Written by Dr. Yeoh Seng Guan
Picture by Sarah Chong
Picture by Sarah Chong
Like the crafty wizard Gandalf (of The Lord of the Rings fame), I found myself resorting to an array of methods to spur our motley cohort of travellers ever forward and onward during their sojourn in Iloilo, a journey which in fact began several months earlier when they decided to respond to the call for participation.
Seeing things differently...
Through a combination of persuasion, coercion, and even trickery, I entreated these young gifted individuals to forsake familiar comforts and routines in order to coalesce into a team for a greater collective purpose. At an organizational level, this visibly revolved around a contemporary social media vehicle aptly called http://insearchofiloilo,blogspot.com. At an intangible and affective level, the fellowship of the blog was forged through the many battles that each of them had to encounter.
Unlike Gandalf I do not possess the magical powers to ward off the many potent foes of the mind that confronted the student travellers this past week– the beguiling trappings of elite social privilege; the superficial grasp of issues drawn from an array of well-meaning but ill-informed family members and friends; and the stereotypical representations of the powerful mainstream media. They also had to do battle with bodily and mental fatigue borne out of the long hours of work and play deep into the night.
These nourishing and inspiring powers came from elsewhere and from many sources:
- the lectures and experiences shared by knowledgeable and passionate speakers
- the interviews and interactions with the indigenous Ati community (in Jordan, Guimaras) and several urban poor communities in Iloilo City
- the conversations with shopkeepers, jeepney drivers, sidewalk vendors, the performers of the Dinagyang Festival and many others
To begin at the beginning, this journey would not have possible in the absence of the support of key individuals. When I first broached the idea of having a study trip in Iloilo nearly two years ago, Dr Rosalie Arcala Hall was warmly receptive, perhaps not aware of the amount of preparatory work that she had to do since. In August 2011 when I visited Iloilo for the first time to conduct a scoping mission, the dynamic duo of Rosalie and Bruce, her partner, took time off to drive me around the city to visit various churches and organisations. Their many suggestions and insights eventually formed the skeleton of this year’s study trip.
Dr Rosalie Arcala Hall was also instrumental in paving the way for the use of the Gender Development Building and Balay Ilongo based in the city campus of the University of the Philippines, Visayas as accommodation for the student travellers. In particular, I thank Professor Diane Aure for kindly allowing the women student travellers to be the first occupants of the Gender Development Building, a historic moment that I am sure that would be proudly recast in a legendary mode by these students for years to come. Similarly, for the use of the magnificent Cinematheque to screen an inaugural selection of Malaysian independent and student short films, I thank Professor Martin Genodepa for his kind generosity.
In the genre of an epic journey, it is usually the case that besides the wise guide/sage unlocking the travellers’ true potentialities, there are other colourful characters inhabiting this dramatic landscape. They play the varied roles of the loyal sidekick, the jester/joker and inspiring friend to the intrepid travellers. For the “In Search of Iloilo” journey, this would be Paolo Onor Javier, Peter Glen Rapiz, Lucille Ann Octavio, Zherluck Shaen Rodriguez and Noraisa Simpal. They have been exemplary guides in helping the travellers navigate the landscape of Iloilo with fun, grace and ease.
As in previous study trips, the many “battles” in the form of quickly learning to navigate through the landscape of unfamiliarity are faithfully documented (textually and visually) in this blog. It serves as a tangible archive and cipher of their special time in a vibrant city steeped in history, belief and culture. And much more besides...