In scenes reminiscent of the Oscar-award winning movie Lion, Victoria University (VU) nursing student Shane Bautista capitalised on a recent study tour to the Philippines in a bid to discover his heritage.
Following in the footsteps of Lion’s protagonist Saroo – the five-year-old boy who returns to his Indian homeland 25 years after he was inadvertently separated from his family and adopted by an Australian couple – Shane travelled to the Philippines for the first time last month to discover his heritage and culture, having grown up in Australian foster care.
"I was born in Australia and grew up with an Aussie family,” the 38-year-old says.
"I’d never been to the Philippines before so when the opportunity came up at VU I jumped at the chance to find out more about the Philippines, the culture and the country," he says.
“Unfortunately my birth mother lives in the UK and my birth father has passed away, but I did get to see my cousin which was great."
Shane was part of a group of 10 third-year Bachelor of Nursing students who went on the 10-day study tour in February, funded through the Australia Government’s New Colombo Plan mobility grant.
The tour, which was part of Shane’s international project elective, involved observing the nursing pedagogy and practice at Saint Louis University, and it’s co-located hospital, in the city of Baguio.
"We attended classes at the university and also got to see surgeries at the hospital," he says.
"The trip has certainly enhanced my nursing practice by seeing the differences and similarities between the two countries, and it’s given me a deeper appreciation of the outstanding health services we have in Australia."
Shane says the trip also enhanced his cross-cultural awareness: "In the Philippines it’s all about saving face so you don’t embarrass anyone or disagree in front of a crowd. Having that cultural awareness is so important, not just in the Philippines but any culture, because it enables you to understand why people might act a certain way."
As he approaches the finish line of his academic studies, Shane says he is forever grateful to VU for the opportunity to learn about his cultural heritage.
"Being brought up in foster care with an Australian family, I felt like I’d lost my culture and identity in one way.
"The people in the Philippines were looking at me strange because they could see I was part Filipino and they expected me to speak the language, but I can’t.
"So once I finish my degree, I’d like to learn the language and I will definitely be returning to the Philippines to try it out."