Thursday, May 30, 2013

Adventures in Rural Philippines

Dear friends and family,

This month I was able to take a break from the city to experience serving in the rugged, Northern province of Kalinga. Three years ago my Canadian mentor Hart Wiens brought me to Kalinga to visit the tribe where he and his wonderful wife Ginny dedicated many years of missions with SIL. I was excited to return to this beautiful province. I was even more excited when Hart suggested bringing a team there from our very own WMB church family - many of whom are faithful supporters of my work in Manila. I joined the team in running a camp for youth from different denominations and tribes. Crossing cultural and denominational boundaries, we gave opportunities through music and dance for the groups to express their diversity and at the same time to grow in unity.

This unique journey was risky but well worthwhile. As usual, I prefer to let the pictures tell a story more eloquently than my words could. ...but I will include captions as well for those who enjoy some narration.

The talented and diverse WMB team. Each unique member pulled more than their own weight on the trip...not unlike the industrious "carabao" (or water buffalo) in the middle. He literally carried us at times.
Tribal drumming and dancing. Like a native Kalinga, Hart showed us how it's done.
Leah and Brad were great sports in trying on a courtship dance.
Whether out of kindness or simply because it's more FUN, many gave up seats inside the jeep to ride "top load" on the roof.
Because it is more fun, George the monkey gave up his perch to ride "top load" on my head.
For four days at camp we shared music, dancing, and our faith with youth from across the Kalinga province.
I gave a message about "Seeing Jesus in the Poor".  I was impressed with the campers' comprehension of my "Taglish" message (Tagalog/English) despite neither Tagalog or English being their first language. Many of the youth in Kalinga speak more than three languages fluently.
No parts were spared as the cooks prepared pork for dinner.
The music went late into the evening as we bonded with the youth by the campfire.
Here I'm attempting a tribal dance which involves hopping like a rooster and weaving back-and-forth holding a large cloth (called an "ayob" or "allap").
"Top loading!!! Woohoo!" The team will surely miss this aspect of Kalinga life back in Canada. Their parents won't.
I was also blessed to visit the province of Leyte on another island of the Philippines where most of Jam's relatives live. Her mother - or "Mama" as we affectionately call her - grew up in Leyte, and Jam's family hasn't been able to visit their home province for more than a decade. This was also the first time they experienced riding an airplane, since in the past they travelled to Leyte by boat.

Jam's relatives quickly embraced me as family and I had an unforgettable stay in her grandmother's humble home. The poverty and simplicity of their lives in the province is vastly different from life in Manila. Although they have even less financially and materially, they live completely off the land, eating rice from their own crops and catching fish straight from the ocean. They may not have shops, parks, internet, or cell phone reception. But with fresh shrimp to eat and beautiful falls to bathe in, it's hard to say that they have it worse than those living in the crowded streets of Manila. However, life for most in the province is still a great struggle, and the hope of an education or a better job still draws many to the city. Despite her family's apprehension, Jam's mother boldly moved to Manila as a young adolescent to eventually provide more opportunities for her children than she had herself growing up. Indeed, two of her daughters are already college graduates, and Jam's family works hard selling food at their own canteen.

Arriving in Leyte after flying for the very first time!
After the plane ride, we need to take a boat to our remote destination. Mama eagerly watches the shore as we approach her childhood village.
Upon arriving at the beach, we're greeted by some of Jam's aunts, nieces,  and her very sweet grandmother (in the red shirt behind Jam).
Taking a refreshing dip in the river.
Jam's sister Janna (center) poses with cousins and nephews in front of their humble homes.
Papa takes a rest in the hammock of a cozy bamboo hut.
Jam's curious little nieces gaze at the strange White visitor.
Mama takes us on boat ride to visit her late father at the cemetery.
We timed our trip to Leyte with the "death anniversary" of Jam's grandfather.  Filipinos typically have a large feast with their relatives each year on the death anniversary of their loved ones.
Part of the death anniversary tradition involves lighting candles and praying at the grave of the loved one. Here we honoured the memory of Jam's grandfather Alipio P. Pabuaya.
Never missing an opportunity for a memorable "couple's shot".
...and again...
...and one last time.
Family picnic by the ocean.
The eel we caught in the river!

Some of the colourful creatures we caught that day.
Oh how much I've missed canoeing in Algonquin, Ontario. This was the next best thing.
Mama & Papa show off their catch.
Taking the scenic route back to the village.
Well, I'm back in Manila now, and we have a busy month ahead with IT Tender's educational programs as the school year starts again in June. There will be plenty to share next month regarding our street children here, but I hope you enjoyed this month's peak into province life in the Philippines!

Take care and God bless you!



  1. Awesome adventures dewd! Haha, the George pic. Or you grinning at the eel when a lot of people would have faces of disgust! I also noticed you and Jam totally have the same smile !

  2. Very nice pictures John!! Thanks for sharing and blessings to you all!