Eefke Meijer Journey in the Philippines
March 2013, The Netherlands. I decided to apply for a masterclass about human rights and journalism. I was so happy to hear I got in and from then on it went fast. We got lectures, trainings, workshops and readings about human rights worldwide. And then, we also had to choose which country we wanted to go to in order to do fieldwork. Colombia, India or the Philippines… I chose the Philippines, just because I knew nothing about the country! I was ready to discover a complete new country and culture.
All what I can say, it was a really good choice. In the Netherlands I already had contact with Maria and Richard. They were really helpful in arranging some interviews for me and to get in contact with people I could meet during my trip. I have met so many nice people. First there was Paulino, a 12 year old boy whom my sister and her husband are sponsoring. It was really nice to meet Paulino and his 7 other brothers and sisters, living in their house in Bagong Silang. He played basketball and of course he wanted to show me his skills.
Then we have Justice, a girl whose father has been in prison for the last 17 years for alleged political activities and she is both a budding journalist and human rights activist. I really looked forward to meet her. I had an interview with her and at the moment I am writing an article about her and her father. I hope my article will be published in Dutch magazines, in order to get attention for political prisoners in the Philippines. Also, Justice, Maria and Richard took me to the Manila City Jail to meet Justice’s father. It was impressing. I was a big prison with lots of prisoners. Completely different living situations then the prisoners in the Netherlands have. Nevertheless, it was not that bad as I had expected: Justice’s father told me that he could still play basketball, he can do lots of sports and he has his own room. Still, I am surprised about the ignorance of political prisoners by the Filipino government.
Really unrealistic to see was the cemetery where hundreds of families have made graveyards their home. So sad these families are living between the deaths. This cemetery provides Manila’s poor a place to live among the dead. These families are 'invisible' – they can be evicted at any time, they face floods, they live on the periphery.
One of the most exciting activities during my trip in the Philippines was the celebration of both this year's Philippines Independence Day and the start of the new academic year for all the sponsored scholars. I joined a streetparty and I met lots of kids and their families. We played games, we had enough food, drinks and also the karaoke night was really nice. Thanks for being part of that nice day!
Besides the story about Justice and political prisoners, I am also writing about the divorce bill in the Philippines (the Philippines is the only country in the world without a formal divorce bill), the palm oil industry in Palawan and the indigenous people, and the economic growth in the Philippines versus poverty. I can tell you a lot more about these subjects, so let me know if you are interested and I will send you information about it.
What I think of the Philippines? I really like the country and especially the people are very friendly and helpful. Everything is possible and people are easy going, nature and culture are beautiful. It’s sad that there is lots of poverty and street kids are as normal as homeless people. I really hope these people will get the same opportunities as I got in my life. Something what I did not like was Manila and her crowd. Cars, people, dogs, garbage; everywhere. Fortunately, I had the opportunity not only to experience Manila, but also other parts of the country. Camiguin, such a beautiful island. Palawan, even more nicer with beautiful nature and beaches. “Time flies when you’re having fun’’! Indeed, after three weeks I was already back in the Netherlands, with lots of stories, experiences and memories. I want to thank Maria, Richard, Grace, Abraham, Carol, Justice and all other people who helped me out during my three weeks trip in another country and culture!