Written by Syra Petalio
Filipino hospitality is the stuff of legends. How often do we hear things about Filipinos going out of their way to entertain their visitors? Growing up in a province, one of the things I was taught during ‘Social Studies’ was how being hospitable was one of the key characteristics of being Filipino. We were taught to revel in that and aspire to continue bringing that hospitability about us in an attempt to make it one of the defining factors of our Filipino identity. I believed that and always aspired to fulfill that responsibility.
These are some of the kind souls who let us live in their houses for a few days
However, I never expected the people of Northern Samar to receive us with as much fervor and openness as they had. Every place we visited, every person we saw along the way radiated so much kindness that I could not help but be in awe. It is always easier said than done to open ourselves up to other people, to new ones and they did so in such an easygoing way. They gave us so much of them to us and that really made the place feel a bit like home for the short time we spent there.
Basketball game in barangay court
Staying in their homes for the meager time that we did, I saw the capacity of the Filipino to welcome somebody. I was very scared of being an added burden to the families and the community, but they were quick to assure us that we were not. They literally opened the doors of their home to us and gave us the chance to see and experience their daily life. There is nothing more open to me than that. There is always so much talk going around about entering people’s contexts and seeing where they come from but we might forget how difficult that can be without their willingness to allow us to enter.
So many reasons can be pointed out for this, so many things could not have gone our way, so many things could have made them change their mind, but no. They beckoned us in with smiles and sometimes, even apologies for the things that were all they had. And this bothered me because, they should not be apologizing for that. As a matter of fact, it should be us thanking them immensely.
Living with them, being treated as visitors, and later on, as parts of their community aided us so much in learning and experiencing their way of life. From going on boat rides to fish, to going up the mountains to farm, we have seen snippets of their lives. The journeys to these destinations were often filled with laughter and chatter, exchanges of stories, and imparting of lessons. It was always wonderful. Conversations around the dining tables, over the television, and down by the tiny piers were never just that. They were always eye-opening and there was always something new to learn.
Opening our lives to people for their scrutiny is always challenging. The whole experience showed me the importance of suspending our judgements and being truly immersed in the moment. We attempt to leave our own preconceived notions by the door and go through things and activities the way they do. These people shared with us their hopes, their dreams, and their homes. And, they have successfully built a home of theirs in my heart. A home I will always treasure, a home that will always stay with me, and definitely, a home I wish to see once more.
We may have left Northern Samar already,
but the place and the people remain in our hearts and minds