Near the end of every great rockstar’s career are wrinkles, a revival tour, and a greatest hits album. As I am at the end of my run as the keeper of the tumblr and Conor and I have ended our time as Dagani and Alingal’s community coordinators, I wagered our swan song could be a sort of ‘greatest hits’ of the past year. If the aging rocker metaphor doesn’t do it for you, at least 2014 has passed its midpoint, and what better way for us to celebrate on the Casa tumblr by sneaking a peek ahead to Batch 6, and taking a loving look back on the past year with Batches 4 and 5.
My little birdies in Manila inform me that Barangka is as busy as ever, as mid-August will herald the arrival of Batch 6, notable for their size (our largest batch yet!) and their university diversity, which highlights the fact that Casa Bayanihan continues to attract students from all over the United States and the Philippines. Even though it’s just under a month before the students arrive, the houses and neighborhood are abuzz with activity, from the ates preparing the students’ rooms and (knowing them) trying new, impressive recipes, to the kuyas making sure the Alingal garden, the Dagani porch, and everything in between are in order.
Another exciting happening in the Casa’s neighborhood of Barangka is the arrival of a few new faces. David Romero, SJ, is one of Casa’s newest staff members, and if Facebook is any indication, has already been cooking with the ates and been availing himself of the country’s most popular late night snack, balut! Look for David to introduce himself via Casa social media soon. We’re so excited for his time with Casa! Furthermore, their stay may be shorter, but let’s hope it’s no less impactful - a visiting delegation of students from the University of San Francisco journeyed to the Philippines and spent time with Casa as part of their trip. Considering Batch 5 alum Amanda Mitchell will be one of the group’s leaders, I’ll be cajoling her into sharing pictures and stories of the experience. Stay tuned!
Speaking of past batches, what a segue that is into an overview of the past year! This time last year marked a number of exciting developments in the Casa program - we had acquired a new house and were preparing to welcome what was, at the time, our largest group of students yet. Our new house was, of course, Bahay Dagani, a humble abode that could accommodate our growing number of students AND featured a hammock and a pretty sweet view from the back porch. Over two batches, Dagani has been home to fifteen students and their esteemed community coordinator and has played host to a great number of events like the Bahay Kapwa talent show, Mass with Fr. Jett of Ateneo de Manila, countless Tuesday lunches and a number of memorable Friday night dinners. Dagani has established itself as a marvelous part of Casa Bayanihan and hopefully will be for many glorious years to come. As for that ‘largest group of students yet’, well, that was Batch 4. Let’s go back….
Batch 4 arrived in the middle of a super typhoon. I wish I were kidding, but nope, they came smack dab in the middle of an enormous natural synergy of rain and wind. I’m sure a few of them were wondering what they had gotten themselves into! But as the skies brightened, so did the outlook of the semester, and the students of Batch 4 were eager to engage their praxis communities and the neighborhood. This semester was also the beginning of Casa Bayanihan’s relationship with two new praxis communities - San Damian Center in Bagong Silang and L’Arche Punla. From the outset, we were so happy to have these communities in our Casa family, and both they and our students were incredibly generous with each other. Of course, the four returning praxis sites were noteworthy too for their continued generosity and the incredible growth that their communities have had with Casa. The apropos theme of our year was growth, and Batch 4 was marked by gratitude for the wonderful people that we partner with and have come to know as our family.
Hailing from Boston College, Santa Clara, St. Louis University, University of San Francisco, and Ateneo de Manila, the students of Batch 4 made up a truly a special and creative bunch, with all of them bringing something unique to the table; music, poetry, chess, yoga, puns, and great senses of humor were just a few talents that Batch 4 students had in spades, and our communities were all the better for it. Casa’s relationship with Bahay Kapwa continued to grow as well, and the silliness of the Casa students meshed well with the humor and good nature of the BK students as they spent time getting to know each other’s families and lives over shared dinners and home visits. This batch also had a special relationship with Beyoncé, as muse and dance-party-starter. At any given moment, the likelihood of “Countdown” or “Love on Top” playing in the houses was high, and somehow, the songs never got old. Ultimately, Batch 4’s legacy lies in their willingness to be cool and express themselves to each other and also in how resilient they were through a number of challenges that the semester threw at them. Batch 4 was a really special group of students and will be forever treasured in Casa lore.
