Kamusta! (Just saying Hi in Tagalog)
My name is Raveena Adam, and I am part of the Development Growth team at International Justice Mission Canada. We hosted our first virtual trip to the Philippines last week and missed seeing you there! I wanted to write up this travel blog to help you experience some of the journey that we all went on.
Mabuhay! Maligayang Pagdating po sa Pilipinas! (Welcome to the Philippines!)
Our flight took off on the 17th of November 2020, at 18:00 (PT) with around 30 passengers onboard our virtual plane. David, IJM Canada’s Director of Development Growth – (and our lovely captain) - welcomed each of us and helped us get seated with all security measures before taking off.
As we escalated high up into the sky, we could see Canada’s breathtaking landscape. The majestic mountains, deep valleys, pine forests with the magnificent view of rivers and lakes made the journey pleasant and relaxing. We virtually reached Manila, Philippines –- one of the largest archipelago nations –- by 6:05 p.m. This beautiful country was covered by magnificent mountains, coastal lowlands, and terraces. We witnessed a living cultural landscape of unparalleled beauty.
After landing, we received a very warm welcome from Attorney Kath from the IJM Philippines team. Both David and Atty. Kath helped us unpack our experience kit which included a Philippine flag pin, Ding Dongs – a favourite local snack mix, spices, a microphone for the karaoke celebration to come, and several other resources for our journey.
Fun fact: Attorney Kath told us a production unit had revealed that Thanos’ residing location is a real place in the Philippines! For those of you who are big fans of Avengers, you must go visit Banaue Rice Terraces and the IJM Philippines Field Office.
As we nibbled from our snack bags, we disembarked into smaller groups. The Sermons, our fun-loving co-passengers on the virtual plane, told us they were exhausted from the long trip and needed some time to rest – this got a few of us chuckling! As we sat down with this couple, we learned how the Philippines was close to their heart and this virtual trip meant so much to them. I saw many smiles and heard a few “aw’s” (an expression of endearment) in response to the stories that were shared during this constructive break time in our break-out rooms!
We were welcomed back into the main session by several more members of the IJM Philippines team, all of whom are working tirelessly to ensure justice is being served in their country. This team works on the frontlines – as lawyers, investigators, and social workers – in dangerous and difficult circumstances to make justice for people in poverty unstoppable, especially for children.
We appreciated the passionate interviews where we learned about their roles and the crime they are working to end. Both staff and travellers were deeply moved: we saw some furious faces, a few tears, and many empathetic viewers as we learned about the heartbreaking cases of Online Sexual Exploitation of Children (OSEC). Following this information, we needed some time to reflect, and joined breakout rooms to discuss, converse and ask questions about what we learned.
Back in the main session, we learned about the crucial partnerships IJM is building to protect little children from violence. The IJM Philippines team explained their Five Stages of Investigation and Rescue which ensure every case is successfully completed using all necessary interventions needed for the safety of children. Post-rescue, we learned how IJM’s aftercare department helps safeguard children by seeking protection, benefits, and most importantly a non-violent place for the child to heal and restore.
We were all excited about the LIVE Q&A Session that followed. This was a time where we could ask direct questions to our new friends in the Philippines, and inquire further about their work. We discussed potential solutions to end OSEC and the partnership strategy of IJM Philippines with government and civil society organisations.
Tanya, a fellow traveller, asked what the IJM Philippines team “needs from each of us present on the trip to help IJM.” The answer? Help us scale-up resources and staff (more people, more power, more justice!). One staff member explained that our spheres of influence are very important – many can speak the right things but just a handful will “do” the right things to end OSEC. He also mentioned who we vote for, what we post on social media and who we invest in personally or professionally matters in protecting a child. It was so encouraging to learn about the complex projects taking place, and to see the level of discussion between travellers throughout the virtual trip.
Finally, we had Atty. Kath share how IJM staff draw strength to fight this crime – through morning stillness times, prayer retreats and by creating a team who constantly backs each other up. Atty. Rey, Director of IJM Philippines thanked everyone who came on the trip and everyone else who could not come on the trip.
Now for the most memorable part: Filipino traditions say that they go big with celebrations! So, to end this experiential trip virtually – it was time for all passengers and crew to experience a karaoke night before they boarded the flight back home to Canada.
Everyone reached for their boxes to pick up their mic and sing a very famous Philippine Christmas song: “A Perfect Christmas”- by Jose Mari Chan (fondly called JMC). We all chuckled loudly as Dave Brown, a faithful IJM supporter from Saskatoon, realized he didn’t have the gift box around him. So he sang with a spatula in his hand instead of a mic! The virtual karaoke was the best closeout we could have had with everyone singing, swaying, and making their own little Christmassy moves.
The passengers boarded their virtual flight back home with memories of the Philippines, having learned about OSEC casework in real-time, with hearts full of love for the work done at IJM Philippines!
Yan lang muna! (That’s all for now!) I hope you enjoyed hearing about IJM Canada’s first virtual trip to the field. Hope to see you aboard next year!