Sunday, 25 November 2012

Araw 54

I was restless this morning, and I kept waking and dozing from around 5am onwards. Manila is noisy, as is Joyland but the noise here is traffic, motorbike engines and horns, which doesn't calm anyone to sleep. When I woke at 7am , due to someone poking my face, I saw Paul staring at me. This roused me from my dozy state, and I rolled over to play with him and Lance, who was clambering onto the bed. I lay in bed till around 9am, (apart from getting up to eat Milo and cheesey loaf) as I was still fairly tired, and then got up to shower. I then headed out to sit with the Watermelon sellers, amusing myself by sweeping, playing with the kids, and helping to arrange plastic bags onto a bottle. During the course of the morning, nearly every time I was gifted a slice of watermelon by Des's Ate, a street boy (or 6) appeared, hands out to me, asking for money or something to eat. At one time, I was actually quite frightened, as I looked up to find myself surrounded by about 10 boys of various sizes and scruffiness, all trying to talk to me in Tagalog. JR ushered them away, but one boy lingered, and I could not very well continue to enjoy my watermelon while he was watching, so I handed over my half-eaten slice, and he slid away smiling.

After lunch, Des and me set about trying to finish her Inventory Report, but she fell asleep mid-sentence, so I played games on my iPod until she woke up, knowing how tired she was. We worked for a few hours, until her Ate went home with the girls and Raymond, Lhiz and Dang showed up to see me. After an hour or so we headed out to dinner, (my treat) as everyone was hungry and I knew Des didn't have much food in the house. Des dressed Paul up in his neat clothes, showered and changed, and we headed off, 6.5 of us in a tricycle to Mang Inasal. Paul was after a balloon that belonged to a girl at the next table so when we got outside I bought him one (only 50php) and we crossed the road to FCM to World of Fun to play basketball, shooting and driving games. We stayed until 9pm, when it shut, and left, laughing and joking back to Des's. 

The Payatas guys don't stay long as they have to get back to Payatas and we (me, Des, JR and Paul) are all tired anyway and want to get to bed. Des settles Paul down, and I notice that the cut on the top of his ear looks deeper than earlier. It looks painful, but Paul doesn't seem bothered. He soon falls asleep and I get ready for bed, but Des wants help  finishing her inventory report, so we slug on, Des getting snottier by the minute (she has a cold) and me struggling to fall asleep. We finish around midnight, and I waste no time falling asleep - I'm shattered!

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Araw 53

Today I decided to keep Des company during work, so we were up at 7.30am for Des's usual working breakfast of Milo and Pandesal. I then get dressed, noticing that te scratch on my right foot is very painful. I worry that it might be ring-worm, after what Shine said about the kids swimming, so put Germolene on it and cover it with a dressing and a sock, deciding to wear trainers instead of slippers. 

It always takes me less time to get ready than Des, as I don't have uniform to iron or make-up to put on, so I pass my time by sitting out the front with Des's Ate, watching the world go by from behind the watermelon stall. Soon we are off in a tricycle, then XT, and finally arrive at Trinoma, the mall that has many Christmas angels and snowflakes everywhere. We then "breakfast" at KFC, before Des heads to take another inventory of stock at Beauty Bar, and I wander around the over-priced and top-brand stores, taking interest in lots and buying little. Usually I ignore the British shops: Debenhams, Topshop, Marks and Spencer's, but today I decide to venture into M&S and finding a lot of English confectionary, I decide to buy Des some real English (ahem, Swiss) chocolate. After that I find a sale in a shoe store so spend half hour browsing and trying to negotiate Filipino-American sizes with my feet. I eventually find a pair of cheap pumps that could replace my current 'posh' shoes, and as I have enjoyed freedom of browsing without being stalked, I decide to buy.

There is nothing more off-putting to a shopper than being followed round the store by a shop assistant who is treating you as though you are an infamous shoplifter. Normally I judge the first 3 minutes, and if they haven't left me alone by then, I leave without buying anything, even if I had originally intended to. 