Pictured above: Batch 4 and Bahay Kapwa during December’s despedida
In January, we could once again boast that we were welcoming our largest batch of students yet, as 17 students, from Boston College, USF, Regis, Fordham, St. Louis University, and Ateneo de Naga descended upon Manila. While we were not in the midst of a super-anything in terms of weather, the US students found the weather a little hot for their tastes. It was a balmy 75 degrees Fahrenheit, and I remember one student who shall remain nameless (but may or may not be leading the USF student delegation) asking me if it really got any hotter than this. I laughed inside, looked at him/her, and said, “Just you wait!” Predictably, temperatures rose to over 90 within a month’s time. Lest that be a deterrent to any cold-lovers in the tumblr crowd, the sun’s presence afforded Batch 5 some wonderful beach time, a great experience in Calatagan, and two volcano hikes! And when the heat got to be too much, a weekend trip up to Baguio or the mountain town of Sagada was all the relief needed!
While Batch 4 dug their bongos and guitars, Batch 5 could often be found, buko (coconut) shake in hand, heading to the basketball courts for some pick-up with the neighbors or the park for some games with the kids. Batch 5 didn’t lack for musical talent either, as karaoke was a frequent activity for this bunch, and boy, could they dance, as evidenced by our Valentine’s Day dance party! There was no shortage of laughs when this group was around! Furthermore, especially with students from Ateneo de Naga, our relationship with BK continued to be strong, and included memorable activities like a scavenger hunt at University of the Philippines and a progressive dinner party. Batch 5 was such a marvelous group, and they too are sorely missed, especially by the I Heart Milk Tea franchise, which was undoubtedly kept in business by the frequent patronization of Batch 5. Miss ko na kayong lahat!
While tumblr and the general attention span are conducive to just short looks back at the semester, I hope you’re still with me, as this message concludes with the last look forward. My time as Community Coordinator with Casa Bayanihan was full of life and love and a whole lot of learning. It is a post I will miss greatly, but one that my co-CC Conor and I are totally honored to be passing on to good friends Lauryn Gregorio and Greg Ouellette. Lauryn and Greg are our friends and batchmates, going alllll the way back to the spring of 2012 when we were brought together before our own Casa journey with Batch 2. (Really, the relationship goes even further back, as Greg and Conor went to Boston College High School together!) Both of these lovely people are going to be incredible Community Coordinators, and Casa is lucky to have them. Conor and I appreciate the Batch 2 legacy that carries on, and I’m going to throw in a little shout out for the short-lived Bahay Agila, which housed Greg, Lauryn, and me while we were students. I’m SO excited to see where the semester takes Greg and Lauryn. If you’re a future Casa student reading this, know you are in excellent hands going forward. Oh, and a few tips/fun facts - Lauryn loves the game Jungle Speed and very much appreciates a home baked dessert. Her laugh is infectious and beautiful, and after Casa Bayanihan, did a semester in El Salvador with Casa de la Solidaridad. Equally brilliant and talented, Greg can do the perfect cartwheel, turns into a human amusement park around children, and is scarily adept at quoting basically every great movie ever. Share your knowledge of the lines of Will Ferrell and the Wilson brothers and he’ll love you forever. Just don’t give the man a peanut!
With that, the torch has been passed! Lauryn and Greg will be over to Manila in just a couple of days, with Batch 6 soon to follow. No doubt this tumblr will once more be filled with stories and pictures of all the happenings. I will be following closely.
So, dear reader, thank you for visiting the Casa tumblr. Whether you are a future student, a Casa alum, a Casa parent or just an interested reader, we are lucky to have you here, and I’ve been blessed to be your chief tumblr correspondent over the past year. Conor and I wish all the best for Casa for this next year and all the years to come; know you all are in our thoughts and prayers!
Hanggang sa muli / love love love,
Jillian and Conor