Being a Filipino of Chinese descent, I grew up speaking the Fukien dialect with my parents, Filipino with my classmates and English with my teachers or during school time. It was only ten years ago when I began to use English to converse with real people, which was around the time I got involved with Jubilee Evangelical Church. If you are not familiar with the church, let me just give you a brief background. The church is located in New Manila, Quezon City, where, unlike in Chinatown, Binondo, the Filipino-Chinese in the area are more assimilated with the Filipino culture. I dare say that most Chinoys living in Quezon City are generally poorer in Chinese, speak English more, and are not quite strict in following traditional Chinese cultures.
Going back to my original point, I found a really good deal in Ensogo about an English Camp im Baguio that only cost P995. This includes lodging already, as well as 20hrs of English lesson. Read about the deal here.
English lessons? Is that the same with what we learned in High School or College? Let me tell you that it’s not. American Institute for English Proficiency (AIEPro) is more practical than that. They offer several courses that is geared towards people who may be familiar with the language already, but need that extra “oomph” to be at par with native English speakers. The course was perfect for people like me, who are fluent with English but have difficulty explaining things in English on the spot, in public.
My husband Fil, my sister Elaine, my friend Randolph and his dad Rudy joined me in this camp. We slept in one cramped room with floor mats they provided. Because this was Baguio, we didn’t need air-conditioning. There were around 15 of us sharing two bathrooms, so you really have to be strategic in your bathroom use. With regards to food, we regularly ate at Mang’s Cuisine, an eatery located in the same building. Aside from regular dishes, they offer budget meals for only P55, inclusive of Rice, meat, vegetables, and soup. Not bad. We got carried away, however, and began eating out more often, spending around P300 per meal. Tsk, tsk!
The camp helped me a lot, and I like the way they trained us to think on the spot. For example, they’d ask us to do a speech about “trees” (or any random topic), giving us only one minute to think about what to say. It was difficult at first, but with the right form and pattern, we soon got a hang of it.
Another thing that we practiced was American English accent — no, this was not a lesson where we imitated our American instructor’s accent,. We concentrated on vowel pronunciation, on how most Filipinos murder their long e’s–Beach vs bitch, Leave vs live–things like that. Blending and intonation were also given particular importance.
We touched on basic grammar, and paid special attention to the prepositions ‘in’, ‘at’ and ‘on’.
I also experienced being in a debate as part of our critical thinking studies. We got a chance to shout “shame!!!” to our opposition and create logical arguments.
The best experience for me, however, was the Amazing Race game we played on the first day of camp. We were given a list of riddles which we had to solve, and we had to go all around Baguio to look for them. We were divided into two teams of 6to7. It was very exciting for me, because despite organizing such games in the past, it was actually my first time to join one! We were blessed to have our classmate Jah with us. She is a Baguio local, and she seemed to know how to go everywhere. We walked from our dorm in Marcos Hi-way, and ended up in Hill Top Market before taking one cab ride to Cafe by the Ruins and back to our dorm. The other team, well, they took the cab more often and got lost several times. Because I enjoyed this very much, I will blog about this in a separate page. Ha! 😛 Check out my Baguio Amazing Race experience here.
During the camp, we had to speak English at all times (how else would we learn?) and pay P1 for every incident of non-English exclamations/fillers. Words like ‘nalang’ or ‘muna’ and ‘kasi’ were quite expensive.
Even Fil, who is a very fluent English speaker, improved a lot. His uhms and ahs lessened. He found himself more organized in his speaking.
Of course, in real life, there are characters that are quite endearing, and one of them is Jonathan, or John for short. He was outspoken in our class since the first day of class, and we were much afraid that he’d be hard to get along with in group works. On the contrary, he’s very cooperative and helpful. He did his parts well and didn’t impose his ideas to the group during the race.
Oh, Randolph was fantastic in our bank robber exercise. In one of our critical thinking class, we had to plan how to rob a bank and his team presented the best plan, with some of his suggestions. I guess that was the effect of watching too many Korean series.
We also made fun of Elaine a lot. I have to admit that we all bullied her. She’s such a character, and we really enjoyed making fun of her (in a harmless way), hehe. That’s what sisters do best.
Did I mention my Ukay escapades already? The English camp by AIEPro was such a good deal, but I ended up spending around 15k for just one week. This was due to the fact that we kept on shopping for stuff! I got several dresses, and several bags at a bargain price.. One of them is an authentic Balenciaga bag for only P8,200. It was really hard to resist the deal so I just gave in to temptation.
The camp also gave me opportunity to interact with foreign classmates from Saudi Arabia. It was my first time to be friends with Muslims. The difference is huge! They believed that that Ishmael was the son that Abraham sacrificed instead of Isaac. They believed that the devil stopped the sacrifice instead of an angel of God. There are other things, i’m sure, but it shouldn’t isolate us from them. The two Issa’s I worked with are quite nice and friendly. I have learned not to immediately judge a person based on race, religion, or ability.
Overall, the camp was really worth attending. We should all be perpetual students — constantly learning and evolving, forever improving and changing for the better. Learning to speak English fluently is not just for call center-agent-wannabe’s. It’s for everyone who wishes to gain confidence in dealing with people from all walks of life.