I browse a few more shops, and spend a good 20mins in a gadget shop, using every inch of will-power I have not to buy all the products in the kitchen department. Most of the stuff is English-expensive, so I leave without regretting any impulse buys. I take my time round all the shops, spending another half-hour in the book and craft store, and visiting at least 3 different floors, before finding somewhere to sit and wait for Des. She now has to remain in the store for 4 hours, and it has only been just over two when I sit and continue reading my kindle book: Nicholas Nickleby. After an hour I need the CR so venture round again, and finding a personalisation store, I decide to use the opportunity to solve the problem of my niece/nephew having unusual names, and spend a while picking out a water bottle for Layla, shoe bag for Noah and luggage tags for all the Wickham kids. When I return to Des she is nearly finished, so I scan BB for some soap and tweezers and soon we are off again.

We get the MRT from North Ave to Cubao. It's not busy so we get a seat, but its only 3 stops so not long before we are back on our feet again. It's about a 15min walk from the MRT station to Eastwood, but I know Des is more tired than me, so I don't complain, and as it is nearly 2.30pm, I treat Des to Mang Inasal for lunch when we get there. 

Eastwood is also celebrating Christmas in a big way, and has a 50ft Christmas tree stationed near the entrance. The plaza area is filled with market stalls, but we hurry past to ensure Des gets to the next store by 3pm.

Once again we part at the entrance and I head off in search of some wifi. Not finding any, and my iPod deciding that it won't connect to the free public wifi, I spend 20 mins searching for somewhere to sit and relax, and eventually find some sofas down a side section of the 3rd floor. I spend 2 hours playing games and reading, and watching various people wandering past, and then go off to find the CR, which I know is next to BB. I pop in and check on Des, and find out what time she has to stay in the store for. 7pm. It is only 5.30pm, so I stay and help Des for a bit, before deciding to plop myself on the very comfy 'waiting sofas' outside the CR and continue reading. Eventually 7pm comes around, and we head back out across the plaza, which is full of people watching some very interestingly dressed human statues pose for photos with children, and past the brightly coloured and lit up Christmas trees, including the big one that is now full of LED splendour, and grab a rush-hour crowded jeepney (or 2) back to Human Nature. It is around 8pm by the time we get there, and we are both tired and achy. Des still has her report to write, so she arranges for Lhiz to bring me home and heads to the office.

We grab a Jeepney and get off at the corner of Dahlia by McDs, and Lhiz wants to treat me to a meal. When we sit down, Lhiz has bought me a chicken rice meal and she is only eating some small fries. She says she is sorry my meal is small but she hasn't been paid yet. I feel guilty that she is only eating chips, and try to offer her some of my rice or chicken. She declines, and says that after she has dropped me off she is going to someone's birthday party. We walk up to Des's, and Lhiz uses the CR and leaves with her friend. I am so tired all I want to do is sleep, so I shower, using my new soap from BB, and get straight into bed, taking care to put anti-mosquito cream all over my legs. I'm already asleep by the time Des and JR come in at 10.30pm.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Araw 52

Slept most of today, and only got out of bed around 5pm. I ate dinner with Des's Ate and family who were staying here, and went to bed before Des came in. But she was very hungry when she came in (11pm) so I got dressed again and we headed out to 24-hour McDs, where I treated her to a meal, and tucked into a double cheeseburger myself. (First time to eat McDs in 5 weeks). By the time we got to bed it was past midnight, and I welcomed the sleep, knowing I was going with Des to work in the morning.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Araw 51

It finally arrived. The day I leave my kids once again. Last night seemed like a million miles away as I opened my eyes, secretly hoping it was earlier than I thought so I could lay and listen to the kids breathing just a while longer. It was 5.55am, almost time to disturb the sleeping angels. I lay for 10mins more, thinking of all the ways I might say goodbye that wouldn't make me cry. I wanted to be strong today, and be positive for the kids... Some of them had been dreading this day all week, I could see it on their faces. 

