Development Office Foundation, Inc.

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“Unveiling the Heart of Digos: A Journey of Cultural Discovery and Transformation in the Philippines”- Elise Panaye

During a recent voyage in the Philippines as a Philanthropic Development Officer, I had the incredible opportunity to explore the vibrant and culturally diverse region of Digos, located in the southern part of the country. This was my inaugural visit to Asia, and while Manila’s bustling and at times overwhelming atmosphere left a lasting impression, I was pleasantly surprised by the unique charm of Mindanao. Accompanied by Brother Mark Vincent, AA, I embarked on a journey that not only introduced me to the beauty of the Philippines but also provided me with a deeper understanding of the local culture and way of life.

Growing up as a Eurasian, I have always cherished the diversity of cultures and perspectives, which has fueled my interest in international relations and their complexities. This multicultural upbringing has instilled in me a deep appreciation for inclusivity and diplomacy, shaping my aspiration to contribute to positive global changes. The opportunity to be in the company of Brother Mark Vincent, who has dedicated his life to serving others, in such a culturally vibrant region was truly invaluable. This experience allowed me to immerse myself in various cultures and lifestyles, leading to profound cultural exchanges and enriching human connections.

My experiences in Digos were nothing short of transformative. From visiting picturesque mountains near Mount Apo to immersing myself in the serene waters of Passig Islet Aqua Eco Park, each day was filled with discoveries and unforgettable encounters. The landscapes ranged from lush rivers and mountains supporting local agriculture to paradisiacal islands and fishing villages thriving with aquaculture.

One of the most profound aspects of my trip was the opportunity to engage with the local community on a personal level. From spending time at an elementary school in Badiang to participating in religious ceremonies with the residents, I gained valuable insights into Filipino culture and traditions. Witnessing the unwavering dedication of teachers and the deep sense of hospitality among the villagers left a lasting impression on me.

Moreover, I had the privilege of observing the impactful work of the Kaloob Foundation, particularly their program offering solidarity cow loans to disadvantaged families and farmers. This experience reinforced my interest in human rights and inspired me to consider ways of contributing to positive change in the world.

Beyond the sightseeing and cultural exchanges, what truly made my stay in Digos memorable was the warmth and kindness of the Filipino people. Living with a local family and participating in their daily routines allowed me to connect on a deeper level and made me feel at home even thousands of kilometers away.

As my journey in Digos ended, I couldn’t help but reflect on the richness of the experiences I had accumulated and from karaoke nights to exploring new foods and landscapes, each moment contributed to a broader understanding of the world and a deeper appreciation for diversity and inclusion.

My time in Digos will forever hold a special place in my heart, reminding me of the beauty of cultural exchange, the importance of human connection, and the power of hospitality in bridging distances and creating meaningful experiences. Digos, with its stunning landscapes and welcoming community, has left an indelible mark on my soul, shaping my perspective and fueling my passion for global relations and positive change.

Itinerary of the Stay: April 25 – May 3

Thursday, April 25: Arriving in Digos, meeting the host family, and preparing for the adventures ahead.

Friday, April 26 – Wednesday, May 1: Exploring natural wonders, and cultural sites, and engaging with the local community.

Thursday, May 2 – Friday, May 3: Visiting schools, participating in community events, and reflecting on the enriching experiences in Digos.

As I bid farewell to Digos, I carry with me a treasure trove of memories and a deep appreciation for the generosity and hospitality of the Filipino people. This journey has broadened my horizons and ignited a passion for positively impacting the world. Daghang Salamat, Digos, for an unforgettable experience!

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