"I was born in Germany in 1983 and have lived in the Philippines for more than seven years. I left Germany when I was 26, after finishing my graduate studies in international relations in Berlin. When I first came to the Philippines in 2009, I had no idea that I would still be here now. Back then, I was mostly seeking an experience that would expand my somewhat limited, Eurocentric and overly comfortable worldview (Weltanschauung). I had studied peace and conflict, particularly in Asian contexts, in my graduate program but became frustrated with the self-referential nature of the academic discourse. The Philippines seemed like a good place to start getting some much needed experience outside of my comfort zone.
My first impression was the immense wall of humid heat that hit me once I stepped out of the airport. I’d never experienced anything like it, and it was winter in Germany when I arrived in the Philippines. I felt immobilized and comforted at the same time. Shortly after that, my next impression was the hospitality and warmth of Filipinos, embodied in my then co-worker who welcomed me to the country like a mother would her long-lost son on our first meeting.
I worked in peacebuilding projects on the southern island Mindanao for several years. One thing that always struck me is how vast the potential, the richness of ideas and initiatives for people to build a better future in this country is. But often, these ideas don’t come to life for lack of support, networks, and sometimes critical reflection. This is where 'outsider-insiders' like myself can make important contributions.
After several years of work in the peace and development sector, I decided to pursue a long-term passion and started working as a filmmaker. In my work as a filmmaker, I seek to surface non-conventional stories and narratives of people who often get overlooked in the mass media discourse. Again, my perspective as someone who is somewhat, but not quite, part of the country can help zero in on such particular human experiences.
It seems to me that these days, some people in Germany, Europe and the Western world are fighting a losing battle to retain the privilege that has been forcefully obtained over the last centuries, with the consequences including exclusionist policies, growing xenophobia and bigotry. This is where I believe exchanges of personal stories and experiences across continents can help to move the discourse in a less exclusionist direction.
I do miss a few things from Germany: family and friendships, efficient public transportation, the sense of a country having somewhat come to terms with its history. But when I think about home these days, my biggest hope is that Germans don’t give in to fearmongering and bigotry. The world is a messy place, but building walls to keep it outside won’t help. It didn’t help in Berlin either."