Throughout our time in Janiuay, we had the joy of staying in a two-story Nipa Hut on stilts, which is a traditional house made from bamboo and the Nipa plant used for the roof. We slept on mattresses laid across the floor while using mosquito nets to protect ourselves from the many critters which lingered. We were housed with seven Filipino students for one night and joined by six more the following night making a total of 17 Paulinians (St. Paul University students and faculty). The outdoor kitchen where we prepared all of our meals, consisted of small charcoal stone pits, iron woks, and removable grills. All of the ingredients for our meals were purchased at the local market and wet market (which stimulated our olfactory senses) by Filipino students and ourselves, and maintaining a monetary budget. Often, the students would wake at 5:00am to fetch the necessary ingredients and begin cooking breakfast. Also, the students would begin preparing other meals as early as two hours prior due to the extremely long process of cooking over charcoal. The traditional meals consisted of a variety of meats, locally grown vegetables and fruits and of course, their staple food, rice. We were asked to prepare Canadian Dishes. We realized how difficult it was to distinguish what exactly constitutes “Canadian” food due to our multicultural identity. Thinking of what reminds us of home, we decided to cook up chicken shish-kabobs with eggplant, red peppers, and onions. Also, we introduced two classic dessert items, s’mores and banana boats. They absolutely loved the treats. After supper and cleanup, we participated in a post conference activity, ARAS (Active Reflection, Active Sharing). We would perform songs and dance to introduce ourselves and reflect what impact the days happenings had on our learning experience. It was a powerful way to interact amongst each other and also stimulate great reflection. ARAS is an effective tool that we could implement in our own nursing programs in Canada, to debrief our clinical experiences, but at the same time having fun and to de-stress. The busy group of students were absolutely incredible and cheerful, but we have discovered that they do not sleep! They ensured we had not only our basic needs met, but went above and beyond to make it an unforgettable experience in every way. They went out of their way to buy us Filipino delicacies such as balot (15 day old unhatched chicken), chicken intestine, chicken liver, and chicken feet.
This experience truly opened our eyes and built our empathy for the millions of people around the world who simply do not have access to the luxuries we expect at home. We gained an immense gratitude for what we have. However an even greater lesson was an appreciation for the simple life. Countless individuals and families are happier than many of us with this way of living. We could learn a huge lesson about not relying on material objects to make us happy. The bonding with each other and the Filipinos assisted us in this learning process. Our stay at the Nipa Hut was memorable. The lessons learned and friendships made will not soon be forgotten. We identified that the hospitality of the Filipino’s is unmeasurable to other cultures.