By Catriona O Keefe
We arrived into Cebu Airport at 1pm on Friday June 20th. We boarded a bus to Holy Family Retreat House straight away. It was an overwhelming journey from the complete calmness of a smooth flight from Ireland onto the bustling journey of hopping on a bus where traffic & people were just literally everywhere! I have never experienced heat like this before. It was somewhat smothering and there was no let-up from it. Thankfully, I had a window seat and I was really able to embrace the scenery whilst travelling.
From the time we disembarked the plane we were a real spectacle as a group with some pointing and staring, but not in an insulting manner, moreso in fascination, it would seem. We also soon came to realise that eyebrow raising and smiling is a very simple way of saying “Hi, how are you?”. Thankfully having some basics of the language was very helpful and much appreciated by the Cebuanos.
The transport most commonly used by Cebuanos is Jeepneys which is a small converted minibus where people sit on either side fitting anything up to 16-18 people. They are the most colourful mode of transport I have ever seen. Each journey is 8 pesos (roughly 15 cents) or 10 pesos if travelling uphill.
We spent another hour in the bustling city and retreated back to the more relaxed and calm Holy Family retreat house for the afternoon. Day 1 = chaotic!
Today we had our first visit to the Badjao community and everyone was excited. Each Jeepney ride is as entertaining at the next. At the beginning, I thought the Cebuano people had major road rage issues until we were informed that all driver’s beep their horns to warn other drivers they are approaching. We drove for up to an hour through street after street whilst Cebuanos went about their business. After 40 minutes of travelling, the driver took a right turn into another street. We all immediately knew we arrived at the Badjao Tribe’s community. There were no gates or no signs; however the setting clarified it for the new volunteers. Poverty hit me in the face the minute we turned down that road. From children’s clothing to the obvious lack of sufficient adequate housing there was no denying right then that I knew I had never witnessed anything like this before. Whilst driving slowly through the mere one way streets behind the tricycle-cabs, we could see smiles through the windows and doors along with a wave of a hand and a friendly hello. Friendliness was apparent throughout our visit from the whole Badjao community. The ground was pretty rough but the majority of the young people jumped and played barefoot. Reliance was evident throughout the community.
Day two down, curiosity and excitement is at a high for the days to come!