Meeting over 100 volunteers from 30 different countries in the Philippines

The Experiences of Rafael Roethlin, Austria

After a ridiculously long and uncomfortable journey I found my way to the Philippines, which included having to sleep outside of Manila airport. I finally arrived at the camp, where I first met my 50 year old roommate. I was surprised that there are people more than 20 years older than me participating, but after a while I realised that age doesn’t matter around here, everyone gets along great and that’s what I loved.

“For the past 10 weeks I’ve been in a small village called Tigman, which is located on the island Palawan in the Philippines. To give you an insight on how things work around the camp I’d like to share my experience with you.”

Rafael Roethlin

The programme in the Philippines

My programme started off with three introduction days which included a Filipino cooking lesson, learning basic Tagalog, helping out at a local vegetable farm, swimming at a waterfall and getting to know the Filipino culture and history. After three amazing days and after getting attacked by a monkey, I started working as a kindergarten teacher, where about 20 to 30 more monkeys were waiting for me to teach them. I like referring to my students as little monkeys, because they would try to climb everything that is taller than them (including us teachers).

Teaching 3 to 6 year old children has been more rewarding that I could have ever imagined and it’s been incredible to see how the kids evolved in just two months. Also not a single day has passed where I didn’t receive hugs and/or flowers from my students. Sometimes their never ending energy has cost me my energy and sometimes also my voice when the kids didn’t want to stop singing songs, but mostly it was great fun.

The programme in the Philippines
Winning prizes in the Philippines

After work us participants liked to hang out at the camp, playing card games, relaxing in the hammocks or simply just chatting. On the weekends I did a couple of weekend trips to El Nido, Port Barton, Sabang and Puerto Princesa. Traveling with the other participants was always fun and brought us closer together.

Over the past 10 weeks I got to know more than 100 participants from 30 different countries and I am glad that I can count a couple of those to my best friends. I loved that everyone at the camp is really open minded. Overall the vibe in Tigman is very chill, no one really cares how you look what you wear or if you’re covered in dirt from work.

Teaching in the Philippines
Teaching in the Philippines

The staff was right from the beginning on really friendly and welcoming. Whenever there were concerns about the accommodation or the food, they did everything possible to make sure that everyone feels comfortable. The rooms got cleaned everyday and were overall quite clean and nice for the area’s standards. Even though it took some time to get used to having roommates and bucket showers, after a while I loved it and I never thought that I would say that, but I’m gonna miss showering with a bucket.

Summing up I can highly recommend participating in Tigman. The island is just amazingly beautiful, the locals are really friendly, the work is meaningful, the friendships I made are strong and the atmosphere is relaxed. I love and miss my Tigman family with all my heart and I can’t wait to come back as soon as possible.

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