“You can leave your country without ever leaving America.” These words, spoken by Rev. Mark Ravizza, S.J. of the Casa Bayanihan program, fully describe the reason I opted out from the more traditional European study abroad experience and instead booked my flight to Manila, in the Philippines.
Students of Casa Bayanihan choose to live in a simple community as well as engage with local disadvantaged communities twice a week as an act of solidarity.
This means that the lack of wifi and warm water for showers in my home serve as ways to gain a greater world perspective and bond with the community members in each praxis site.
To describe Casa Bayanihan using BC terminology, it’s what happens when PULSE meets an international immersion trip, and is expanded over four months, and even then it is so much more.
To date, I’ve only been in Manila for two weeks, but I’ve already experienced so much. My Facebook feed of my trip so far almost exclusively includes pictures of our group playing with children in rural communities, but Casa incorporates much more than the “perfect profile picture.”
In between the joyous moments, I’ve heard shocking stories from mothers and fathers of countless years as overseas workers. This group of laborers migrates to other countries particularly major Middle Eastern cities, without their families solely to support their families.
On the first visit to one particular woman, she shared her story of being deported from Israel. These moments define the Casa experience and quickly become the main focus of the trip.
The welcoming people at my own praxis site, Kapit Bisig or “Arm in arm,” continuously show a true love that has been built with all the previous Casa students, and now a part of my own experience.
The weekend, though, leaves us free to explore wonderful city of Manila and the rest of the Philippines. Restaurants serve all different foods that combine ingredients from many southeast Asian countries, as well as plentiful fresh ingredients.
The intramuros section of Manila stands as a walled off part of the city that historically grew as the epicenter of Spanish colonial life. The entire country also offers various outdoor adventures from beaches to volcanoes-this past weekend we went snorkeling at an ocean reef off a private island in the Batangas region (almost like a dream come true).
Through all this, the community of Casa brings together students from different Jesuit universities across the United States, including four students from a Jesuit university here in the Philippines. It is this group that makes this immersion into the Philippines an authentic and real experience.
Some of these moments have been extremely difficult, but ultimately they have distinguished my study abroad semester from other polished abroad trips. Casa Bayanihan continues to refine what I want to call a “real and engaging” worldwide perspective.