Filipino Bam finds ideal life in Kunming

Filipino Bam is a burly man with a short beard and long hair that can be tied into a small braid. He laughs brightly sometimes during the conversation while rich expression reveals his lively and cheerful character.

When he was in the Philippines, he used to be a worker in American Power Conversion, a company manufacturing back up power supplies. He said it was boring when dealing with devices and electronic equipment. He worked there for more than five years. In 2004, he resolutely resigned.

Invited by his friends, he took an airplane from the Philippines to Kunming. The life here surprised him a lot. Flowers were setting buds as fresh breeze murmuring by and people here were friendly, which made Bam, who had been stuck in a daily work routine for a long time, acquired a rare treasure: freedom. "This is the life I pursue," He couldn't help sighing.

"Let's move to Kunming."

"This is a beautiful place. Come to visit us when you have time." In April 2004, Bam, who was between jobs, wanted to go abroad for development, but he didn't know where to go. His wife encouraged him to go to Kunming and get together with friends.

After booking a ticket and carrying his backpack, he embarked on a solo tour to Spring City. "The weather in Kunming is really nice. People come and go by riding bicycles in the streets." He fondly remembers his first meeting with Kunming.

One night, he participated in the English corner organized by his friends. A group of friends who love English got together and talked about their school life. Many people said that they were lonely when they were away from home, which made him recall his life in college. "The best way to stay away from homesickness and loneliness is making new friends. Everything is gonna be fine," he told them. "I want to come here and hold English corners to have an interesting life,"he made a decision that night after enjoying a great time.

"Let's move to Kunming." A week later, he returned home in the Philippines bringing a major decision to his wife and daughter. His wife knew very well that this was going to be an "adventure" because they knew nothing about Chinese and Kunming, but when she saw the steadiness in Bam's eyes, she agreed.


Bam and his family just moved to Kunming and rented a simple and small house in 2004. [provided to InKunming]

During just five months, they sold their houses, applied for visas and dealt with a host of stuff. In August of the same year, they dragged their luggage to Kunming and rented a small room next to Kunming University of Science and Technology with the help of Bam's friends. Although the apartment was simple, it was adequate to live in.

As the night fell, his friends took them to taste the local cuisine, barbecue. When they came to Beichen Avenue, they could smell the aroma of cumin from a distance. They sat down and ordered lamb kebabs, pork intestine, chicken wings and so on. "It looked different from those in the Philippines. I couldn’t tolerate the spicy the first time. When I had more, it was getting spicier, which even made me cry." Recalling the embarrassing experience of barbecue for the first time, Bam laughed.

In the Philippines, Bam hardly eats chili. But after coming to Kunming, he tried the sour and spicy Dai Food, spicy chicken... Now he likes to add a spoonful of chili to improve the taste while cooking. At the same time, he gradually gained weight.


Bam and his wife enjoyed Chinese food in Kunming in 2011. [provided to InKunming]

What surprised Bam was not only the spicy food, but also the diversified culture of ethnic minorities, including ethnic minority costumes, residential buildings, food in different flavors and the profound culture. "There are 25 ethnic minorities in Yunnan, such as Jingpo and Bulang, which I have never heard of before," Bam said. They like to visit ethnic minority villages in Yunnan to discover the cultures of different ethnic minorities. They also went west from Kunming to Dali to observe "three-square-one-zhaobi", the special Bai dwellings and taste the sour and spicy fish as well. Then drove north to Lijiang to experience Naxi cuisine.

"I want to go to Xishuangbanna. I heard there are also ethnic minorities." Bam plans to visit Xishuangbanna in winter when the COVID-19 is over. He was told that Xishuangbanna is warm all year round because of the tropical monsoon climate. "The winter in Kunming is sometimes too cold. It makes my teeth tremble when I go out." Bam wanted to install a heating system at home. But when he considered that it was only extremely cold for a few days and the heating system is too expensive, he gave up the idea.

Like the locals, when the temperature is low in winter, they will use a small heater at home, and cook a bowl of hot rice noodles. When the sun comes out, they will take their children and buy enough seagull food to Cuihu to feed the black-headed gulls.

“Everyone who has a tender heart of making friends is warmly welcomed!”

"Chinese is too difficult. There are no tones in English at all," said Bam, gesturing the four tones of "a" in Chinese with his hands. At first, Bam studied Chinese at Kunming University of Science and Technology. Then he found a job teaching English like his wife.


The English corner at Bam' s home. [provided to InKunming]

After study, he volunteered to organize an English corner with his friends. In the beginning, he invited his classmates to come home and have a meal together. "We can hold an English corner in the college," one student said. Bam thought it was a good idea and immediately took action. He organized an English corner in the college after getting permission from teachers.


The English corner at Bam's home. [provided to InKunming]

"Everyone who has a tender heart of making friends is warmly welcomed!" Bam sincerely explained. "People will be uneasy when they come to a totally strange place. I've been there too." He hopes that the English corner can provide people with a platform for practicing English and making friends.


