Cagayan de Oro, Philippines

What Surprised Me About the Philippines

Ellen McIlvaine|March 2, 2016|Blog Post

We expected the snorkeling and diving in the Philippines to be good. We knew the birding would be quality but extremely specialized, so we brought in a local ornithologist, Rommel Cruz, to make it work. We knew the logistics would be challenging, so in the year prior to our arrival, expedition leader Mike Moore made numerous visits to each town and island, in some cases literally counting seats on local transportation to tie up loose ends. We tried to be as prepared as possible to launch a brand new expedition that predominantly visited places where no other passenger ship had ever gone. What we were totally unprepared for, was the absolutely overwhelming warmth and hospitality of the people of the Philippines.

If you’ve had a conversation with me in the past year, chances are high that I’ve talked about the Philippines—and I’m still not over it! Day after day we met families who opened up their homes for us, schools that welcomed us into their classrooms, entire communities that showed up with music and dancing, with veritable feasts to share—even when we hadn’t arranged it. Our entire voyage was a constant display of generosity; we weren’t very far into our trip before it was clear that everyone onboard the Caledonian Sky felt compelled to give back.

Inspired by the tireless volunteer teachers, makeshift classrooms, and diligent young students we met in each community, we dubbed our cause the “Philippines Education Fund.” With the support of our office in Seattle, we donated some of the proceeds from future expedition sales to an education-related donation in the Philippines.

I’ve had the pleasure of working on this project over the past year, and after exploring several different options, I’m excited to share that we have partnered with Save the Children to sponsor 10 Filipino students for the next four years of their education and health expenses.

We learned on our expedition, and in researching this project, that the already extremely high drop-out rates in the Philippines are increasing annually, and that girls age 11 and older are the most likely to leave school. Save the Children has a network of over one million individuals in need in the Philippines, and they helped us identify ten 11-year-old students—seven girls and three boys—who wanted help to continue their education. I know I speak for everyone at Zegrahm, and all of our passengers onboard our 2015 Philippines expedition, when I say I am thrilled to welcome these students to the Zegrahm family!

For more information on our upcoming Journey through the Philippines, visit our trip page

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