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6 January 1985


The winter has taken me by surprise, turning cold and nasty. Night time temperatures go down to —18°C, and daytime temperatures to -14°C. I have been slowed down by a cold which I hope does not turn serious. Last night I woke up in a coughing fit, sat up, and slowly became aware where I was, and realized with a jolt that I wouldn’t be seeing my family for at least three years …

I was in Berlin for the holidays. Berlin is very beautiful at Christmas time. It is aglow with lights and snow, It is splendid in its age, proud, silent, and magnificent.

The two Filipino students whom I met, and who were my company along with Majal Magallona, Linda Abad, and Khin Maung Saw (a Burmese teaching his language at the Humboldt), were Noel Ibarra, studying Medicine in Halle, and Celestino (didn’t get his last name) of Nueva Ecija, studying Mechanical Engineering in Bautzen. They are real gentlemen, very respectful, and work very hard. (Im beginning to think, after a few frightful experiences with the opposite sex, that Asians are the real gentlemen of the world.)

After my time in Berlin, I see a new side to my countrymen. They seem to be taking to life here quite well, and are holding their own. A kind of dignity is making itself evident, which I would hardly have noticed back home. A pride that radiates through the utmost gentleness and humility, even naiveté. And a keen intelligence, and a quiet hunger for knowledge.

I think the Filipino knows how to fight, and will. I am proud of him.

Have I found one of the answers to one of my questions? In these quiet, struggling Filipino youngsters that I’ve met? Has it all been staring me in the face all along, even back home? Except that I was so preoccupied with my own rebelliousness? Because these Filipinos studying in the German Democratic Republic are not unusual or atypical. They are everywhere—wandering far from home, swallowed up in the madness of the “university belt.”