Maraming salamat po!

There are many words to describe my recent trip to the Philippines – wonderful, exciting, educational, tiring and eye-opening are just a few that come to mind immediately. There are so many people that helped this trip come to fruition and I would just like to thank a few. (Really, I would like to thank everybody, but that would be entirely too long.)

Rotary International

This trip would obviously not be possible without Rotary International—it is their program, and they sponsor the entire thing. Therefore, I owe one of the biggest thank you’s to Rotary International. First, thank you for having such a wonderful program, and allowing me to be a part of it. Second, thank you for sponsoring myself and my team to make such a trip possible. Although some things might be cheaper in the Philippines, traveling there is not one of them.

Even within Rotary there are so many different entities and people to thank, hopefully I won’t forget any.

Rotary International District 5710 (RID 5710)

I would like to thank Betty Stevens for bringing the Group Study Exchange (GSE) trip to my attention. With Betty’s encouragement and coaching, the trip went from being a pipe dream to reality. I have mentioned before that I knew very little about Rotary prior to being selected for this trip, so I wouldn’t have even thought to seek out such an exciting opportunity on my own.

I would also like to thank the Rotary Club of Manhattan, Kansas, for sponsoring me. I look forward to sharing my experience with you.

Of course, I owe Phil Coolidge, the 5710 GSE outbound chair, a very big thank you. Along with the other members of the outbound committee, Phil put a tremendous amount of work into getting everything ready for us to leave – and making sure we were being taken care while we were there.

I would also like to thank Vickie Randel, the 5710 district governor. Although my limited knowledge of Rotary doesn’t give me the best impression of what the responsibilities of a district governor are, I do know that it is a very time-consuming commitment, which also has to fit in with “normal life.”

Both Phil and Vickie (and Phil’s wife) were there to see us off when we left, and were also waiting there for us when we got back. I think I can speak for the rest of the team when I say that means a lot to us.

Of course there are so many more people from RID 5710 that I would like to thank, but jetlag and sleep deprivation are starting to rob my brain of that opportunity. I think it’s safe to say that everybody in district 5710 should be proud to be a member of such a great district. Thank you all for helping, directly or indirectly, to make this trip happen for all of us.

The Team

Of course I owe a big thank you to every member of our GSE team. I think we were blessed to have such a great team. Even when times got tough and sleep was hard to come by, we continued to get along very well. I am proud to say that I was a part of your team.

  • Greg Shondell – (I should probably say Past President Greg Shondell 😉 You were a great leader. You were firm when you needed to be, but were always understanding. I know you liked to joke that your opinion was the only one that mattered, but you always listened to us and lobbied on our behalves. Although I always knew you were our team leader, I felt more like you were just a part of the team. I learned a little about business and a lot about traveling from you.
  • Brad Allen – Well, I have to say you are probably the coolest librarian that I know. (Of course, I don’t know too many librarians, but that doesn’t diminish the truth.) We had to share a bed more than I think either of us would have liked, but that never seemed to be a problem. You are very knowledgeable in a lot of aspects, and really are a cool dude. Because of the way things got split up, I think I spent the most one-on-one time with you, and I don’t think it could have been much better. I look forward to going out with you and Erin in the future.
  • Laureen Pfannenstiel – Despite some people having a hard time pronouncing your last name, I think everything else about you is easy going. I think at times your maternal instinct kicked in and you became our group mom without thinking about it, but it was appreciated. You always looked out for the rest of the group, and I probably owe you an entire bottle of Ibuprofen. It was great seeing you in action when you get fired up about city planning and politics. It takes a special person to continue working in and around bureaucracy.
  • Marci Spaw – Well, it’s safe to say that I never knew what the term “high tunnel” meant before we met. Despite living in Kansas for most of my life, I know very little about agriculture or horticulture (I still don’t know the difference to be honest) but was fascinated by how much you knew on the subject. Although all of the team members were easy to get along with, you were one of the first that made me feel comfortable. Maybe one day I will actually know what a bird of prey looks like.
  • Carina Broxterman – It is very unfortunate that you were unable to continue on to the Philippines. I know that you worked really hard getting ready for the trip. Although I was only able to be part of the team because you were unable to make it, I would never wish that upon anybody and truly hope that you have another opportunity. In my mind, you will always be a part of our team.

