“…they pull me back in.”- Michael Corleone, The Godfather Part III (aka the lame one)
Okay, I wasn’t really ‘out’ of LFS (I take my ED officer duties seriously). I scaled back my responsibilities to concentrate on other things. Slowly trying to fade into the fog. But there are those rare times when duty calls at the right time.
Baliksambayanan (BSB) is LFS’ annual summer exposure trip to the Philippines. For three to four weeks, a group of LFS- SFSUers integrate with students, workers, peasants, and other sectors in the Philippines to gain a deeper understanding of the conditions in the Philippines and how the people are organizing to make their lives better. We take that knowledge and try to apply it to our situation as Filipinos in America.
The size of the groups vary every year. We’ve had 13 people go in 2006. Last year, we sent one person. It really depends on who has the financial and time ability to go. We try to prepare at least six months in advance to make sure we give our folks in the Philippines enough time to prepare for our trip, as well as to give ourselves plenty of time to fund raise.
Each group has a set of team leaders, folks who’ve been on BSB before, to help guide and lead the group through the entire process. We try and have a team leader for every two to three BSBer because of the all the day-to-day logistics and emotional roller coasters people go through during the trip.
I went on the trip in 2007 with Princess as our team leader, Brandon, Val from FiRE-NY, and Melanie from Anakbayan-Honolulu:
After this life changing trip, I had made it a point to go back again. For the past couple years, there had been one reason or another to not go.
Now? Things are finally starting to fall into place and next summer seems to be a good time for me to go.
I know, I’ll be giving up going to Comic-Con 2010. It’ll cost a good amount of money for the plane ticket and spending money. It’s also a major time commitment. It’s not just three to four weeks you’re committing to. You must put in a lot of preparation work several months before the trip. That means meetings, educational discussions, and countless fund raising events. Not to mention all the work it’ll take to make sure my parents are okay with me going (I kinda like being on speaking terms with them).
But the experience, building with new folks, and the life-long connections we make with the organizers there makes all the prep we do worth it, by far. It is VITAL, as Filipinos in America/ Filipino Americans, that we strengthen our bonds with our homeland. I don’t need to preach about how assimilation tries its best to sever our ancestral ties. This trip is pretty much our big fat middle finger to assimilation and all those people who tell us to “go back to where you came from.”
Don’t worry, we will. And then we’ll come back here and be even more prepared to take on the challenges of life because we’ll know our roots.
This perfect timing comes with responsibility. Since our past few trips have had smaller groups, there’s a smaller pool of folks to pull to be team leaders. The task of being a TL isn’t easy (especially when you can speak very little tagalog…), but as I’ve learned in my time in LFS: though a task may not be easy or within your comfort zone, the rewards last lifetimes.
So I did something I normally never like to do: step up into a role of responsibility. In all honesty, I dislike taking charge. I’m more comfortable being in the background of things. But I’ve tried challenging myself more these past few years and though it hasn’t been without it’s foul ups, bumps in the roads, and epic fails, I can say I’m a better person because of it. I feel it’d be selfish of me to learn all this stuff in the community and school and to let fear/ doubts/ laziness/ etc. halt not only my growth, but the chance to help others grow as well.
I won’t be the only TL this year though. I’ll have two other BSB vets with me,
I look forward to working with them, despite the chance that we might kill each other at the end of this whole thing (kidding…kinda). We’re different people with different working styles, but I’m confident that we’re mature and disciplined enough to pull it together for our group.
At the moment, we have a total of 15 (including TLs) people interested in going with LFS. Yes, it’s such a huge group that if it stayed at that number today, would have to be split up into three different groups. I hope all 15 get to go, but I also know realistically that a lot can happen in between now and July 2010. People will drop out. More might even hop on. All we can do is try our best to get folks on the trip. A high number is a whole lot of work. But as long as people take this trip seriously and they do the work, we’ll all have a great experience.
I’m very excited for this new challenge. Though I’ve done this trip before, I look forward to fitting in family time and possibly time with journalists and professors in the Philippines, two professions I’m very interested in.
We always say that the trip starts as soon as you decide that you’re going. The process leading up to the trip is as much of the experience as when we’re actually in the Philippines. We also say that you will be very different from the person that steps on that plane from the person who steps off of it four weeks later. I can definitely say I was. A more determined, conscious, and aware person.
To LFS’ BSB 2010: I hope you’re ready for an experience. I wasn’t sure I was ready when I decided to be a TL. But each day that passes, the more I look forward to stepping on that plane with all of you. I look forward to the culture shock (when we get to the Philippines and four weeks later when we have to adjust back to 1st world life). I look forward to the laughs, tears, and everything in between that we’ll share with each other. I look forward to our report back when we’re able to sum up our experience to our family and friends. Most of all, I look forward to decades from now and we’re retelling our stories over and over and over again to anyone within ear shot.
Imagine if our kids get to go on BSB together in the future? Wouldn’t that be awesome? I imagine they’ll look like this…
This is the first of I hope many posts documenting this trip. It’ll definitely be an adventure. BSB 2010 or BUST!