Philippine Refugee Center, Bataan
My Gulai! The Philippines is a diverse treasure trove sprinkled with rare gems and shiny golden nuggets! Who knew the Philippines had refugees for over a decade. Did you know that? I was amazed! There are authentic Indochine shrines placed all over the mountain top of Morong Bataan. You guys, this place is well worth a visit. It is rich in history and culture and transports you across South East Asia as you hop from shrine to shrine. Plus, you can take part in a pawikan release!
|Philippine Refugee Processing Center|
Sprawled across the mountains of Morong Bataan the Philippine Refugee Processing Center (PRPC) functioned as a small city from 1981-1994 and housed more than 400,000 refugees. The PRPC is a cool 365 hectares and had enough space for 18,000 individuals at one time. The PRPC was the last stop for refugees from Vietnam, Cambodia and Loas making their way to their new host countries. The destinations included Canada, Norway, Australia, France and The U.S. The PRPC provided skills training, health care, food, housing, arts, education and culture and language training classes. The Philippines was such a fitting setting for the refugees. They were embraced by a warm culture which, conveniently for them, was also highly influenced by the West and could prepare them culturally for their new host countries. The PRPC was a beautiful buffet of organizations coming together to better humanity. I can only imagine the energy as despair, fear, hope, and acceptance all collided!
|Boat People Museum|
Sixty-five Vietnamese women and men (including 11 children) crashed onto the shores of Morong, Bataan in 1981 as this small group of people were fleeing their homes and seeking refuge. They spent more than a week on treacherous seas before they finally found themselves in the Philippines. Another boat with 12 more Vietnamese refugees would crash into Bataan two months later. ‘Boat People’ as they came to be called, marked the beginning of the Philippines refugee efforts for those seeking peace from their Indochine countries. There is a museum today that teaches about these events. We paid a visit during our recent trip to Morong, Bataan and were pleasently surprised.
The original boat that crashed in June 1981 on the shores of Morong.
The 'Monkey House' functioned as a prison at the PRPC. The term 'Monkey House' came from the Vietnamese refugees.
Foren was our darling tour guide who was so knowledgable about the PRPC because she worked there for over a decade! She over saw many projects and has first hand accounts of what life was like during this time. Make sure you have Foren show you around the property!
A typical Vietnamese canteen. Loleng, a Filipina woman who worked in the Vietnamese canteen opened her own authentic Vietnamese restaurant in Morong, Loleng's Hu Tieu-an. You can eat there today and I highly recommend it. We at there twice in 24 hours!
A typical family bunk looked like this. Each family was given a mosquito net upon arrival. Neighborhoods were separated by the different countries which were Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos.
The Boat People museum is a private and doesn't have the large budget of a national museum. Nonetheless, they have done a wonderful job documenting this time. Below you will see a number of photos that taught about what went on at the PRPC.
This photo of a young girl took my breath away. For a few moments I tried to put myself in her shoes and wonder what her experience would have been like. I also wonder where she is now. I wonder?
Y'all already know how much I love the Philippines and the Filipino culture but my heart grew deeper in love with these people as I navigated my way across the timeline of events. The Filipinos had art classes and culture shows - they celebrated life because that is what Filipinos are so good at, community!
While shrine hopping why not do it in kuya's side car?! #PerksOfPinas y'all!
The Khmer Monument is reminiscent of the ancient temples in Angkor and was built by the Cambodian refugees near their 'Khmer Neighborhood.'
|Chua Van Hahn & Buddhist Temple ll|
Chua Van Hahn is a female Bodhhisattva who has imparted such remarkable wisdom. She is perched on top of a majestic mountain overlook. I can't even imagine the peace that must have been felt here during such a time of transition. Next to Chua Van Hahn you will find a Buddhist Temple with a meditating Buddha. This temple was built by the Vietnamese refugees and was a favorite meditation corner.
|Don't Worry It Will Pass- Everything Does|
Such wise and profound words coming from people who had lost everything, except their lives.
Secret Tip: The tour guide, Foren, who was brilliant by the way, owns the property below and offered to do a visit to her property. Motherhood comes with cramps of whiney and tired children so sadly we didn't get to visit her family's property but I would encourage you to! Her phone number is 0916-741-6043.
The Meditating Buddha located next to the Cha Van Hahn shrine.
|Pope John Paul ll Shrine|
This shrine was built to commemorate the 1981 Papal event in the PRPC. Catholic charities were heavily involved in the PRPC.
|Kai Lodge at Camp Kanawan|
We stayed a very affordable and peculiar Airbnb hotel that is located on the PRPC property called Kai Lodge at Camp Kanawan. Since the PRPC is now privately owned, the developer has created a few different accommodations for guests to come enjoy the unique experience. We stayed at Kai Lodge which was beyond affordable, around 2,000php a night! The accommodations are simple and clean but have lots of open space around. Our favorite were the huts all around. The nipa huts near the hotel have lights installed and we sat around at night playing games with our friends while the kids slept, it was awesome. There are a number of pools, bike paths and another hotel called Sage Hotel that might be just a bit nicer. The owner, Anthony, is highly responsive and has a wealth of knowledge. I highly recommend a stay here and partnering your visit with a turtle release program at Pawikan Conservation Center.
As I look at the map from Kai Lodge and the property of the PRPC I have a burning desire to visit again! This quirky and unique place has got me hooked. I love the Philippines and its very rich and diverse history. What a gift to live here.
Map Of Camp Kanawan
It's actually this map that reminded me how badly I want to return to Camp Kanawan!