Kawachi Chiyo (Tokyo, Jesuit Social Center)        
Last August I had the opportunity to pay my first visit to the Philippines. I stayed at the South East Asia Rural Social Leadership Institute (SEARSOLIN) in Cagayan de Oro (Mindanao Island). The occasion was a workshop organized by the Center to promote NGO activities and by the Risshokoseikai's Peace Foundation. I participated in the workshop that took place in SEARSOLIN.
Since the organizers will soon publish an official report, I only want to offer here my private views, arrived at during my pleasant stay in SEARSOLIN.
There are many Muslim believers on the island of Mindanao, but due to Christian evangelization of the northern parts of the island through education, Cagayan de Oro is, comparatively speaking, Catholic. In the 1940's the Japanese military seized the Cathedral and Xavier University, placing its president under arrest. People recall that the Japanese army built the roads in the city.
SEARSOLIN is an international training center of the faculty of agriculture of Jesuit-run Xavier University. The center was founded in 1964 during the Second Vatican Council, through financial assistance of German Catholics, to train young leaders from Asia, Africa and the Pacific Islands. The classes run from Monday to Saturday during a 7-month course that is oriented to train rural leaders. The students learn rural techniques and how to organize people through credit unions. At the same time, outdoor activities to put those theories into practice are essential to the program. All the students live together. The almost 2000 graduates try to develop human resources and work with poor communities.

Taking as a basis the lecture of Ms. Raquel, SEARSOLIN's vice-director I will summarize the vision of the Institute and the profile of the trainees.
* Understanding others. The human person comes from God and consequently all are equal.
* Land and all natural resources come also from God.
* Human work fulfills both concepts mentioned above.

Our desire is that the graduates put all of this into practice, wherever they might be, through their attitudes, their skills and knowledge and by developing human resources.
Profile of the attitudes of the trainees (the 5 Cs)
* "Conscience". Men and Women of conscience with judgement power.
* "Competence". Qualities for management and organization. Appropriate skills for work.
* "Compassion" and mercy for the poor. Attitude of dedication.
* "Commitment" to serve in NGOs and development work.
* "Culture". Understanding the different cultures in which people live.
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People nowadays demand more material comfort, thus the claim for the above 5 Cs has become quite difficult. During the 7-month course at SEARSOLIN the trainees, reflecting more on themselves than on material things, acquire an attitude of belonging to the community and to the same family. Up to now the students have gathered there from different countries, and even those persons coming from hostile countries communicate among themselves, as they go through the same experiences.
At unison with the demands of the times, courses dealing with new gender, social and economic issues were introduced. Graduates hold a general meeting every three years to reflect on how to better SEARSOLIN. There has been a reconfirmation of the importance of social development, as well as the policy of continuing to accept students from Africa and Asia, in particular from new countries such as East Timor and Burma. With regard to Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, where there is a language barrier, SEARSOLIN assists former graduates to perform the training at the local level.

The schedule of our seminar was very tight and all of us were tired the day we arrived in SEARSOLIN. Ms. Trel of the Communications department of Xavier University realized our situation and, adapting herself to it, changed the content of the class we were going to attend with the students of SEARSOLIN to "Communications in a context of different cultures". With the participation of all, we performed activities of development education, such as forming one human circle and making threads of various colors interweave with each other. This made us realize in a natural way how wonderful plurality is. We enjoy a variety of cultures but it is difficult to accept each other; we need patience to understand each other. That evening we had a welcoming party with a banquet together with the students of SEARSOLIN who treated us with great hospitality. Many nationalities were represented. There were students from Burma, Vietnam, Tonga, Indonesia, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand. There was also a Japanese woman.
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Several people addressed us. One of the lecturers, former Director Bishop Ledesma, spoke about involvement in Peace seminars. The actual Director, Mr. Mercado, lectured on Credit Unions in the process of development.

