Finally, I saw the cultural differences I was told/warned about before I entered college life in the University of the Philippines.
I forgot who told me – I think it was my mom – who said na baka ma-culture shock ako pagpasok ko ng UP. I brushed it off. I told myself that if there were differences in culture, it would not shock me one bit; that it would not like be shifting from black to white in a snap of a finger, but rather, going from black to white while passing the gray areas. It wouldn’t be imposed on me; it would be eased in.
I’ve been through two years of college and I haven’t felt this “culture shock” I was told about.
Two weeks ago, my organization, the UP Journalism Club, held its biggest activity to date: the first ever Campus Journalism Workshop Summer Camp, with high school students as participants. The camp itself lasted for five days, but we as organizers of the event worked for a week.
March 28 till April 4. I spent those days with my orgmates. One week, we slept in an apartelle, spending sleepless nights and tiring days together, feasting on Nissin instant noodles and cups upon cups of Kopiko coffee for midnight-slash-early-morning snacks.
I lived with them, got to know them a little bit more, and I had a life which was unlike my life back home – a daily routine of having at least a six-hour sleep; waking up and eating rice and a viand for breakfast, lunch, and dinner; eating real food.
In short, a simpler life.
I adjusted well enough to function properly during the Camp.*
Service never stops for me.
This past weekend, it was time to serve for God. The Youth Encounter 10 weekend happened and 39 lives were transformed.
During the two nights, I think I averaged about 3-4 hours of sleep a night. But compared to what I experienced two weeks ago, this was much better. Strangely though, it seemed like I had more energy during the Camp, when I had sleepless nights and around 2 hours of sleep on average, than last weekend. Not that I’m complaining.
I spent the weekend with South people, mostly from Zobel, Woodrose, and Southridge students/alumni.
And the culture shock I was told about? It was this past weekend when I felt it.
This is where I saw the vast difference in cultures. In UP, English-speakers are looked upon with a scornful eye. No, not really scornful, but they cause people to look at them. It won’t be surprising for them to be branded as conyo**, elitist, burgis, and any other synonym.
Sometimes, it feels like speaking in English conversationally is a sin which is punishable by being stoned with the aforementioned labels to death.
There was one particular incident during the Camp. After the speaker was done with her lecture, the floor was opened for questions from the audience. This girl approached the microphone and identified herself. After she said which school she was from, I heard snickers from the other students. It was annoying. Right after she said her school’s name, a lot of murmurs floated from the rest of the theater.
On the other side of the fence, with the people I spent this past weekend with, the opposite was true, although to a lesser extent. English was the medium used by this crowd. The Tagalog-speakers were the minority. The good thing about this crowd, though, is that the minority is not labeled or put down.
I was part of this minority. It wasn’t that I couldn’t speak English. I can. And I’m above average at it. But I grew up in a Tagalog-speaking household, I hang out with Tagalog-speaking friends in UP, I am naturally a Tagalog-speaker. If I have jokes, they would be in Tagalog. I’m not saying, though, that everyone in the Youth are English-speakers. There are also those who you could speak straight Tagalog with.
Despite these, I am part of both groups. I have good friends in both groups. One best friend of mine belongs to the second group I discussed. And whichever group of friends of mine is present, I have fun, and the differences don’t exist.
And at the end of the day, whatever differences we may all have, we’re all gonna die, anyway. We’re all brothers and sisters in Christ.
*I even feel like I functioned better during those days than after the Camp ended and I went back to my regular life.
**Little by little, I am starting to hate this word.