2 Week Specials, Public Health in Philippines by Ellie Jane Waite
My trip to the Philippines was the first time I had ever travelled alone, and at 17, it was a scary experience. I had never been in an airport by myself, let alone gone to another country. I was, however, determined to do something to help those in a developing country.
My first impressions of the Philippines
When I arrived in the Philippines and stepped out of the airplane, the first thing I noticed was the heat. I was met by a lovely Projects Abroad staff member who was incredibly helpful. He welcomed me and gave me a map of the city and a bottle of water before we started our journey to Bogo City. We arrived the following day. I had a bit of culture shock when I arrived; it was very different to England. The first thing I noticed was the transport. There was no speed limit and the most common form of transport was trikes. They seem scary at first but I loved it after a few days!
My host family
I was staying with a lady who made me feel extremely welcome and made my trip to Bogo that much easier. She was my mother in the Philippines, and it definitely felt that way. I have never been so comfortable with a person so fast. Every night we sat down at the table and had tea together. Contrary to some people’s opinions, the food was amazing! Most nights we sat and talked for at least two-hours about her culture and mine, which enlightened me so much. One night she took me to a big Filipino party and introduced me to all of her friends, as well as the police force, the councillors of the town, and even the former mayor of Bogo!
My Public Health placement
The placement was my favourite part of the trip and my placement coordinator was lovely and taught me so much! We travelled house-to-house through Bogo City, completing medical tests for the residents and giving them advice on how to be healthier. There is a huge difference between how these people live compared to western countries, I couldn’t believe it. Non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and heart disease are a huge problem in the Philippines. The residents were lovely and kind, everybody said hello to you on the street and greeted you. I’ve never been so inspired by a community. I will also never forget the two volunteers I worked with. All of us still talk regularly and are actually planning to meet up! They will remain friends for life.
As part of my placement work, we did a medical mission at the city health office. We set up a station and people queued to have their blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol measured. We also worked inside the city health office with the dentist and other medical staff, we even got to test the blood and watch tooth extractions which were super cool. I had the best time with the medical team.
I also delivered a presentation to the local children on how to keep healthy in school. My placement coordinator had to translate most of it because some of the kids didn’t understand English, but I think it really helped. It was a fun experience getting to interact with the children.
Free time in Philippines
Over the weekend, I went with two other volunteers and some of the staff to an island called Malapascua, which is just a boat ride away from Cebu. The island was beautiful and the beaches were stunning! In the evenings, all the volunteers would meet at a place called BBQ Plaza or at the karaoke bars, and on Wednesdays we would all play basketball together. It was great being able to get to know all of the volunteers and the other Filipinos.
I loved the Philippines and would definitely go again with Projects Abroad! The country is wonderful, and although it may have taken a while to adjust to the culture, it is impossible to forget.