Community in Northern Samar

Written by Mihaela Kelemen 

One warm Tuesday afternoon, I was invited into a Filipino home, in a barangay (village) in Northern Samar, to make traditional desserts.

         Mihaela blog 1

A barangay (village) in Northern Samar, through the lens of Filipino photographer Martin San Diego

What struck me was how clean and tidy their houses were and how welcoming the hosts were to neighbours and foreigners alike!  The house I visited had a small kitchen that reminded me so much of my grandmother’s kitchen.  The cats would come in freely, purring and asking for attention while serious cooking and chatter took place in the kitchen with neighbours popping in for a quick hello or to borrow some sugar or flour.

       Mihaela blog 2

Interior of Northern Samar houses,
through the lens of Filipino photographer Martin San Diego

I thought to myself, how lucky these people are! This is what community is all about!  This is how you solve any problematic situation, by coming together to do things and share happiness and sorrow. I had a very interesting discussion with two teenage girls.  One of them aspired to become a nurse, the other one planned to study Criminology and work for the police.  When asked if these jobs are easy to come by, they told me that although their older brothers have degrees, they are still unemployed 2-3 years after graduation.  But this did not deter them from having high aspirations for themselves and planning a future in which they would have total control over their destiny.


Making traditional deserts

Their mother told me how proud she was of their grades at school and how certain she was they would succeed in life. This shared positivity was simply infectious.

When I left their house, a little boy no older than 4, ran after me and gave me a big hug. I spoke to him for a bit and then he waved goodbye, calling me ‘sister’.  One could imagine my surprise to both his hug and his calling me ‘sister’.  It later emerged that my physical resemblance to a Sister working at the local farm made lots of local kids think that I was her. She was very embedded and loved by the community.  And clearly much missed especially by the little inhabitants!

The work that this farm does in the community is simply remarkable.  The farm is not only a focal point for celebrations or a refuge in case of disasters.  It also trains women in basic skills such as sowing.  One of our research assistant, Ivy, was project lead and her ambition is to set up a social enterprise in which the women trainees not only learn a new skill but also have a stake in the business.  There was much to learn and absorb in my one-week visit to Northern Samar. The key message I took home with me is that if you live in a close-knit community, you can solve any problematic situation and find happiness in doing so.

Our first and second year students from humanities and medical school have the opportunity to explore the culture of Northern Samar via a competition organised by SOLACE. I very much hope they will take our invitation up and submit an essay on global health to enter the competition. For more details visit: Keele Student Competition.