Philippines Trip – Philippines
Wednesday – 1/21/15
On Wednesday morning we had an early flight. We grabbed breakfast at the McDonalds in the airport and were able to Facetime our families, it was Tuesday night for them. Our flight to Cebu, Phillipines was only 2.5 hours on Cathay Pacific. I sat by Kevin and we had a good “get to know you” conversation. I would have a good time getting to know he and Adam on the trip and bonding. Outside the Cebu airport, we were greeted by our host, Chito and his wife Tess. They also had another car and driver, Jun, for a bags. Tess had a bag of warm empanadas and candy and water for our drive. We drove about 3 hours from Cebu City to the ferry port in Santa Fe. We were in pretty heavy traffic until we got outside the city, and then farm land, ocean, mountains and small towns. In Santa Fe, we boarded a ferry to go to the island of Bantanyan. The ferry took a little over an hour. Once on Bantanyan, we drove to our hotel. We would be staying in bungalows at the Kota Beach hotel. The hotel was cheap, but was on a beatiful strech of white sand beach. The rooms were only about $35 each. The quality of the rooms weren’t great, but they had bathrooms and A/C. They did not have hot water or TV’s. I had my own room. After getting settled, we went to the March Village for an introduction. March Village is a communtity established by Chito and March for Christ to house the people who were displaced by Typhoon Yolanda. Currently, they have small wooden houses, but Habitat for Hummanity is building them larger, concrete houses. Chito is also building a church/multipurpose building, which was nearing the finish out stage. The village will have over 300 houses. Chito has a grand vision to turn the village into a community with a volunteer village. When we arrived at March Village, the kids all came out to greet us. As a sign of respect, the children grab your hand, and place it to their forehead in a kind of handshake/bow gesture. They were all very happy to see Chito, Tess and their guests. They lined up, single file, and we passed out cookies. Also going on, the workers and villagers were playing volleyball. Adam joined them for a while. Stacey sat with the kids as they sang her a song. She, in turn, taught them a song. We also met some preachers that are supported by Chito to preach at some of the nearby islands. After a few hours, we left for dinner. The preachers came with us, as did the construction supervisor. We ate at the little town that our hotel was in. Chito ordered a variety of foods and we shared, family style. I was really starting to hit the “wall” at this point. My team accussed me of falling asleep at dinner, but I’m pretty sure they just caught me in a moment of prayer. After dinner, we went back to the hotel for some much needed sleep. Once we were all in our rooms, we got to witness a brown out. The electricity went out and it was pitch black.
Thursday – 1/22/15
I got up early on Thursday morning. I went out to see the sunrise on the beach. Chito joined me. It was so perfect out, I went to get the guys so we could get in the water. Adam went for a run, but Kevin joined me. The water was like glass. We could see hundreds of small fishing boats out on the water and lots of spear fisherman. Kevin and I walked several hundred yards into the water until it was deep enough for us to snorkel. We saw lots of large starfish and other types of fish. When we came back in, Stacey was up in the restaurant area, checking email. She let me know that there was a JBF server issue. I spent the rest of the morning trying to get that fixed while the rest of the group had breakfast. I finally got it fixed in time to leave, but I ran up a large cell phone bill from fixing it that morning and continuing to check on it throughout the day. We drove to Bantayan National High School for an introduction with the students. Chito had been wanting to meet the kids and maybe begin an outreach program with them. We talked to a few and played a few games. We were coming back the next day to work with the kids so we quizzed them on what they liked. They were really interested in technology. We left the school and went the market. The market was teeming with every living thing from the ocean. Fisherman would walk into the market to sell their catch. As we strolled deeper into the market, it turned into produce stands and then hardware and used clothing. It was fun to look around. I did buy a pair of flip flops for the equivalent of $1. We left the market and went to meet the mayor. He was busy, but spent a lot of time with us. You could tell that he really respected Chito and what he was doing for the island. He was very open to allowing groups to come in to help his people. He was very personable and had some funny stories to share with us. After we left the Mayor, we went to eat at a roadside cafe. They had lots of American dishes. Adam got a burger. I had a chicken and garlic rice dish. After lunch, we went to back to the hotel to rest for a bit. We had enough time for a quick rest and then we packed up to head back to March Village. Stacey worked with the kids and the ladies on crafts and read bible stories. Kevin and I helped some of the locals clear and build a volleyball court. Later, Chito walked us around the property of March Village and explained his vision. The land is on an inlet and has lots of coast and a couple of bays. This is a fishing village and there were boats and fishing traps all over the place. At the end of our walk, we started to see men and boys gather with headlamps and buckets. They were sitting around joking or maybe laughing at us. When the sun started going down, they marched out onto the rasor sharp coral and into the water. They’d be out there for 4 or 5 hours, 1/2 a mile or more from shore, scooping up shrimp. We estimate that they bring home about $4-$5 worth of shrimp for their efforts, but they seemed to really be enjoying it. We left them and walked back in the dark to the new church. Some of the ladies were preparing a meal for us. Chito said we were having a Boodle Fight. They laid large banana leaves on the table and just dumped the food on it in the middle. Then, we all stood around the table and ate it. No plates, no silverware, no napkins. We had rice, chicken, crab, fish, and lots of other things from the ocean. The food was really good and we got really messy. It was such a unique experience that we said we would have a Boodle Fight reunion when we got home. The food was cleared and chairs were brought in for the villagers to watch a movie. Adam had a few movies and suggested that we show Tangled, but Salvador was set on showing the Ten Commandments. Can you say tense? I don’t think they have spoken since. I imagine that this is a big treat for the villagers to watch a movie as they really don’t have the opportunity to watch any TV anywhere else.