I turned over an Resthor opened his eyes, 'time to get up' I whispered, but he didn't move. His eyes told me what he was thinking though. Out of all the kids, Resthor is one who takes my absence personally. He's been victimised a lot as a kid, so feels that my leaving is a reflection on him, despite telling him otherwise. I kiss him on the forehead as I drag myself out of bed. There is a lot to do today before I leave, and I need to make sure I have packed everything I am taking. As often happens, i have gifted many of my things to the kids: a torch to Randy, a baseball cap to Roz, scarf to Resthor, cotton buds, batteries, lights, goggles, snorkel, after-sun lotion, deep-heat. These things are dispensable, and lighten my load when given away, although the kids had gifted me with many tokens of love: sweat- towels, hankies, teddies, stones, letters, pendants, necklaces, rings... 

As the boys begin to stir, and perform the morning tasks in what seems like slow-motion, I end up deep in thought on my bed, so much so that when the bell rings for breakfast it takes me a while to get going, and I am last into the Payag bar the teachers.

Today's breakfast seems tasteless, so instead of having seconds, I run back to the dorm to grab my charged camera and change my clothes ready for the group photo that is to happen after breakfast.

After a while Erwin calls me, and I head out to the rotunda where the kids are heading. There is a ladder set up so I place my camera on top and set up the self-timer. I encourage a smile from the kids and press go. I'm in place just before the first take, and manage to rearrange myself for the second one. I run back to check all is well and signal a good picture, and we disperse, to get ready for school. I say goodbye to Emily and Erwin, who are headed off for college, and trundle back to the boys dorm, with two small hands linked into mine.

As the boys shower and dress, and i start to arrange my stuff into bags, Resthor takes up a seat on his bed and asks why I can't stay any longer. I tell him that its very expensive and that I need to get back to my life in England, though at this moment, I'm not even sure I've convinced myself of this truth. After a while he ponders that if I hadn't have taken them all to Sunburst on Sunday, I could have stayed longer. I sit down next to him and put my arm round his shoulders. After a moment of silence I say, 'No matter how long I stay, I'm going to have to go home sometime. And I'll be back next-year. It'll go quicker than you think.' His eyes remain grey and sad, and I don't blame him, my voice probably wasn't that convincing. There is something about him; and about many of these children; that connects us, like two spirits that dance when they are together. I love him like a brother, and I hate that I am the cause of his sadness. Sometimes I wonder that if I had never come here at all, he would never miss me, but the outcome of that would be that my life is incomplete.

At this precise moment I am torn, between what I want to do and what I have to do. I fight back tears as I give him a reassuring squeeze and continue packing my things. He stays for a while, watching me, and then he is called to shower, and he leaves.

I finish packing my stuff up and head to the Payag as the second school bell rings for my last school assembly. I am more in control of my emotions this morning, and don't feel comfortable being emotional in front of the paying kids. They prayed for me in assembly, and we headed off for school with me still reading the book I want to desperately wanted to finish before I left. Thankfully I was only 10 mins from the end, and I then took the cards and bookmarks to the classroom to write them out whilst still spending time with the kids.

It took me the best of 90 mins to finish, wanting to put a good personal message in each. After that I wrote a note for Shine and the teachers, and gave them some money to have a Christmas treat themselves. Heading back to the dorm, I assured that everything I was taking was packed, and headed to the Payag to see the older girls who were preparing lunch. I had a good ole chat with Ferl and Rece, and gave them the bag of cards and bookmarks to distribute once I had left. I heard the bell ring for morning tea, which was my signal to leave, so headed to the dorm for my bags. Hill came and helped with my suitcase (that is considerably lighter than when I arrived) and I walked towards the massing group of kids who wanted to say goodbye. 

