The Philippines is one of the countries that people of different origins tend to nest in just like the United States, Thailand, and Indonesia. There are several reasons why people are enticed to visit these foreign places. In the U.S. for example, people all over the world dream or work really hard to have a taste of that “American Dream.” They want to immigrate to the U.S. in order to improve their economic standing, especially back home.
On the other hand, in Thailand and in some parts of Indonesia, people long for something way different. You would see foreign people practically living there. They stay there not to improve their financial status, but perhaps to improve another aspect of their lives; an aspect that is more spiritual by nature—the soul. We could assume that these foreigners choose to stay in these places because they prefer to live in a much simpler place; in a paradise of some sort, where the ocean and the beautiful sceneries feed their soul with wisdom.
Places like the United States, Thailand, and Indonesia, offer different gifts of life to people all over the world, to people who long for something different, and to individuals who seek a certain kind of change from the life they are used to. But in the Philippines, foreigners fall in love with something much more important, something much more special, and something that definitely capture the entirety of a person’s character—and these are the beautiful conversations.
If you’re a foreigner living in the Philippines, you are probably in the country either to get good quality education, or to live in a paradise. Maybe you are here to venture in business, or to do volunteer work, or to simply be with family. But whatever is your agenda in the country, you are still lucky enough to be immersed in the real Filipino culture; wherein you would experience the most authentic Filipino traits—the real Filipino characters you will most likely fall in love with.
A foreigner friend of mine once told me that during her first few weeks here in Dumaguete, there was just a thought of uncertainty, and a constant feeling that she does not belong here. In most days, she would just sit at a café or a bar alone, while doing schoolwork. She didn’t have anybody to talk to. She had no friends – none to ask how her day went, not until one Saturday afternoon. A stranger came up to her and started, as how she described it, “a really good conversation.” She said it was just like what happens in movies, wherein two strangers just…click.
After a while, she was introduced to the stranger’s circle of friends, and she was welcomed like they have known each other for years. Since that day, she would spend hours and hours at the same place with her newfound Filipino friends, conversing about anything under the sun. They would have intellectual discussions about life, about love, and about the more important things that exist in our world today. They would be really into whatever topic they have on the table and bring out the very essence of it. And they would feel alive…yes, because of a mere exchange of words.
Although when you look at it from a different angle, you would see that it is not just a mere exchange of words, but also an explosive exchange of wisdom. I remember her telling me that most of the time, the best conversations start when one person brings up something that would make everybody on the table stop whatever they’re doing and actually listen to the person speaking. After a while, one person would react to it, perhaps to challenge the idea, or compliment it, or add more substance to it by bringing up another idea or an experience which greatly relates to the first subject. Then another person would join in, and then another, and another, and so on. And these kinds of conversations would go for hours and hours.
She said that these specific kinds of discussions just become more interesting by the hour, and more invigorating by the minute—which is kind of ironic since it takes great effort to participate in a really good conversation; it’s supposed to be exhausting. But she said you don’t get exhausted when it comes to these things; you don’t get tired of it. It’s one of those non-material things that are just worth the effort. She got really hooked to it, longed for it all the time, and fell in love with it.
People stay in a foreign country for many different reasons, as mentioned earlier. But as my ethics professor once said, “There are beautiful things that only the heart can see.” When the heart starts to see these things, in this case, these meaningful conversations is going to be stuck into your system and you will never, ever escape from it. This is the power of wisdom—wisdom that is inspired, celebrated, and shared, through these beautiful conversations.
By James Asuncion