Friday – 1/23/15
The next morning, I awoke at 3am and couldn’t sleep any longer. Finally at about 4, I got up to go to the hotel lobby to get on the internet. Adam joined me shortly, in the dark. At around 6, the rest of the group was up, and we walked on the beach together. It was cool to see the locals going about their business of collecting shells or fishing. The water was rough, so we didn’t see as many boats as the previous day. After breakfast, our first stop of the day was a village called Vaigad that Chito had helped in the past. The little village had a tiny fish market where we watched some fishermans sell their catch. After that, Adam and I played some local men in basketball. The village had a full concrete basketball court that was pretty rough. The men were playing in flip flops or barefeet. We were about a foot taller than them Adam put on a show representing the USA. Next we went to the High School to work with the kids. Our first group was about 100 7th and 8th graders. Adam started off and really did a good job talking to the kids about social media and video editing. They were engaged and laughing. He then passed it to me to talk about web development. My talk was going to get technical. I really thought I’d lose them and wished I had prepared something else. However, most of them paid attention and took detailed notes. Next, Kevin talked about tech hardware, as he works for TI. Then, Stacey came up to close it and tell them that “God Loves Them”. After our talk, Stacey stayed with one group to do a craft and rainbow looms. The rest of us took a group out to play volleyball. The sun was hot, so I didn’t play much. Kevin and Adam played alot. Kevin was drenched with sweat and ripped his shirt really bad. It was break time, so we left the school and grabbed lunch at a roadside cafe. This was the worst meal of the trip. The food was covered in flies and was a little too adventurous for me. Tess was taking care of Stacey and I , so she sent Chito to by some roasted chicken for us to have with our meal. After our meal, we went to the outdoor market to buy more rainbow loom rubber bands. We also wanted to find a new shirt for Kevin. We saw a couple of the vendors were selling basketball jerseys for about $4. We thought it’d be funny to for each of us to buy a jersey and wear it for our next session. I went along with it, even though my jersey was really tight. Those Filipinos are tiny. We did our next session with the 9th and 10th graders and it went well, in our jerseys. The kids were all very respectful and seemed to take school seriously. We left the school and went back to the village that we visited earlier in the day. This time, Chito sent out a signal that we had candy. 100’s of kids lined up to get candy. It started to get rough and we worried that the kids or us would be trampled, so we left. We went back to the hotel to rest up before dinner. Adam and I got in the water. I got banged around in the waves, while Adam tried to swim. At dinner time, we went to the little town and ate at an outdoor pizza place. Adam wanted to drive one of the tricycle taxi bikes, so Chito paid a guy to let us take his. We crammed the three of us in the cart while Adam pedalled the bike. The town had a cool vibe with lots of outdoor restaurants and lights and people everywhere. The pizza was really good and we stuffed ourselves. We hung around to listen to a reggae band. Right before we were ready to leave, Chito found a balut vendor. This was on Adam and Kevin’s trip bucket list. The vendor was really just some guy riding a bike with a basket on it. The eggs were hot. Kevin, Adam, Chito, and Tess each ate a balut egg. Stacey and I kept our distance. Our guys said it didn’t’ taste bad, but the texture and the thought made it really hard to eat. We strolled back to the hotel and spent some time hanging out and checking email and facebook, facetiming home.