On one occasion we visited Midkiwan, a village which is a 40-minute-ride by jeepney from SEARSOLIN. There, SEARSOLIN runs a program of rural development together with the villagers. Thanks to programs of land reform, the distribution of land is quite advanced in the Philippines. At the same time, the local people who have got their own land try to develop it with the cooperation of SEARSOLIN.
We arrived early morning at Midkiwan and since it was Sunday we attended mass in the church, together with the people. One of the students staying at SEARSOLIN who came with us was a priest and celebrated the mass. After the mass we introduced ourselves and had merienda together. To my surprise, in the Philippines they have merienda, both in the morning and in the afternoon. Most probably not many villagers have merienda, but they showed their hospitality to us that way.
After that, we gathered in the Church again to listen to Ms. Rachel explain to us the afternoon schedule. Each one was to receive a small portion of land, a miniature garden, where, using branches, we will first make a maquette of a rice field and decide what to plant and how to make use of it. Then, we had to survey the rice field, find out its problems and predict how much income we could get from it. The farmers, SEARSOLIN students and we divided into 4 different groups and started to work.
People invited us to watch a basketball game that was taking place in the plaza of the village and we went there before starting our given tasks. The local main match was going to be played in the near future and the teams classified by colors were all playing in high spirits. The two referees were nicely dressed and full of confidence. In one of the corners of the plaza, a microphone was being used to broadcast the game and show the results on a board.
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After enjoying the game, we had lunch and departed for our tasks in the field.
My group, together with two women from the village, went to the field of Mr. Almando. At the beginning we tried to make a model field. Then, Mr. Almado and the other 2 villagers cleverly cut banana leaves and ingeniously made something like a flowerpot in which to insert the rice plants. Ms. Rachel made a garden like a box and drawing a sketch started the process of making a study of the dimensions of the field, etc. as she had explained before. All of a sudden, the work had started. Then the 3 persons from Japan, in a different group, measured the dimensions of the field. At the end we should have thought to apologize to Mr. Almando, since he offered us the opportunity of working together. We should have done this. He had a 10-year old boy who worked hard, bringing banana leaves, cutting them according to the needed sizes, and watering the plants. Most probably he was always watching his father work hard.
At around 3 in the afternoon dark, low hanging clouds appeared in the sky. Since the rain was coming we suddenly finished the work and ran to a house in the village, just as the squall gained strength. The storm lasted three hours. The caribou seemed to enjoy bathing in a big pond in front of the house. Many people gathered under the roof of the house and, pressing against each other, in company of the members of that family and their children, with the pigs and the goats, the chicken and the dogs, all waited there till the rain ended. Our trousers became muddy more because of the dirty cattle than work in the field.
Once the rain weakened, we proceeded by groups of three to our host families. They cooked various dishes in a big oven using firewood and offered us a delicious meal. Several women living nearby came to help with the food. Later on we heard that the vegetables and other foodstuffs had been brought by SEARSOLIN. Since the table was small, only 7 persons sat down at the beginning: the elder of the family, Ms. Carmen of SEARSOLIN and 3 of us Japanese. They offered us a delicious and glorious meal. The young children in the family ate after we had finished.
After the meal we went to the houses of different host families. We could not reach one of the houses because the road was completely flooded after the rain. It was a very muddy walk in the darkness and while we were moving ahead, Mr. Vovot, the driver of the jeepney that drove us, focused the lights of his car for us to reach the house. The house of Ms. Bebing, our host family, was new and the toilet outside was also nice. She left a room open for three of us. When we lay down we filled the whole room. The whole family with the children slept tightly crammed in another room, about the same size of ours. Ms. Carmen and Bebing rested in a room at the entrance. I heard afterwards that some people stayed in houses without a toilet. The families that opened their homes for the boys of the basketball team that I mentioned above apparently stayed outside that night. How could they rest outside in the middle of a heavy rain? In fact, I do not think that any male people stayed in the house while we were resting there.
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Next morning the sky was clear and we went to wash our faces at the common well. Everybody was doing something different, brushing the teeth, washing clothes or drawing water. After breakfast we departed by jeepney to our next destination.
The people of Midkiwan lead poor lives. Nevertheless, we were able to fully share their time and hospitality, their smiles and tears, their warm joy and their food.
This time I stayed 10 days in the Philippines and I was given the opportunity of reflecting on "culture", one of the characteristics (the 5 Cs) of the profile of the trainees of SEARSOLIN. We all live in societies that hold different multidimensional cultures.
Since my visit was so short, there might be doubt about whether the situation was really the way my eyes observed it. Taking this into account I want to pick up those realities that looked so different to me.
I felt that in the Philippines there exists something like social "classes", unfamiliar to the Japanese. This was beyond my imagination. The difference between the poor and the rich was glaring. There is a variety of languages, the Visaya in Mindanao and the Tagalago in Luzon (Manila), etc.; however, not only languages, but life styles as well are different. The same can be said of cities and rural areas. The differences are too many to enumerate.
Some Korean graduates shared their experiences with us. Students from various countries live a common life in SEARSOLIN and the first two months seem like a honeymoon. Then quarrels start, but they are accepted in a positive way, and the atmosphere of SEARSOLIN nurses the attitudes to resolve the problems.
It was new to me to come to think that time in the Philippines is beyond control. I think this has a deep meaning and I felt that a new dimension had been opened. For instance, while in Midkiwan we were in a hurry to fulfill our task, but the villagers offered us an easy way to spend the time with them.
The other tour companions were really quite different personalities. They were like a fortune to me.
I returned to normal life in Japan, and, although I might not realize it, there are many different communities around me that are also culturally different and multidimensional. I would like to question first the priorities those communities value more than to judge simply what might look good or bad.
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