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A Tale of Two Countries

Updated: Jan 31, 2021

In July of 2012 I left for the Philippines to serve with the Peace Corps. I knew very little about the country except that it was on the other side of the world, its capital was Manila, and it had lots of rain. I was to learn much more over the next two and a half years, but before I left, I got my first lessons on Filipino food and culture from a friend here at home. I did not know her family was from the Philippines nor that I would meet some of them when I was there. But I get ahead of myself; let me back up.

From October through December 2011 I was working on medical applications and training for ESL (English as a second language) for the Peace Corps, hoping that it would accept me in 2012. I had been nominated in August 2011, which meant that they were considering me. But they would not “invite” me and tell me where I would be going, until I had passed the medical tests and got some experience in teaching English. During this time, I was also doing some legal work, including estate planning.

I met Cindy in 2005 when I moved into Ohio City. We explored the Ingenuity festival when it first started and talked often over a glass of wine at the Market Avenue Wine Bar, but I had not seen her for a few years. Then she called late in 2011 and asked if I would go to Akron to help her aunt and uncle with their estate planning. I encouraged her to think of local counsel, but she was insistent that she wanted me to work with them. Which is how I ended up doing estate planning for Jim and Lily and meeting Ernie and Mila, Cindy’s parents, and finding out that they were first generation immigrants from the Philippines. I enjoyed meeting them, finished the legal work, and went back to my applications and ESL training.

In March of 2012 I got my invitation to the Philippines. I called Cindy to tell her and she called her parents and next thing I knew I was caught up in a whirlwind of what I have since learned is Filipino hospitality.

Cindy’s mother Mila made a meal of amazing Filipino dishes and taught me how to eat with a fork and spoon. Ernie showed me videos of folk dances and festivals and later Cindy took me to Cleveland Asian markets to teach me about native fruits and vegetables. I was also given contacts for Mila’s family in Manila and Ernie’s family from his hometown of Iloilo. And now back to where I started.

After training with the Peace Corps for eight weeks, I received my assignment to Bago City, a little town in the Visayan area of the Philippines, which is about two hours away from Iloilo. Lily and Jim had decided to go back to Iloilo and stay with their nephew. Uncle Jim had passed, but I was able to visit Lily in the spring of 2014 for a weekend. She, her nephew, and his wife, wined and dined me as they gave me a tour of Iloilo.

One day as we sat having coffee, the nephew said to me: remember that living will you did for Jim? When he was failing and in pain, the family wanted more pain-relieving medication, but were told they could not because it was addictive. Then the nephew said, he has a living will, and showed them the one I had done for him in Ohio, and the hospital accepted it.

Trite but true: it is a small world. One that is open to possibilities you cannot imagine when you say yes to something as simple as - a trip to Akron.

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