There were many students participating in the English corner. [provided to InKunming]

Once, Bam noticed there was a stranger who sat timidly in the corner and didn't talk much in the English corner. "Hi, buddy, how are you doing?" Bam went over and patted him on the shoulder. He learned that the boy had been depressed for a long time after talking for a while. "It doesn't matter. Life has never been smooth sailing. Don't stuck on a problem for too long, or you might sink," Bam told him of his experience and said. The boy frequently came to the English corner after that.

He has already got out of his depression and embraced a brand new life now. Bam keeps in touch with him all the time. He was filled with joy when he heard any good news from him.

"English corner is a magical place and owns the power to change a person." Dory, who has participated in the English corner for more than five years, pointed out that she was once addicted to computer games. She was still tapping the keyboard at 3 a.m. However, after joining the English corner, she found that playing games was a time-consuming stuff. Instead, she enjoyed a great time while practicing English with friends.

Bam has pupils everywhere after 16 years of teaching English. His students have made achievements in all walks of life. Jerry working in Guangzhou is one of them.

Once Bam went to Guangzhou to work and contacted Jerry. "Jerry knew I was coming and booked me a hotel early. We had dinner together." In Bam's eyes, hosting an English corner was like sowing the seed of "kindness". When time stretches on, the seeds have been sprouting and then growing into big trees, which show him a shade to spend summer.

Compared with the electricity work of dealing with machines all day, Bam found a sense of achievement and happiness in teaching English. Although themes of the English corner would be repeated, he doesn't feel bored at all. "I always think about how to stimulate their interest in the process of learning English." Bam believes that lesson preparation is very important. Careful preparation will always produce different results.


Bam organized an English corner at school. [provided to InKunming]

As for Bam, life is simple but meaningful, either teaching English in school or chatting with friends in the English corner. Sometimes when he is free, he goes to the nearby vegetable market to purchase food items. “A little bit less, it's too expensive," he also bargains with the vendors in Chinese.


Bam invited friends to have dinner together. [provided to InKunming]

The vendors also became familiar with him, and no longer regarded him as a "foreigner". To be honest, he has already considered him a Chinese. "Look, there's a foreigner!" He will unconsciously shouts when he sees foreigners in the street

"I have to do something"

As time stretches on, Bam has settled down in Kunming for more than 18 years. With the birth of his baby son, they moved into a loft apartment and added all kinds of furniture because his friends came to visit from time to time. Although the house is bigger than before, it still feels small because of the large number of people, especially at Christmas.

They will "dress up" his home with beautiful decorations and Christmas lights every Christmas. A Christmas tree full of gifts is essential. They also invite friends to have dinner and give gifts to each other. Bam thought that people in some remote villages may have never felt the joy he experienced as a child. "I have to do something!" He made a decision.


Bam and his friends visited villages with many gifts. [provided to InKunming]

He gathered his friends in the English corner to raise funds to buy daily necessities, and then contacted the people in the nearby villages.

On June 17, 2018, Bam and his friends came to a village around Kunming. He remembered it was a sunny day. "It rained almost every day the week before we went, but on the day we visited the village, the sun surprisingly came out."


People and kids played games together. [provided to InKunming]

When the children got the new book bag, they carried them right away and danced with each other. They also played games on the playground together.


Bam and his friends helped those in need.[provided to InKunming]

For more than a decade, with the support of his friends, Bam has always insisted on voluntary service, covering almost half of Yunnan, including Honghe, Dali, Lijiang, Shangri-la, Deqin, Hekou, Baoshan and Lincang. For children, they will provide them with some school supplies, such as notebooks, schoolbags and toys. For the elderly living alone, rice, oil and teapots will be given.


Kids got new school bags during the activity. [provided to InKunming]

Once, they came to a small village between Dali and Chuxiong. He walked into a low clay door. There was no electricity so the room was very dark. After a closer look, they found that an old woman over 80 was lying on a wooden bed without any cushion, and there are several chickens and ducks in the house. Bam entered the house, sat at the edge of the bed and asked a couple of questions. The old lady asked him who he was. "I'm here to help you," said he. Then he stuffed some money into the Grandma's hand, she was deeply moved. Then they brought a bucket of oil to the grandma and asked people around to take more care of her.

What exactly is the power that drives you to do this all these years? Sometimes his friends ask him. He smiled, drew an ellipse with his hand, then said "a balloon".

Bam was born in an ordinary family and was not rich. When he was still a seven-year-old child, he met a man in the street who gave him a small balloon. He was very happy for a long time. "This man is so nice that he doesn't know me but gives me a balloon." The scene may engrave on his memory forever.

After that, he began to help others as much as he could. When he saw ragged children on the roadside, he gave them candies in his hand.

"We might not see the result of our generosity and kindness, but I believe that these acts are like seeds. Someday it will bear fruit.” In his words, someday people they helped before might pay it forward to do the same thing they've done to them to other unfortunate people. 


The children that Bam has helped. [provided to InKunming]

"It was a success! Once again, we have put smiles on their faces and given them hope for a better future," Bam posted a moment after a successful activity.

For Bam, Kunming is his home in China. He found his ideal life here, which is to do what he loves and love what he does. In his spare time, he enjoys tasting the delicious dishes and appreciating the infinite charm behind the ethnic minority culture.

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(Editors: Rachel, Lexi)

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