It’s Sunday night and I’m now already two Islands removed from Negros. The past week has been a bit of a blur. Tuesday evening the goodbyes started: Charles was kind enough to host all of us and several clients in his home for our farewell dinner. He promised an evening with Lechon, the traditional roasted pig, the last time he hosted us and sure enough he delivered a wonderful meal which included the crispy-skinned delicacy. The evening finished with karaoke: the Filipino’s love to sing. Before we left, we were told to get ready to sing but luckily for us our one and only request came just a few days before leaving—only a few of our team members sang.
We didn’t get back from the party until close to midnight and I had a few things to take care of before heading to bed. So when the alarm went off at 4:30AM to pick up Maralee from the airport, I was tired but excited to have her join me. This is the longest I’ve been away from home since I’ve been married and I’ve certainly missed my family. It’s been fun showing her around over the past five days.
Wednesday we starting wrapping things up with La Salle University: we shared information on IBM’s academic initiative to help provide a long-term link with the campus and IBM. Jaydip and I also gave a summary presentation reviewing our deliverables over the past four weeks and suggesting some next steps for moving forward. At the close of the meetings they surprised with a delicious chocolate cake and presented us with La Salle University jackets: so we are now officially “La Salle-ians”. It’s been a real pleasure to work with the team.
Thursday was a local holiday: to celebrate Negros’ independence from Spain. The history behind the holiday is great: the locals on the island were short on artillery but strong on whit. They painted rolled-up palm leaves and bamboo sticks to look like guns and cannons. Then, they marched their large number of “armed” troops to the Spanish headquarters and firmed the real arms they had. After a few people died, the Spanish decided it would be better to surrender than face a large number of casualties.
With the day off, Maralee and I had fun visiting the local sites: back to Mumbukal (the mountain resort) and the old sugar cane plantation homes (including the Ruins). Friday morning I introduced Maralee to my friends at the school and had our final goodbyes-- I’ll certainly miss working with these guys.
Early Monday morning, there was a terrible fire not far from our hotel: in fact it was in the Baranguay where I played basketball. A candle started the fire and the adjacent shanty homes all were burned. It was the largest fire they’ve had and, tragically, sixteen people were killed. Friday afternoon, Maralee and I visited some families that were relocated to live in a nearby elementary school. In talking to one of the ladies, they felt lucky to be alive—a neighbor saved their life by knocking on their door. It was yet another reminder of how different our lives are from so many people in the world; we were glad to be able to provide some assistance to the families.
That evening, we fittingly had our last meal together at Imays restaurant. We ordered quite a feast, so much that no one had room for our customary dessert—halo halo (coconut filled with fruit, jello, ice, etc.). When we got back to the hotel no one was quite ready to end the adventure. We sat in the lobby and talked for a while, having trouble admitting that it was over. Finally, we gave our goodbyes, hugs and bissous—this life experience had come to a close.