Saturday, September 26, 2015

Manila Diary | Week Three | Pep Talks, Tagaytay and Exploring a Volcano

Another week underway started out with a Monday meeting with the head honcho herself, Novie. She asked us about our first impressions of the job and how our week went! We talked about a number of different things, including mini side projects we are assigned to that contribute to Mentors International. We also spent some time going over the loan process, to better understand it. It was a short day today, nothing too strenuous.

It's cool feeling adjusted to a new country. Something that was once so out of the ordinary, seems so normal to me. We're becoming more "localized" and gaining some street smarts (dare I say street cred). I understand how the prices work for Jeepneys and Tricycles, we're finding all the good restaurants, and attempting to learn more Tagalog phrases that could actually help in everyday banter! I'm beginning to feel much more at home!

Anthony and I tag teamed today with Connie and her group. Connie is very excited and passionate about her job, so working with her is always a good time. We reach the center meeting and introduce ourselves to the women. They go about their every day meeting agenda, and Anthony and I are "listening" in the background. We're still in observation mode for the next week or two. Anthony gave a mini speech about the importance of record keeping and making sure to write down daily expenses.

After a quick lunch, we wait for Sir Lito to come grab us and take us to a brand new group of clients. We drove with him and Carlos to a new place where they first needed to get approval and qualify to be apart of Mentors. While we waited for Carlos in the car, we were able to talk to Lito more about, well, everything. He's smart, and he understands what's going on. He explained that we're working with the hardest part of the economy. It's trying to change people and restoring their hope that they will want to create a better life for themselves. Some of them just go day by day, not wanting more, and that's why sometimes loans to certain people go into default. He talked about his experience, his family and why he does this. I couldn't help but feel amazed by him.

We forget too often, how lucky some of us are. There is a difference between saying it, and experiencing it. Some choose to stay like this. They have no hope, they don't see what kind of future they can have. It takes those special kind of people that are humble, understanding, and can see the big picture. He reminded us to be grateful for what we have. He even mentioned that we are like a new set of eyes for these people. We have different opinions and ideas, and can potentially leave them with an idea that can change them. He asked us what kind of legacy do we want to leave here. We can make their lives better. We can help them get themselves out of poverty, that's a lesson that takes so much more work than just receiving a "donations" box and giving a few good speeches.

Carlos was finally ready, so we grabbed our stuff and locked up the car. There were maybe 30 women in this new group. As we turned around the corner to meet up with the others, children stopped playing and immediately and crept around banisters and doors to peak at the two of us. We saw one little girl that was taking pictures of us, so obviously we pulled a few faces. We asked the women one by one their names, business type and how long they had been doing so while Carlos finished getting everyone together and settled. Since this was the first meeting ever, they had a lot to go over. I have been nervous the entire time I've been here to speak, but after Sir Lito's pep-talk-of-the-century, I figured it was now my time to talk. After Anthony spoke, I piped up and started speaking about what our role here was. I told them that the rules set for them, were to help them; and that Anthony, myself, and everyone with Mentors is here to help them make a better life. I went on a little more and felt more comfortable as I kept talking. After the meeting was over the women came over to us like a giant wave. They weren't afraid to talk to us. We thanked them as they shook our hands, we high-fived the kids, and waved good bye.

We finally got our chance to work with Baby! Baby is a sassy, 57-year-old woman who has been working with mentors for the past 17 years. She is incredible. She's a funny, business oriented and a caring woman. In the morning, she took us around Pasig to talk to individual clients that have succeeded in their business and are doing very well. We asked different questions like how they got started, their marketing tools, damage control for theft, goals or steps they'd like to take, and much more. Afterwards, she took us around City Hall to get a little more exposure to Pasig. 

We ate lunch at Hap Chan and made it back to the office in time for Madi and I to head out with Baby and Ian. Let me tell you something about Baby; to me, she's like the bouncer in the club. She can take down anyone, she's straight to the point, and you can't get past her. We were on our way to meet with a group where the loan wasn't getting any payment. Baby was there to get down to business. Shortly after we arrived, we rounded up the group and she reiterated the importance (and legal reality) that if the loan wouldn't be paid, there would be consequences. We slowly worked out the problem, as we figured out what exactly happened. Baby handled herself great, plus we were able to get the information and the promise of loan payments, so our job was finished! We shared a cab ride back to Pasig where we sang a little, danced a little, and laughed a lot! Karaoke is huge here in the Philippines, and I told Baby that if we hold a karaoke party at our place, she had to come. She promised me she would, only on the account she wouldn't sing Miley Cyrus.

It's finally time for our first adventure! We didn't have work today, so the gang planned a day-long getaway to Tagaytay! We found out about the Taal Lake and Taal Volcano when we were searching for places we could visit. Taal Volcano is the smallest active volcano in the world. It's a good thing most of my group are adventorous people. We packed our backpacks and made arrangments for the 2 hour commute to Tagaytay.

We found a special deal that could take a group on a horse ride up to the top of the volcano, scale down the crater and be as close to the volcano as possible. How could we resist? We piled into a motor boat and took a ride across the lake to the volcano. It was stunning. I love being in the water. There were tiny houses with lines of clothes drying in the sun. A horse was galloping alongside the bank, it felt like something out of a movie. We reached the shore and hopped out of the boat. Five horses and guides were there ready to take us. As we ascended up the volcano, I felt quiet and peaceful and simply in awe of the scenery around me. There was a soft warm breeze which tickled the grass into a sort of trance. We went one by one with our guides trotting alongside the trail towards the top. I loved riding and looking along the blankets of tall grass and forest of trees. It was one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. We reached the top to the overlook of the volcano. We snapped plenty of photos and took a moment to enjoy the view.

We hiked our way down through thickets of grass and palm trees. It was slick and rocky, so we needed to be careful. All that greenery was now opening up to the red and black pieces of broken rock surrounding the lake.  There were a few steamy spots rising from the ground as well as boiling water creating bubbles that were surfacing around the edge. We traveled left around the lake to get in to a cooler area. Little did we know, we could actually swim in the lake, but I didn't bring a swim suit. Some of the boys swam and some of us relaxed before it was time to hike back up. The guides brought the horses down to us, so hiking up those rocky and slim trails was a little unnerving, but the horses were fine and I kept taking pictures!

We rode back across the lake where dinner was waiting. We ate steamed rice, vegetables and chicken with the best view of the lake. It was a really awesome day. Before we went back to Pasig, Anthony wanted to grab mangoes and dragon fruit before we left. We had so much fun in only one day. I can't wait for our week off when we head to Palawan, November can't come soon enough!

Thanks for Reading!
Love, Nick

I also made a quick video of the trip to Tagaytay!


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