Salamat Po (Thank You) New Friends In The Philippines!

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At Kiva Fellows graduation, founder Matt Flannery looked at us and said, “You never know when you walk into a room if you’re going to meet your best friend.”

I met so many amazing people over the past three months in the Philippines, how could I ever thank all of you? Every person that crosses my path does so for a reason and thanks to technology – Facebook, Twitter, Email – many of us are able to keep in touch.

That being said, there are three people I’d like to single out that have left me forever changed.

EmEm, Shopping Time!EmEm – I’ll never forget the first time we met. I was worn out and dead tired from taking the RoRo (roll on, roll off) from Manila all the way to San Jose, Antique. It was an endless journey after only arriving in Asia 24 hours before and then 24-hours of bus to boat or bus to boat, you handed me a schedule for the next seven days and all I could think was “what the hell have I gotten myself into.” Yet, from the moment I re-emerged from my much needed rest, you were there. And you’ve been there ever since. You have never flinched at a question I asked from you, from a branch, from a borrow about life, hopes, dreams or life in the Philippines. You have such greatness inside of you it overwhelms me at times. You’re a sister to me that I would bend over backwards for. You’re a friend I could sit up all night talking to and you’re a coworker I’d be honored to work with on any project.

I am forever changed because of this experience with Kiva, but more than that, because I have found your friendship. As we have come to say, “it’s crying time.” Ah but “later, later,” my life is better for knowing you and I truly will always be able to say now that I have family in the Philippines because of my bond and sisterhood with you.

Ronnie the MC at Talim Island World Youth Day.Ronnie – I have written thousands of words about you and our friendship. Maybe that sounds crazy but really I have been so inspired by you that it’s hard not to sit down and write into the midnight hours detailing our time together.

In America, it seems that so many are allergic to religion. Yet your faith sustains you and leads every decision in your life. Because of you I have a renewed faith in my own relationship with God, and because of you, I truly believe that I have something really special to give the world and I shouldn’t sacrifice or be distracted from my ultimate goals.

One afternoon on Talim Island we sat and talked while dinner was being prepared and then everyone seemed to sit around us and talk and then get up and leave again and none of this occurred to me until it was dark out and I realized it was night. You make time stand still. Your passion and dedication to those less fortunate that yourself makes me feel like nothing is impossible and good will survive. In America we would call that optimism and you symbolize those things to me.

Being in your presence lights my spirit and my soul. You have had real struggle in your life and yet you chose to rise above and do well not just by your family, your wife and children, but also by your countrymen helping others in need.** Remembering your strength, positive outlook and kind spirit are what will keep me focused and on track through the deepest storms that I will face in the future.** For that, I can’t thank you enough.

Ike's Birthday Party.Ike – Well you’re not Kiva and you’re not Filipino, but you’ve made my experience in the Philippines amazing. I can’t believe I knew you for 2 years in Los Angeles and yet besides a few scattered emails, gchats and invites to parties (which we both had an appearance rate less than 50%) I didn’t really know you at all. The fact that you moved to Manila three weeks after I got to the Philippines is, I suppose, somewhat serendipitous. When we met for dinner the first time, I was nervous – I didn’t know what to expect. But time spent with you is easy conversation, poignant moments, laughter and slight craziness.

And look at us now! For your birthday last month, we celebrated with your modelalicious friends at the Lady Gaga concert and went to Ascend at The Fort after and sitting at a table you turned to look at me and said, “I really love you and hope we are true friends for the rest of our lives.” That is more than I could have ever asked for. In turn, I would be honored, truly honored, to have our friendship with me always. We can talk religion and politics and changing the world “Streets will be name after us one day!” and yet dance and be ridiculous and you tell me your crazy girl problems and always introduce me in a way that makes me truly humbled. You’ve given me air-conditioning and hot showers when I needed them and your Makati world was so different from my day-to-day, it was a jolt of city-life that I always appreciated. Your heart is in the same place as mine for wanting to make the world a better place. Your high opinion of the work I do and what I stand for makes me want to be a better person. If we are the sum of the five people we spend the most time with, I would be lucky to have you be one of those five.

The Nanay's and I at ASHI's Metro Manila branch annual anniversary!

The Rolling Credits:

Ma’am Mila – Thank you for your guidance and sharing your wisdom with me as President of ASHI.

Des, Ofel, Florence, Hermie and Hilda – Thank you for sharing so much of yourself with me, I’m so impressed with your work at ASHI and enjoyed every moment with you.

Rexon, Jimmy, Edward, Joy, Jo, Angel, Bernie, Tyrone, James, Gil, Elvie, Andrea, Milena, John, Kacy, Daphne, Cherie, Merrick, Eugene, Rose and the staff of 11 branches and all the nany’s I encountered and who welcomed me into their homes and to the countless others who I have met – nothing is chance. It all happens for a reason and each of you passed by the Universe at just the right moment to have us meet. I will never forget that. Thank you.

Salamat Po, Sloane

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