My year abroad as a Rotary International Scholar by charis15721
After I graduated HS and was due to be enrolled at Northwestern University School of Drama for 4 very long cold years, I went to the Philippines as a foreign exchange studentt. I was enrolled at UP and went for just a short while before President Fernando Marcos declared martial law. Frankly, I don’t blame him – the place was a mess. There were thousands of homeless refugees who had fled the countryside because of poverty and there were many displaced persons because of a recent monsoon. They lived in tin shacks on the river and their living conditions were terrible. Having come from Chicago where everything was neat and tidy under the Daley Machine and the Chicago River was dyed some dayglo green to celebrate St. Paddy’s Day, I was rather appalled to see that people used this river for a water supply and as a dump.
When people asked where I was from and I said “Chicago” – they would light up and make some machine gun action and grin about Al Capone as if he were cool. I was a vegan and a pacifist and I didn’t think being associated with a hoodlum was any claim to fame. But in Manila, hoodlums drove around in limos with tinted windows and body guards and it was very dangerous. And, at UP, there were students using the college radio to broadcast things about Marcos which were not very favorable and they had nothing to do with wife’s obscene shoe collection.
So, theoretically, I didn’t blame Marcos for the decision to slam us under a military occupation to keep anyone from acting up and speaking out. But it was a real surprise to me what life turned out to be like. It became a sort of party. If you were someplace at curfew, say a party, you had to stay at the party. You just could not be caught outside.
The bad thing about martial law and Marcos trying to suppress the students was that he closed UP. My host brother who went to school with me apparently had a reputation and went into hiding. Me, they just slid me over to another institution of higher learning which turned out to be the trip of a lifetime. I ended up at an all men’s Jesuit college where all the politicos and captains of industry went. You see, by that time, I had switched majors. Screw studying drams, said I. I am going to study cultural anthropology because the Philippines is one of the most interesting places on earth for diversity. I figured that emulating Margaret Meade was a much better aspiration and, if I were to ever be an actress, I would want to be like Ruth Gordon.
So, it all started at UP for me!over 6 years ago