A holiday to remember

One year, my friends and I went on vacation to Philippines for five days. We planned to relax on the island of Boracay, party, overeat, over-drink, and shop in Manila as dictated by what maximum baggage capacity will allow.

After working hard all year, one deserves a well-earned break – no one is denying that. But this time around, we decided to do a little something different to the usual blow-all-of-our-money on self-indulgent hedonistic activities.

Before we left, we asked our families, co-workers and friends for children’s clothing, toys and books, they perhaps didn’t want, were still in good condition and give them to us to take to an orphanage in Manila.

Our luggage on the way there was full of things we received from their generosity. What was surprising were people who we didn’t expect much from, were the most generous, and the ones who I was counting on giving whole-heartedly, weren’t moved by our endeavours at all (ahem, close family members by the way).

When it was time to visit the orphanage, we were met by the sweetest girls and boys, many of whom were abandoned by their parents from birth. A few were underprivileged kids from the neighbouring barangays (a village or barrio) the nuns who ran the orphanage also took under their wings.

They sang us a welcome song, danced, joked around and chatted – happy there were people who wanted to hang out with them.


We handed out the goodies, and many were too shy to even look at us, let alone accept the little gifts we had. We didn’t have enough. There were more kids than I had anticipated, and we had to ration a lot of the bite-sized chocolates and candies so everyone could have at least something.


They loved the chocolates the most. I asked a little girl why she wasn’t tearing into her mini Snickers or M&Ms, and she said she was saving them for later to share with her siblings.


I grew up in the Philippines, and although we were not poor like these children, we could afford the basic necessities. As a kid, chocolate was the ultimate luxury. I remember the few occasions I ate imported chocolates from the States and Australia – and compared to the locally produced chocolates (which we didn’t eat that frequently either) – they had a different taste, texture and the most intoxicating smell. It was a smell like no other.

I know what chocolate means to a kid, and I know exactly what that chocolate meant to those kids that day. It breaks my heart to this day why we didn’t bring enough.


I like to think we left the place a little brighter than we found it. When one of those kids bites into another piece of chocolate, I hope that he or she will somewhat remember us.

I’ll be more prepared next time.

Asia March 2011 073