Sure, seeing new places leave a mark in our memories but I always believe that the friendships we build during these trips are what remains even after the excitement of being somewhere for the first time has faded.
I went to Israel March 2010 to be part of a course on Media Strategies for Social Change (organized by Israel's National Agency for International Cooperation-MASHAV, Ministry of Foreign Affairs in cooperation with the Israel National Commission for UNESCO). Very few know this but Israel is on top of my list of five must-go-to countries because as a Catholic, the charm of the Holy Land has always attracted me. I've always thought that I'd start with number five first then make Israel last but hey, the Lord truly works in surprising ways.
The three-week course had all 29 of us--with participants coming from different countries in Europe, Asia, and Africa--studying in a classroom setting during weekdays. Weekends were spent going on tours of media outlets, museums, and tourist destinations of Israel.
This photo was taken at the Yardenit Baptismal Site. This site is believed in some traditions as the actual site where John the Baptist baptized Jesus Christ. In this picture Hulya, from Turkey, and I "baptize" John, a journalist from Kenya who I consider to be one of my very best friends not only during the trip, but especially after.
We took turns in "baptizing" one another and while merely symbolic, the act I believe solidified the friendships we built even more.
In a way, I guess I could say that I truly made the most out of the opportunity given me. Not only was I able to share my experiences as a writer with everyone during the course--likewise learning from them and from the professors and professionals who were our teachers--I also made new friends who I know will feel more than welcome knowing how friendly Filipinos are when they visit the Philippines.
As we like to say in our local parlance, sulit na sulit ika nga.