The Philippine Chronicles, 4
I know that each post I've made while on this trip has included some variation on the phrase "today was a great day," but today was truly an exceptionally great day. Taylor and Eric really made it happen with regards to video. The project we visited was absolutely fantastic. The LDP students are an absolute delight to have around. Ben and Pattie, our Filipino Compassion rep, are overly gracious and accomodating. Plus we're just having a really good time. We boarded the bus again this morning (yes, I remembered the tripod this time) and began our drive to Kapatirang Iristiyano sa Coloong Child Development Center, aka Compassion Project PH-227. On the way Taylor and I finished scripting this video we're making (better late than never), and I think it's going to be awesome.
We arrived and all the children at the project were gathered outside playing instruments and singing. Everyone got off the bus and one of the children would walk up to us individually and escort us to a seat inside. They did a whole program for us with singing and dancing and drama and scripture quotation and testimonies from some parents and games and a lot of pointing and laughing (mostly at us). I teared up a couple of times. It's difficult to really fully explain what it's like to watch pure joy and hope alive and thriving in the lives of children for whom the world says should have none whatsoever.
We then boarded some tricycabs (basically bicycles with a sidecar, oh, and an umbrella to keep the sun off) and headed off to visit the home of one of the children, Ruzzel. We rode through the community that largly consists of fish farms. Evidently the land used to be farmland, but at somepoint in the ninties it was flooded (I still don't quite understand why or how) and is not used to raise fish. A number of the homes are just built on stilts out in the water. Once we arrived, we walked on some concrete walkways through some of the water and then boarded some rafts to actually get to the Ruzzel's home.
Now, I don't know what exactly you're picturing when I write "raft," but let me describe it for you. The rafts range in size anywhere from 3' squared to about 4' by 12'. They consist of layers of 1" styrofoam lashed together with string and varying amounts of wood. They also tend to be crawling with various forms of amphibious insect life. They were precarious to say the least.
We visited the home (which was just out in the middle of the water), all of us, that's somewhere around twenty people crammed into this really small building. Ruzzel, his mother, and his father live there and have for 22 years. In addition to fishing they raise African Parakeets to sell in pet shops. They were very gracious and welcoming to all of us as we overtook their home.
We then boarded our rafts again and made the journey back. Taylor even kept the camera out and filmed from the raft (remember, styrofoam and wood). Luckily, we all got back without any of us (or our equipment) falling in, though a couple of us, yours truly included, came close at least once. We hopped back on teh tricycabs and headed back to the project for lunch. They had prepared for us a real spread that included fried chicken (a real staple here in the Philippines), rice (another staple as I'm sure you could have guessed), a vegetable dish with quail eggs and something that consisted mostly of tofu and fish. It was all delicious. But nothing compared to the fresh, ripe mangos they gave us for dessert. Now, many of you know that I have a slight obsession with mangos, and these didn't let me down. My fingers are still sticky.
After lunch we got back on our bus and visited a part of the community that is lovingly referred to as "Devil's Island." This is an area that is reported to have a large criminal population. However, we were reassured that we were perfectly safe because most of the criminals were either sleeping or off somewhere doing their "work."
I had thought that the water community we had visited earlier was a mind-boggling example of poverty, but Devil's Island topped that. Still, in both places we are greeted with nothing but smiles and curiosity at what we're doing.
I have also noticed on this trip the reputation that Compassion has in the communities. There are people everywhere and children everywhere that aren't associated with the project in any way. However, they know about it. They know about the work that Compassion is doing in the lives of other children in their community, and they are excited about it and more than willing to help with anything that will help get more children sponsored. I believe that is just as much a testimony to what Compassion is doing as anything else.
After our visit to Devil's Island we returned to the project and spent some more time filming witht the LDP's. The rest of the group joined the kids for craft time making bracelets and picture frames. I'm not sure what else happened in there but a lot of them came out with writing and drawing all over their arms and faces.
Then to contrast it completely, we went and ate an all-you-can eat buffet at the second largest mall in Asia called Mega Mall. How absurd is that? I ate my fill of sushi and drank three glasses of mango juice. I wonder what Ruzzel had.
I leave you tonight with some greetings from the children of Kapatirang Kristiyano sa Coloong Child Development Center.
We visit another project in the morning (supposedly in a cemetery) and then fly out in the afternoon to another island for a few days. I don't know what our internet situation will be, but I'll post if I can. Until then...