Travel Destinations

The Philippines – A Chance Meeting in El Nido

A Chance Meeting in El Nido Changed My Life! by Duke Stewart
Written by Carl Hedinger

A Chance Meeting in El Nido

There are chance meetings with strangers that interest us from the first moment, before a word is spoken.  – Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Everyone has that moment when a person or people met along the way shares captivating stories and testimonials begging for question after question, to hear just something more. One such chance meeting has created this realization that my life in Korea is safe and cushy when compared to others whose life is full of more meaningful contributions to society. During our “enjoyable” rocky ride from Puerto Princessa to El Nido, an unexpected encounter leads to unforgettable conversations and understandings. Upon pickup at our hotel, we step into the van and notice other fellow foreigners who greet us with as pleasant a “Hello” as 7am will afford. Having a pickup before us guaranteed them having less sleep than us.

Sheet Music Street Art in El Nido the Philippines

Peace Corps vs. ESL in Korea

It turns out that they work for the Peace Corps and are helping people in other parts of the Philippines. Throughout my life, I’ve heard friends mention or even apply for the Peace Corps. I knew of its existence but after hearing first hand accounts of these two volunteers, I’m feeling shocked at how much work these people actually do. Korea is absolutely cozy compared to those ACTUALLY helping the people in Samar, the region affected by Typhoon Haiyan or Yolanda as it’s known in the Philippines. “Affected” is an understatement only further enhanced while listening to countless tales of infrastructural ruin and daily despair imposed on those living there. 

And here we are, sitting pretty in our super-developed ESL Korea Land complaining about cultural differences and piddly little things that don’t really matter. Bus drivers sparing no time to reach a destination, no matter how many passengers are flung around the aisles? Ha! That’s child’s play when thoughts of fully paved roads being regarded as luxury come to mind. Boo Hoo! My internet is slow because students are back on campus and hogging bandwidth playing online games? “Internet,” you say? Hah! 

Road in Puerto Princessa

Realizations

They return to Samar while our work restarts in Korea. Having time to ponder our lovely little seaside town has me thinking about lots of things. For starters, what are we doing here? Are we really helping people? Are we making a difference? It’s hard for me to say “Yes” right now. While our two friends are helping a town get back on its feet, we continue to find grievances with a place that comparably lacks for nothing. This chance meeting really makes me reassess our priorities and goals during this time in Korea. 

Maybe I should’ve always been doing this, but the life that Korea has offered always spoke louder. So many things come to mind: vacation opportunities and time to think, time to relax, etc. As I’ve learned, that’s not the case everywhere an expat decides to go. Our new friends shrugged off the notion and remained modest about their work and its impact. Still, I believe they are making a true difference in this world. 

Puerto Princessa Kids

Brightness Ahead

Nevertheless, I have hope for my future and for the possibility of doing something important. Even after leaving cozy Korea, things look bright. It’s a different kind of struggle trying to negotiate your own language and culture that sometimes puts up impassable barriers. Those can be ignored and sometimes improved upon, with the impediments only temporary and sporadically found. We live in a safe and great place and thanks to our exchanges with those two amazing people in El Nido, so many thoughts and feelings are stirring inside me. That chance meeting in El Nido taught me about gratefulness and to appreciate my surroundings, no matter the location. Those two wonderful people inspired me to try a little bit harder everyday and remember what I have no matter where I live.

What about you? Have you ever had a similar meeting that changed your views on things? I’d love to read about it in the comments section! 


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A Chance Meeting in El Nido by Duke Stewart

About the author

Carl Hedinger

I'm a writer and recovering American expat who shares my family's travels through life. Follow our adventures here and on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

11 Comments

  • This was a touching post! You are making a difference. God puts us exactly where we need to be. Keep up the good work!

  • I was a witness to super typhoon Haiyan’s wrath and like my countrymen, was touched with the outpouring of help we received from everyone. Sometimes, we think we do little, but these little things sometimes make the most difference. Thanks for caring and sharing!

    • I’m happy to have met those great people in El Nido and hope they continue spreading their great vibes and personalities to those who need some uplifting. Thanks for commenting, Milai.

  • Surely it takes time and effort to fight any calamity like earthquake, typhoon etc. I have faced 2005 Kashmir earthquake and pretty aware of help of every single person it really made the difference.
    I think you should not think that you are making no difference or can not do much for Korean people. The contribution of each is important in getting the desired outcomes and no one is perfect except God. WE can just try our best in our capacity.

  • Hello; some people have these chance meetings and feel no effects from them. at least you are still human enough to be touched by their stories and to be reminded we can all do better. no one is perfect. perfection can never be achieved. but striving to be better every day is not only possible but in my opinion part of a well lived life. having lived in texas most of my life I can understand people dealing with typhoon damage. I wouldn’t understand those traumatized by earth quakes or forest fires. we can all learn from someone. thanks for sharing, max