By Clarissa Bernardo
This summer, for the first time in my life, I traveled to my family’s homeland in the Philippines. I left shortly after finals week and the end of the semester, right as I was transitioning to summer mode. Twenty-four hours after we started our journey, which included several connecting flights, my father and I finally arrived. I was so happy to see my mother for the first time in a few months. My mother is in charge of my family’s Pancit-Canton (noodle) factory in Quezon City, Philippines, so she travels back and forth between there and the U.S. for several months throughout the year.
Most people say that being born in America is a blessing and I am lucky to have grown up in New York. They were right. I never realized how privileged I am. My first week in the Philippines was definitely a culture shock. The part of Quezon City I was in was called a campsite, but it was nothing like what you would think of as a campsite. Many families had homes made out of pieces of sheet metal and clay. I saw people with newborn babies or toddlers living in conditions where they can barely take care of themselves. Some children don’t even have enough money to attend school. We never walked around the area because it was too dangerous. People get robbed, pickpocketed, and even held at gunpoint, especially if they see you’re not from the area.
In addition to seeing the “gritty” parts of the country, I also saw beautiful, breathtaking areas. I went to Subic, where I zip-lined and went to a beach with a great view of the water. In Tagaytay, I saw the second most active volcano in the Philippines. My favorite part of the trip was going to Bonifacio Global City, or BGC, which was similar looking to New York City. It was safe, clean, and full of shopping malls and restaurants.
Whereas American kids are so fixated on their phones and technology, in the Philippines, I saw children playing outside with a small ball or making up games to play without an item in their hands. They were so appreciative if you gave them a small bag of candy. It was the smallest things you would do for them that would put the biggest smiles on their faces. This trip wasn’t like a vacation; it was more of a learning experience for me. It made me realize how blessed I am and to appreciate every single thing, right down to taking a normal shower.
As a nursing student, this experience made me want to work harder, not take anything for granted, and focus on my studies to become a nurse. I want to show my appreciation for what I have by getting a degree because some can’t afford to get an education. One day, when I am a nurse, I would like to return to the Philippines and do several medical missions to help those in need. I originally wanted to become a nurse so I can help and care for people. This trip solidified that I am on the correct path at Molloy to becoming the nurse I’ve always dreamed of being.
Images courtesy of Clarissa Bernardo.