For those of you who don’t know, I was originally picked as an alternate and only knew that I would be going about two months before the trip. I can safely say that I never felt like “an alternate” within the group.

Rotary International District 3820 (RID 3820)

I think I’ve said it before, but it’s worth saying again that I had never planned on going to the Philippines in my life until this trip—and I am extremely happy and grateful that I was allowed to experience your wonderful country.

I would like to thank the 3820 GSE chair Fortunato “Tato” Dimayuga for working so hard to help us have an enjoyable, safe and comfortable trip. I know you worked hard to make everything happen, and we were all extremely impressed that you could coordinate two trips simultaneously. Personally, I am extremely impressed with how active you have been in Rotary as well as being a successful businessman – and all while still relatively young. You will make a great district governor. (On a side note, you also have very beautiful daughters that you should be proud of.)

I must also thank Felino “Nogi” Noguera, RID 3820’s district governor. The more I learned about you, the more impressed I became. I am also very impressed with your slippers for school children project, and am glad I was able to be a small part of it.

Host Families
  • Ramon “Boyett” Zabella – You were the first host family that Brad I and stayed with, and we were very grateful that you allowed us into your beautiful home. We were both very impressed with how knowledgeable you are on every subject.
  • Leo Ong – Your house was the only host family that I stayed with on my own. It also happened to be the only family that I ate dinner with in their house. Thank you so much for allowing me to stay for such an extended period of time.
  • Enrico “Ecoy” Abrenica – I know that Brad and I had a great time staying in your home. You helped make the last few days very memorable. You, Tony, and the rest of RC Malvar showed us a wide range of entertainment and hospitality.
  • To everybody else who hosted us in their hotels, resorts and guest houses—thank you! I apologize for not naming you all specifically, but wanted to give a special thanks to Boyett, Leo and Ecoy, because allowing us into your home is a very intimate offering. You are all welcome in my home anytime you like!
The Team

Danny, Erick, Michael, Bhem and Betty – I hope that you have a wonderful time in Kansas. While I personally don’t believe it has as much to offer as the Philippines, there should be some wonderful experiences here for you. I hope that we have an opportunity to get to know each other better, and maybe I can give you a little insight on the GSE experience. I also hope that I will have a chance to show you around Manhattan. You are always welcome in my home, and I will have Rock Band waiting for you when you start to miss videoke. Michael, I hope everything works out and you are able to come. It would be such a shame to miss out because governments are so full of bureaucratic bullshit.

Rotary Clubs

Thank you so much for showing us such an amazing time. I know each and every one of you took time out of your schedule to entertain and accommodate us. I will forever think of each and every one of you as a friend, and hope that we can continue communications far beyond this experience.

The Philippines

A tremendous thank you is owed to the Philippines. Your country is amazing. I am privileged to have been able to visit. Filipinos are some of the (if not the) nicest people that I have ever met. The Philippines is so great that I certainly owe another post on the topic alone.


Of course I must thank K-State’s Division of Continuing Education for allowing me to take a little over a month off of work to make this trip possible. I know it must have been a little tough without me, but I knew you would survive.

I would especially like to thank Kim Heller for taking the reigns of the web team during my absence. I also owe a big thank you to the web team—Jena, Micah and Owen—for picking up a lot of slack while I was away. I will not soon forget it.

My Family

Of course I also need to thank my family. I know a lot of you were scared about me going on this trip (although you didn’t need to be).

Dad, Jaimie and Jaira, thank you for dropping me off and taking me to the airport. I know you had to sacrifice at least a day of work just to take me to Kansas City, and I truly appreciate it.

I also appreciate Jenni calming my nerves about my heat rash; I was glad to hear it wasn’t scabies or some form of deadly rash. I was proud to tell everybody that I will have another niece and nephew soon.

To everybody who made this trip possible (and to anybody I erroneously forgot) – maraming salamat po (thank you very much!!)