All morning I had had papers and envelopes thrust into my hand, heartfelt notes, pictures and letters from the kids saying goodbye. Now was no exception, and I was soon clutching so many small gifts and letters, as well as my my water-bottle, handbag and passport holder than I had to deposit all into my seat and return empty-handed for hugs. I noticed Resthor standing at a distance as I was saying goodbye to everyone, and was worried he might not say goodbye, but he did, and I gave him a very big hug and said I'd be back before he knew it. Reylee and JM also seemed gutted that I was going. Randy said nothing as I hugged goodbye, but I assured him Rona would be taking good care of him while I was gone. (She had actually promise in a later to me that she would). 

I could not delay any more, as Shine was ready to leave and the kids waiting to pray before morning tea, so I climbed into the front passenger seat and gave Joyland a big wave goodbye. I continued waving long after the kids were out of sight, and out of all the times I have driven away from there, this was the first time I managed not to cry. Shine had already expressed how gutted she was that I was leaving, and the majority of the journey was spent in silence as we drove down the long windy road that led away from Joyland.

At the airport, the goodbye was swift and tearless. I assured Shine I would be thinking and praying for her, and that she was an amazing friend. Out of everyone I know in the Philippines, Shine and Des are my closest friends. I gave her a big hug and turned and walked towards the ticket-check point. When I turned round again, the multi-cab was gone, and I watched it driving through the car-park exit. 

As soon as I walked through the entrance, my mood changed. There was no-one here to be strong for, and I held back tears as I lined up for Check-In. There were two extremely scary looking German men in front of me, and I felt on edge until I walked up the escalators to security. I bought a few things before I headed through the security gates: some Otap for Dave and butter cookies for me, as I had missed morning tea and would be missing lunch too. 

The wait in departures wasn't long, though I managed to throw my cookies all over the floor when I opened the packet. I had Internet so took the chance to update Facebook, and soon I was walking down the tunnel to board the plane. My seat was near the back 22A, as I had asked to be seated on the left of the plane so that I might spot Joyland from the air. 

As soon as I was seated, seatbelt on and bag tucked away, the years began to fall. There was no reason to hold them in anymore, the seat next to me was empty and the lady on the end of the row was sleeping. I sobbed into my sweat-towel, knowing that this is the longest moment in time that I would be away from my kids, and as Negros faded into the clouds, my soul faded into darkness. The tears fell steadily, so that by the time the Pilot announced our decent into Manila, my eyes were red and sore.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Araw 46

Up early this morning as I was off to the market at 6.00am with Shine, MJ, Ferlita and JM. The kids had their weekly shopping to do and me Shine and MJ had to buy all the food stuff for Sunday. We also needed to buy costumes for some of the kids, and slippers.

We wandered about from shop to shop, buying spaghetti, chicken, crispy fry, costumes, iced tea, DVD's (another treat for the kids) and everything we needed to make Sunday a very special day. I bought some bread for my breakfast, and some for Ferlita and JM too. The menu for lunch was seaweed, so I begged Shine to let me buy some chicken for the kids. We bought roast chicken , so they didn't have to cook it, and while they were in the shop I treated Ferlita and JM to a coke each. I love the way Pilipino's put drinks into plastic bags with a straw if you aren't going to drink them right there. Makes it all the more fun.

By the time we were heading back to Joyland it was nearly 10am, and none of us had had a decent breakfast. The kids were excited by the DVD's so we sat down to watch Despicable Me, which I'm sure the jokes went over the kids heads. Me, Kim, Christina and Ferl had lunch early, as we were eased out to the dentist, so left the kids watching the end of the movie and headed back out in the multicab. 

I think it is a Filipino custom to dress well when you are going anywhere (even to the Dentist) as Kim and Christina had their Sunday best on. It amazes me sometimes how the kids transform when they are not just playing around at Joyland, when they are seen in some of the tattiest, stained and torn clothing. (Of their own choosing!) 

The dentist was in Bacolod and we had to pick up a number of people on the way, Shines grandfather and MJ's God-daughter and Shines sister and friend etc etc. by the time we were headed Bacolod way it was getting a bit squashed in the back of the multicab! 

