For all of my friends who asked how the trip went, here is a small excerpt from my journal. More information to come.
Day One – Bacolod City, Handumanan Village, Negros Occidental, Philippines
Today Teena Orrola picked us up at the airport, it was nice to finally meet her and put a face to her name. We immediately liked her and knew that our friendship and connectivity was going to continue after we left the Philippines. She was very detailed and handed us all a schedule so we would know where we are going and what we are doing. On the way to Handumanan, we took a detour to the staffing school her family owns and her brother runs. The school staffs many cruise ships and other hospitality venues abroad. Teena’s brother was very personable and he gave us a tour of the school. We saw many neat things. Boys and girls juggling bottles learning how to bartend, boys training to become engineers and girls training to be hostesses, cafeteria staff and more. Unknowingly, we interrupted many activities and many classes as we passed because students waved and smiled at us because we were different. We took many pictures there. It seems that every time a camera was pulled out, people came from everywhere and lined up to get into the snapshot. There were so many people we were photographed with that even looking at the pictures now, it is impossible to name them all or remember who they were.
Teena was not happy with her brother. What was supposed to be a quick stop turned into a full blown tour and several, several pictures.
Once we got back to the van, Teena was tapping her watch, mainly for her brother’s sake, and loaded us all back into the van. She told us that we were going to be late for the service at the Handumanan church. We didn’t understand her urgency until we arrived at the village and realized that many of the people and children who lined the dirt path had been standing there for about an hour waiting for us to arrive.
We traveled for about thirty minutes to reach Handumanan village and on the way we saw many ox (which they call caribou) in the field hooked up to plows, chickens shackled to their tin lean to houses, farmer’s carts on their way to the market, home made food stands selling coconut juice on every corner and children playing in the street. (picture) Handumanan village was created in the 1970’s. In an effort to relocate many homeless people who lived in the city under bridges and in public areas. The city government created a village for the squatters and granted one lot per family. This way they would own a piece of land and have something to build upon. The people who live in the village are very proud of their homes.
Entering Handumanan Village, we noticed that even though homes were nothing more than a mixture of concrete, sticks, thatch or tin roofs with a dirt floor, underneath poverty was a very proud and humble people who were surprisingly always clean. I am not sure how it was accomplished, but everyone was crisp, clean, washed and not a body odor whatsoever. I find this part of our trip amazing. Most villages are without running or clean water. Sewage runoff is poor. It consists of a hole in the floor of their house connected to a small PVC pipe. The PVC pipe sticks out the side of the house and empties into a small narrow gutter The gutter runs along the side of the dirt road and eventually empties into the creek. The water treatment plant our church supplied pumps this same tainted water out of the creek for consumption. This water plant that the church owns, supplies water to many within the village.
Upon arrival at the village, we saw many people and children lining the dirt road alongside of the church waving handmade flags welcoming us. As we walked down the road, a special gift was placed around our neck, a beautiful shell necklace, and the children handed the ladies handfuls of flowers. Some of which I pinned in my hair. Pastor Tom was beaming with pride as he gave us a tour of the church and the school and he showed us the water purification plant our church provided. Pastor Tom’s house was a humble dwelling with dirt floors, an unfinished roof and two bedrooms to share between his six member family. We were then brought into the church and I have never before shaken so many hands or seen so many smiles. The children sang welcome songs and gave a beautiful presentation. Pastor Terry preached about Gideon and the power you have, although small in your own eyes, is a great power with God.
The next day, before arriving at the village, Becky wanted to stop and buy supplies for the school the church runs, Philadelphia Christian Academy. After taking a tour of the school and from being a teacher herself, Becky was impressed to buy school supplies, so Teena arranged for us to stop at a store on the way to the village. The Handumanan church operates a school in the village as an outreach tool and also to educate the village’s children. Most are too poor to be able to afford an education or to be able to travel into the city to attend a school. Last year the church allowed the students to attend free of charge. This year, because of operational costs they had to charge a fee for the students to attend. The cost of tuition for one child to attend is 30 pesos a month. That is less than a dollar. 50 pesos is a dollar.
In the store, Becky and I tried to decide what school supplies to buy. We kept looking at the two teachers who came with us for direction. The Filipino women were very quiet and did not want to tell us how many supplies they really needed. Finally, after much prodding, they told us they had 20 kids. So, to be sure, we bought crayons, glue, scissors, paste, erasers, pencil sharpeners and tablets for 23 kids. We later found out that they had 39 kids! They just did not want us to spend so much money on them. The cost for all of the kids’ supplies plus two reams of copy paper was $20. On the way out, we bought two basketballs, a net, a capo for the guitar and 3 guitar picks for Jimmy to present to the music department. Total cost of our shopping trip $40. The looks on their faces when they received these much needed supplies: Priceless.
Seven words describe how I felt during this trip: Touched, Humbled, Awed, Puzzled, Unworthy, Amazed, Changed.
I was touched that the Filipino people were so kind and loving and they had no idea who we really were, they just knew we were from the POA (Pentecostals of Alexandria) and their Partners in Mission. I was humbled because these were people who had a whole lot less “stuff” than what I have and they are happy and in love with Christ. I felt very unworthy to be there trying to teach them anything. Their pure emotion and love for God touched my heart and made me feel that I was a terrible example and unworthy to be there. They did not hide their love for God and their love for God was not dependent on how well their life was going or how much stuff they had. It was just a pure love for Jesus Christ their maker. Instead of being the teacher, I became the student and I learned more from this one trip than anything I could have ever imparted to them.