…a WAY late post on my Trip
Hello. This is post is alternately called “Way WAY Overdue” because it has literally been months since this was supposed to go up. I have been meaning to get back to this post every day and have had many things happen I would like to talk about since last summer that are currently happening — but I must post this in order to move on. HOPEFULLY this will spark a resurrection of posts to come in the next few weeks. There really is much to tell. But I will try to summarize my time in the Philippines below as best as possible and will be quoting myself some from an article that was published in The Pathway.
And away we go…
Now, let me take you back to August of 2013. Wow, I finally get to bring you the news of my trip to the Philippines. The PHILIPPINES! Where half of my heritage began, and I got to go with my dad—it was only his second time back in 42 years. Only being there once before when I was 10 years old, I believed I kept a decent recollection of what the culture would be like. However, I still got a completely new experience. This country has gone through some pretty crazy changes in the 12 years since I first visited. For example, there are malls everywhere. And they are ginormous! In comparison to one of our biggest malls here (perhaps St. Louis’ Galleria), the size of one there would be about 2 to 3 times that size. I was like, seriously? Before I go too ADD in this post, let me get to the work that was done.
Whether in your neighborhood or traveling the world, there are always opportunities to live on mission. Our team got to work in the midst of despair. A church that was a part of the trip supports two ministers and their ministries near Manila. One of them, named Eduardo, is a close family friend and leads a church fellowship in the city of Muntinlupa. He helps Amar and his ministry at New Bilibid Prison—a maximum security facility with more than 19,000 inmates. Our team met with these ministers and through a miraculous turn of events, were allowed to enter the prison. This is something that will never escape my memory. As I walked through secured gates and hallways leading into the prison on a stormy day with the team, I was met by hundreds of inmates in the prison yard with umbrellas, waiting to walk us to our destination in the middle of this city bordered by walls. Going into this prison came with many surprises. Inmates are allowed to set up their own shops, restaurants and keep each other protected by gang association. We were not allowed to take any sort of camera or electrical devices inside, but the photojournalist inside me screamed to have been able to visually document what I saw. Inside this prison, Amar has built a church and holds weekly services there. With some financial help stateside, God blessed Amar’s ministry not only with a space to worship, but pews and a speaker system. Several of the prisoners are now followers and help lead in worship through music and scripture reading. The pastor of our trip led the service while we were there and we saw 10 inmates make decisions for Christ. While the prison ministry may have been the most eye-opening experience I had throughout the entire trip, our team was also able to fellowship with Gonzales’s church as well as visit the University of the Philippines where one of his daughters, Erin Gonzales is studying.
Erin, whom we ended up calling E.G. while she lived in STL for a brief time, is like a sister to me. She and her sister, Dona, are some of my best friends and it was SO great to be able to spend what little time I had there with them. Though it had been years since we had last hung out, it was just like old times…sleepovers at my cousins house while we laughed at everything and shared about where life has been taking us. They really are some of the few people in my life I will literally tell EVERYTHING and can also laugh and make a fool of myself in front of. Love those ladies so much!
What would a post about traveling be without mentioning the food? Well, I am no stranger to this type of food, but there were things I tried I had not before. I am in love with coconut, which is called “buco” for young coconut in Tagalog. So, obviously, I drank a ton of buco juice, ice cream, etc. while I was there. The exotic fruits were not the only thing that was good. The first day we arrived, it was my birthday. So my lovely great aunt, whom I call Tita Yoly, and my cousin Alice took me to the local bakery within my first hour in the country to pick out a cake. I got a mango cake and an ube roll. Ube is a purple yam that kind of tastes like sweet potato and is used in sweet dishes. I also got to eat some great rice dishes, as always.
The Philippines is definitely a place with a lot of devastation and poverty. I was filled with sorrow every time a child came to me begging for money in the streets. So coming back to St. Louis, my heart is heavier with the longing to help people. I am constantly reminded lately that life is about two things: loving God and loving His people. There is so much despair everywhere we turn.
That being said, the people there really are kind and it was fun being abe to be surrounded with this culture. You may not know this, but most of the people there speak English as well. So they speak the national language Tagalog, English and many even know a third dialect from the area of the Philippines they’re from. It’s crazy, I wish I could say I was fluent in two languages!
You guys, the Philippines may be a bit dirty in the city because of pollution, but once you get countryside, it’s gorgeous. There were literally times my jaw would drop because of the beauty I was surrounded with. It was hot like no other there, but it was worth it. Other than staying on the mainland city of Manila, I went to Pampanga with my family for a few days. It was nice to see where my family is from and I even got to go to Moncada town…yes, there is a Moncada town. I know, I’m famous.
Well, this was a very long post, but not long enough to really give you depth to everything we did. It was a great experience. I cannot wait to go back again.
Peace out! I will definitely be back sooner than later. – K