into their Filipino host family, as well as the Southville community as a whole and this led us to experience a beautiful sense of comradery.
The Empowering Daughters Immersion Program was my first time being on immersion and what an experience it was! I had never been to Asia before and so I was very much looking forward to experiencing a whole new culture as well! I went into the immersion with an open mind and I think this helped to make my experience so amazing as everything was so new and exciting. We had a ball on our first day in Manila as we tried Filipino food, rode in pedicabs and spoke to the locals. Being exposed to how other people live their lives in such a raw and authentic way was definitely daunting at times and, despite it being such an exciting new adventure, the experience was still very eye-opening.
People have asked me what my favourite moments were and I can honestly say that it’s so hard to choose! My whole experience was so much more than I imagined but I have picked out 3 moments from the 10-day trip that I would like to share with you all:
- Meeting my beautiful host family and learning all about what life is like for them was definitely one of my biggest highlights! My family consisted of Jessica (Mum) and Esteven (Dad – however, he worked away from home during the week and I, unfortunately, didn’t get to meet him) and their 5 beautiful children: Lovely (age 15), Stephanie (age 13), Esteven Jr. (age 11), Jessiven (age 7) and Aeon (age 5). They brought me so much joy for the 4 days that I stayed with them and we are still in contact every day with each other.
- Giving the Southville community the opportunity to attend Mass twice whilst we stayed with them. Having the opportunity to attend Mass is something that I think we all take for granted at times (I know I definitely do!) and the fact that we could give them the opportunity to accept the Blessed Sacrament was such an amazing gift and is something that I was very proud to be a part of.
- Playing with the children. Having the opportunity to play games with the children in our host families, as well as the children from the other parts of the community, was such a heart-warming experience. The children are so full of joy and had such warm hearts towards each other and you could really see God working in them. They had the most beautiful, infectious smiles and it really made saying goodbye so much harder!
I think the biggest thing that I learned from my time away is to not take things for granted. Southville didn’t have any hot water; very few homes had a flushing toilet and having a pantry or refrigerator to store food was considered a blessing. These are all everyday things that we take for granted and coming back to Australia, where we have access to everything that we could possibly want, really does put things in perspective for me.
Being immersed in the Southville Community also showed me that material things really don’t matter. The happiness and laughter that came from the Filipino people was caused by the interactions that they had with their friends and family, not from computer screens or viral videos. They found genuine happiness in the simplest of things and this is something that I think we can all learn from the people of Southville.
Finally, I was shown what the true meaning of life is. The Filipino people have well and truly changed my life because they showed me what life is all about. Being grateful for what you have, giving thanks to God and always seeking to make connections with people, from every walk of life. The Filipino’s are the happiest people that I have ever met and I learnt so much from them. To the Southville community and every member of the Calidgid family, thank you. Thank you for changing my life.
I had never been to a third world country and I really did not know what to expect going into the Empowering Daughters immersion. However, I decided that I was going to go in with my hands stretched wide and my heart open and on my sleeves. I can tell you, by doing that, it allowed me to experience the Philippines in a whole different light and I will forever be grateful for the time I spent there. The first day meant we were exposed to their real and authentic way of living and despite it is amazing to see at times it was in fact heartbreaking. Seeing the shanties for the first time was overwhelming, yet the people were so full of life. I don’t think I could ever forget how the Filipinos made me feel- I never want to!
Southville taught me more than I thought was ever possible. The biggest lesson was to not take things for granted and be grateful for everything we have because it is truly a blessing. I had always considered myself grateful for what I had, however, I now know a different depth to what the actually means. Gratefulness is so freeing and I never imagined it feeling just like it does. My family in the Philippines were not blessed with hot water, a fridge or a flushing toilet. I slept on a wooden table and experienced their lives and their daily routine. It was hard, but so enriching and soul changing. I found God in everything over there and it was absolutely beautiful.
Bring on the kids!!!
The biggest lesson I was taught over there, was in fact by the children. They all just radiated joy and love in every second of their day, and are grateful for absolutely everything they have and it really was a time for self-reflection and inner change. I honestly believe that they changed my whole outlook on life. For that, I will forever be grateful. The way they simply loved without judgment or fear inspired me to live out my life just like that. Who thought that children all under 6 could impact my life so intensely and so lovingly without meaning to. For me, it is extremely crazy to think!!!
Ate Amber became my name over there. Ate meaning older sister…….
To my kids,
Kim, Hannah, Shanna, Ivan, Rhca
Thank you for showing me the true example of love, joy, and gratefulness. For your quirkiness and your obsession with photos, I will cherish them forever. I have always believed that someone’s simple way of living can impact your life greater than anyone could ever imagine and you have done that. You have shown me the true love and Passion of Christ.
Since returning from the Philippines, I am constantly asked what my favourite moments were. To be honest, I cannot pick my favourite moments because every moment of the immersion was absolutely incredible and life-changing.
We were able to invite the community to attend mass twice whilst we were in Southville and It was such an invigorating experience. I had two kids on my legs during mass and another one sitting right beside me to make sure we weren’t leaving them. “Papa Jesus” I heard this many times during mass from the kids and I just loved how young they were and they got so excited to see the crucifix on the altar. My faith definitely got furthered throughout my time in the Philippines and I am so grateful to have witnessed the world through Christ’s eyes and walked the path He created. I can definitely say I am insanely blessed and I will not take any second from my time in Southville for granted.
We still can’t believe that we have been to the Philippines! How blessed we were to be given the opportunity to meet the people that we did and to have experienced the things that we have! You have empowered us as daughters of Christ to go out and share the stories of what we have experienced and we will continue to share their story, never forgetting the impact that they have had on our lives. To everyone involved, from the bottom of our hearts, Salamat, Salamat, Salamat. (Thank you, Thank you, Thank you)