It’s as if I’m seeing this city for the first time. From the little I remember thirteen years ago, it didn’t seem like this - overwhelmingly chaotic and bustling with people on the streets, either animatedly chatting by their tricycles or dashing between cars and jeepneys to cross the street. My eyes are opened to a city full of life. We sit in rush hour traffic, as Manila begins to reveal herself. The Filipino Trekkers and I begin sharing Tagalog words and phrases that we had learned in our childhood with our other Trek friends who are in Manila for the first time. I can’t help but smile as our van weaves through the excitement, the ad hoc nature of the urban fabric. My heart is awakening - I don’t just want to see the people of Manila, I want to live with them.
I am a Filipino-Caucasian woman, born and raised in American culture, unknowingly sheltered from my immense privilege. Until recently, my identity as someone part Filipino, part Caucasian and a privileged American didn’t seem like anything worth unpacking. I wasn’t aware of what that identity meant for me as a Christian, discerning God’s call throughout college, or for the world, especially the urban poor. Growing up I thought my parents, whose parents first immigrated to America from the Philippines, raised my brother and me in a non-traditional Filipino household, teaching us only some Tagalog words and phrases and cooking some Filipino food. Because of this upbringing I feel largely disconnected from my culture and heritage.
During the past few days of orientation, I have recognized the brokenness in my life through the new lens of the Trek, one piece being the privilege of everyday comforts and luxuries that insulate me from the suffering and pain of the poor. This realization is not without a heart of gratitude for the sacrifices and hardships my grandparents and parents endured to provide me with the best life I could have - but it doesn’t mean that poverty and its ripples, along with the evils that cause it, are okay. The disparity and division between the privileged in the poor is not the Kingdom of God. The Trekkers and I are sharing in Jesus’ mourning, learning to see the Filipino people with His eyes, our hearts breaking and yearning for justice. Christ is doing a deep healing in us, a healing that can only begin when we allow ourselves to be aware of our own brokenness and that of our slum communities. The joy I feel as I share my culture, which I believed I knew little about, and the openness of the other Trekkers to receive my culture, makes me hopeful for the work God will be doing in us this summer. I believe these moments are the beginning of God showing us glimpses of His Kingdom in Manila.
- Ali Hampton