Immersion in Northern Samar

Written by Syra Petalio

It was a long day. People spent a long time travelling and it was night time when they made it to where they were supposed to go. It was difficult at some points and they just wanted to be able to sit down and rest. But the journey was not over yet. In fact, it has barely begun. This was but the first day, and the last one is till a long ways off.

After a series of applications, classes, and preparations, the immersion trip happened. This is where the story really comes to a head. The things we have seen, the experiences we have had, the people we have met, they all made the immersion what it was – an eye-opening experience that leaves us with a challenge to continue to hope and work the best we can as we try to discern our true mission. And that in whatever way of life we end up or even as we try to find our way, we must always attempt to give our best and try our hardest. The immersion journey left me with so many feelings. Thus, this also posed the question of highlights. What are they? What makes them? Commonly, highlights are those instances that make us feel. But also, highlights are those that make us think about things. Those that make us question what we normally believe in. Those that give us another perspective through which we can look through. It would take a long time if we went through each of them and as such, I’ve grouped them into themes.

GRATEFULNESS. The whole experience filled me with so much to be thankful for and I feel blessed to have that. Surrounded by so many people, I do not know how to encapsulate the feeling but with every interaction with them, I couldn’t help but be in awe of all the things we have received from the people in Northern Samar who welcomed us with open arms. They selflessly shared their homes and lives with us as we stayed in their community for 10 days. They went out of their way to make us comfortable. These people were so full of light and joy and it was infectious. Along with the people, I was also very grateful for the opportunity to be there and share in their lives. They did the little stuff – would lend us plates to eat in, give us jackfruit and bananas to tide us over, engage in conversation with us and really allow us to converse with them. They were upfront, and they really shared themselves with us. The people there gave all they had. They opened their stores earlier, made adjustments to accommodate our number, allowed us to enter their houses for food and conversations, they gave us all that they could give and that astounds me. The gestures need not be large to be great. And so, here I remember the lessons about going from good to great. People usually equate greatness with grandeur. We place so much premium on large things that hit one with a BAM! But sometimes, those aren’t necessarily the best ones. Those are not necessarily the great ones. Wherever we ended up, we had people who were very willing to go through discomfort to allow us to be the littlest bit comfortable. In other chances, it was also grace. Grace that we ended up with the families and groups we did. Grace that we met those that we did and heard all their stories shared.


Frances with local children bringing back coconuts from the mountain

RESPONSIBILITY AND DETERMINATION. One of our companions said it well during his reflection. Once we have the capacity to do things, we have the responsibility of using this for the greater good. Possessing these talents now becomes a responsibility of wielding it well. Here, we see that we have what we do and there is nothing wrong with having it. But that we have the added layer of responsibility to use it. Big is not necessarily being the main measure of greatness. Sometimes, we find ourselves discouraged from even trying because we are terrified it won’t work out the way we want things to. Sometimes, we fear wasting our time and effort on things that won’t even take hold. But this is a reminder, no matter how little, that if there are people working to actively try and make things happen, something still rises, something beautiful still happens. And no matter how little that is, things become a tad bit better, even just for some. No one is ever sure they’d win, but we all uphold the fight they put up. We all see their heart and revere the attempt because no matter how futile, they still fight the good fight, and maybe someday they might actually win.


Men carrying tree trunk towards the basketball court where it will be used as a light post

COMPANIONSHIP. The people recognize the need to work together in their own contexts and organizations. They support one another and help each other out. They try to inject themselves where they can to make it easier for the other and they explore the journey together. They are so in tune with one another and have become part of each other’s daily routine because they know that no one can do it alone. They co-exist harmoniously, and they live with space for other people as well. With whoever, companionship is not something one forces. It happens when it does, and we’ll always be grateful that it did. No matter what happens, at one point in time, you are with your companions and it is important that you inspire each other further and not in-fight and make it difficult for each other.

And finally, EMPATHY was important in tempering emotions and it took us places. It took me places, because after the hard start, I learned how to be more observant and impassive. I learned to suspend the judgement and attempt to look at things as objectively as I can. Not one, but both. We do not take just one side to work with. They are both and they continue to rise above. They do not make excuses and so I shouldn’t too. Northern Samar and its people gave us so much and those things are riddled with grace because they didn’t have to but they did. And for that, I am endlessly thankful.