|Report||The Osaka JET team of 11 members flew to the Philippines to volunteer with Zion Puerto Princesa Palawan Habitat for Humanity from March 20th-31st in the wonderful village of Barangay Bahile. All team members were English teachers working through the JET Program in Japan. From the moment we all stepped off the plane in Puerto Princesa we felt as if we gained a new Filipino family. We were greeted not only with a personalized welcome sign and shell necklaces, but also such warm hugs and contagious smiles.
Soon after arrival, we were transported to our beautiful and very comfortable accommodation at the Balay Inato Hotel. Most members shared double beds in very clean rooms with hot water showers and private bathrooms. The staff members here were very friendly and the food was also quite delicious. Breakfast was provided for us every morning, bright and early!
Because it was during the Easter holidays when we arrived, we immediately began our trip with some fun R & R options. On day #1 our team did an island hopping tour in beautiful Honda Bay. On Easter Sunday, a few members had an early start to their day by attending a sunrise 4:00am Easter mass service, followed by a full day of everyone enjoying sightseeing around the famous Underground River.
After a well organized orientation and briefing by the Palawan Habitat for Humanity members, we traveled to our work site for another amazing warm welcome. The village had prepared dances, songs, flower necklaces, introduced us to the home owners and skilled builders and much more entertainment to welcome us into their community. Wow, were we impressed and excited to begin!
Next it was time to begin the work we had come to do... brick by brick, time to build some homes! Even though it was very sunny and hot everyday, our team worked hard for 6 days to nearly complete building three concrete homes in the village where there had been 107 homes already built. Every morning, we traveled to our work site by jeepney, accompanied by our two friendly security guards, numbering off, singing songs, playing games, enjoying the gorgeous scenery, with the wind blowing through our hair. This one hour ride every morning and evening was a great time for team bonding! On site, we were able to become involved in almost every part of the home construction process, which included mixing cement, making the interlocking concrete blocks, excavation, tree planting, foundation laying, cement pouring, brick laying and more. It was amazing to see the houses grow more complete day by day. And yes, our muscles did grow as well! We worked and sweat side by side with skilled friendly Filipino builders as well as the dedicated home owners. Even though none of us had ever built a home before, everyone on site was so patient and kind to help teach us every step of the way (even if we did make many mistakes!). During our work days we were provided with home-cooked delicious Filipino lunches and snacks. Fresh fish, tropical fruits, tender meats, scrumptious vegetarian options... oh so much wonderful food! During our break times, our team loved playing and getting dirty with the children too! Towards the end of our week, each team member was also individually assigned to a homestay family where we had the unforgettable opportunity to spend an evening living together in the community.
Within the community our team was also lucky to be invited to two school graduations. We also attended the city foundation day celebration. We joined in the parade, watched the children's performances, as well as entertained the crowd with our own songs and crazy Japanese dances! During the week we visited the Iwahig Prison and a crocodile farm. On another evening our team was generously invited for dinner at one of the Habitat for Humanity board of director's homes, followed by a bit of disco dancing with our Habitat ladies!
Our final day on-site, we had a lively warm-hearted farewell party with the community and Habitat for Humanity members. More dancing, singing, birthday celebrating, hugs, tears, smiles, prayers, thankful words, laughs, smeared cake on faces, stories shared, photos and lots of fun were had by all. The evening finished with yet another huge delicious feast to feed us all. It was hard to believe the build was over.
After the build, most members traveled north to enjoy the unspoiled tropical paradise of El Nido and the surrounding islands for a few days. A perfect ending to a perfect trip! So many great memories were made that will last for a lifetime. We are already all looking forward to returning to Palawan again... hopefully someday soon! Thanks for everything Palawan Habitat for Humanity and our Bahile community! We'll miss you!