Despedida & Bienvenida

My journey to the Philippines has now come full circle as I write this blog post from my family’s house in America.

The view out my window of Lake Latonka (there is no ocean in Pennsylvania)

My final week in the Philippines was filled with Despedida (Good-bye) parties, tears, delicious food, and of course videoke (karaoke).

OPAG Office Despedida Party under the Nipa Hut with goat, chicken, pig, cow and turkey plus seaweed noodles (front right), ginataan lanka & corn

First my office had a huge blow out party and killed a goat, pig, chicken, cow and turkey to celebrate. Unfortunately, I am vegetarian, but they also cooked one of my favorite Filipino meals ginataan lanka or jackfruit cooked in coconut milk. We also ate delicious, newly harvested corn, played a series of amusing games and sang, “Leaving on a Jet Plane.” In the middle of the party, thick walls of rain forced us all to take shelter under our little Nipa Hut, but the rain helped to mask the tears that came with the numerous good-bye speeches.

Later that evening I had a second good-bye with my Filipino host family. They cooked my favorite foods and even prepared a program of events for the evening including an acrostic poem for me and a personalized song. Then, I surprised them with a final parting activity and prizes for all!

Good-bye to my bedroom of 2 years in the Philippines

It was very sad to leave as I have truly become a part of the family and the community. But as my host family continues to remind me, “it’s not good-bye, but see you soon.” And I definitely plan to return someday.

At the airport with volunteers Liz and Nathan

My parents picked me up from the airport when I arrived after over 24hours of travel. As we walked out of the airport I was amazed by the smell – like grass and trees, very different from the tropical climate of the Philippines, whose smell I cannot describe because it is so normal to me now.

Walking through our American neighborhood, I was really caught off guard to see someone roll by on a hoverboard, while searching for Pokemon with an iPhone 6. Apparently, technology has progressed in 2 years time!

Overall suburban America seems so spacious and neatly manicured, but very quiet and devoid of people. I have grown accustomed to the chaotic and noisy, yet colorful and friendly nature of the Philippines, where children, chickens, cows and overloaded motorbikes fill the roads and move around one another like flowing water.


My display of Filipino products, newspapers, photos, fish books, and tarpaulins to share with friends and family in America

And just one week after my Despedida parties, it is a Bienvenida (Welcome) party with friends and family I have not seen in years. They were amazed to hear stories about SCUBA diving the Blue Hole, removing crown-of-thorns seastars, and taking bucket baths. I made sure to buy a “tabo” (water scooper) to bring back with me and I hope to cut down on my water consumption in the future.

When I shared samples of seaweed noodles, pili nuts, candies, and Filipino peanut butter, it was the peanut butter that was the biggest hit (made right in my local town with a generous amount of additional sugar).

These two years have been an incredible experience! I am thankful to live at a time where my journey can be fully documented by blog and my host family is just a text away by viber. See you soon Philippines.




3 thoughts on “Despedida & Bienvenida”

  1. Congratulations, SJ! Quite an accomplishment. I know you’ll be adjusting to your life back in the states, but don’t forget to get in touch with me about possible marine management positions in Florida. If you have a resume’, please send it my way.

    Kent Smith, Biological Administrator, Florida Wildlife Commission

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