Saturday – 1/24/15
Kevin and I got up early the next morning. The weather was even rougher with heavy winds and waves. He and I walked the beach for about an hour. We then had breakfast. The pancakes were really good, just like my grandmothers. Our plan for the day was to visit some of the small islands around Bantayan. The waves were big so we didn’t know if we’d be going. We headed out to March village anyway. On the way, we stopped at a mangrove forest/swamp that had a bamboo bridge across it. We had a surplus of supplies, so we “distributed” rockets and frisbees to the kids as we drove. They were all really happy to get a new toy even if Adam shot them in the face with it. At March, we sang songs and gave the kids candy and little teddy bears. They were so excited to have a toy. We then explored the village and looked inside their houses. They were tiny and mostly only used for sleeping and shelter. They didn’t have many personal belongings and we saw one family already had their teddy bear displayed on a shelf with a few other knicknacks. After the tour, we passed out the new power tools that we brought with us on the trip. The construction guys were really excited about them. While we were doing that, someone cut open some fresh coconuts for us. We all had a drink and then they cut them open so we could get the meat. I’ve had fresh coconut before, but this was different because it was really gooey. Maybe they were a different level of ripeness as I’ve had in the past. We then loaded up, with the 4 preachers and Jun, and drove to the boat dock. We loaded in a large, canoe shaped motor boat, with 3 boat operators. They took us to a couple of islands to visit with the villagers. The first island we went to was called Biagayag. The boat pulled up to the shore and we had to wade to the sand. The island was about the size of a football field. It was covered in tin and tarp shelters. One of the preachers, Caesar, lived on this island when the typhoon, Yolanda, hit. It pretty much destroyed the island and his home. Caesar told us that the kids did go to school, but they have to walk to another island, when the tide was low. We gave the kids candy and crafts and the preachers did a short service. We met a little girl who Chito help get cleft palate surgery. Her mom has leprosy, but she wasn’t on the island when we were there. We got back in the boat and went to Panangatan island, right off the coast of Bantayan. This island was about the same size, but much more heavily populated. There had to be 75 kids on this island. We handed out candy and crafts to the kids and spent time playing basketball and singing songs with them. This island had a full size, concrete basketball court that is probably used all the time. I bonded with a couple of the little boys and bigger boys playing basketball. While we were entertaining the kids, Chito was talking with the adults about moving to March Village. We said goodbye and boated back to Bantanyan. We were close to the market, so we did some souvenir shopping. All we really bought were more fake NBA jerseys for our kids and I bought Trey some KD Nike shoes. After that, we drove back towards our hotel and passed a cock fighting ring. Adam asked if we could check it out and of course, Chito obliged. We went in for about 10 minutes and saw 2 fights. We think Stacey was the only girl in the whole arena. This was definitely a one time experience. We left and and stopped for dinner at Blue Ice. This was a restaurant that served all kinds of international food. We ordered some of everything and all shared. Walking back to the hotel, Chito said we should get massages. Massages cost $7 for an hour. I was really uncomfortable getting a massage, alone in my room, so Adam and Kevin suggested I bring a mattress to their room. Yes, the three of us got massages at the same time in their room. It was a little awkward because we didn’t have any music going. The massage was very nice, though, and I think we all dozed off. Before our massages, we packed and loaded our suitcases for an early departure the next day.
Sunday – 1/25/15
We had planned on putting on a church service at March Village. However, Chito was concerned that the boats wouldn’t run becauase the weather was still bad. We all got up, ready to leave, by 4:30am. We sat around in the lobby waiting for word from Jun that the boats would run. Jun got to the dock very early to get in line to ensure that we could get the car on the ferry. At about 5:30, Chito said the boats were running. We piled in the car and headed to the ferry dock. At the dock, we waited for about an hour as they loaded cars and buses. Some kids were haning out around the dock so we gave them candy, bears and balloons. We got on the 2nd boat and ferried back to Cebu Island. Upon arrival, we had a few minutes to kill while Chito got the other car out of parking, so, we bought some pastries from a little bakery. We got a variety and they were all very good. It was raining lightly as we drove back to Cebu City. Our flight was late at night, so we would have some time to kill. We stopped at got to see Chitos church and then had lunch with his son and daughter. Then we went to Chitos house for a couple of hours to freshen up and grab a quick nap. We then went to the mall to buy some souveneirs. The mall was huge and as nice as any mall in the US. Tess led Stacey around and picked out the right souvenies. We left the mall and were dropped off at the airport. We said our sad goodbyes to Chito, Tess and Jun. They were fantastic hosts.