We were the last to be dropped off, and as Shine was going off I went with the kids to the dentist. We were half-hour late for our appt at 1.00pm, but that didn't matter as it was closed til 2pm. We sat down outside the door and Shine left us to buy some water. We were called to sit in the waiting room, which we did, and Shine brought bottles of water and then left us. She told me to text her when we were finished, but my phone was at Joyland charging, so I told her I didn't have a phone, and she left.

The dentist came back at around 2pm, and Christina was first in to the office. She soon came back crying and in shock, as she'd had a rotten tooth pulled out. Bless her. Kim next... But he came back smiling as he'd only needed a teeth cleaning. Ferl was asked to fill out some details for the kids, but she didn't know so I helped her, with their correct names and ages.

We then sat and waited for Shine to come back, with Christina spitting her bloody cotton wool into the sink every 20mins. We read magazines, and filtered the magazines the kids were reading (Cosmopolitan is hardly appropriate for a 7-year old.)

We waited and waited, and when it came to nearly 4pm, the dentist asked if we had Shines number a they were due to close. We didn't, but decided to leave the waiting room and try and find something to eat. We took the kids downstairs and crossed the road to a shop. We bought some sky flakes and headed back to the building where the dentist was. We sat on a bench just inside the entrance, and soon the dentist and receptionists headed past us on their way home. Ferlita told me that the dentist held a Christmas party for the kids every year, and last year brought Jolibee to Joyland! He also treated all the Joyland kids for free. Good for him.

Eventually, (around 4.45pm) Erwin turned up and said Shine was coming back soon. We re-located to the side of the road, and sure enough, the multi-cab could soon be seen trundling along towards us. What a relief! We'd been waiting 2.5hours after the kids were done! Shine said they kept calling me and texting, even though I'd told her I didn't have my phone!! Never mind. We went back on the pick up/drop off of various people again, and Christina fell asleep on the way home. We ha to pick up some medicine for Christina in Silay, but soon we were headed back to Joyland.

On Patag Road a load of sugarcane had obviously fallen off the back of a lorry, so the police were warning motorists and had coned it off to prevent an accident. Kim found the journey back very exciting, and when we eventually got home, he retold the story several times to anyone who would listen. I showered before dinner as I was very sticky, and as the kids were supposed to be going to bed early, we dinnered and bed, knowing tomorrow was going to be a long day.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Araw 45

I was working hard this morning to make up for the chaos of the past few days , and thankfully the paces were slightly easier too, meaning I got a few done before lunch. The kids were excitable this afternoon, as Shine had promised them an art session. After lunch they headed off somewhere in Joyland (I stayed in the classroom with Fredo who wasn't allowed any privileges due to his behaviour. When they came back they drew a garden scene on paper, which they would colour next week. Fredo worked hard with me while they were gone, and finished his pace with time to do a PACE test before the bell rang.

Shine was going to Patag tonight with MJ and returning early in the morning to take some of us to the market. With Shine gone Fredo was still misbehaving, so after dinner I called him into the Payag to talk to him before bedtime. I explained that I didn't like being horrible or cross with him, but that when he didn't listen and do as he was told, we didn't always have a choice. I told him I loved him and wanted him to be good so that he could come swimming with us on Sunday. He was very quiet but sat on my lap and I gave him a hug. 

At bedtime I made Fredo sleep in his own bed as a warning and a reminder that he had to behave to receive privileges, but I soon had the other 3 small boys in my bed.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Araw 44

Woke at 6am again. Only one week left in Joyland which has been on my mind a lot today. Managed to get 2 paces done today, but in the afternoon Shine had to prepare for something for the education board so I was left in charge again. Most of the kids were pretty good, if not a little whiny, but Fredo blew his chance of swimming on Sunday by being disobedient and rude to me and Teacher Jessa, and Clarke did no work all afternoon. After school we had to go into Silay again to drop off the forms and display boards at the bureau of education, but the printer at Joyland wasn't working so we had  go and print it up the road at the Internet cafe. As we were driving away, I noticed a spelling mistake, so we went back to the Internet cafe to correct it and reprint, meaning we were late to Silay and had to go in search of her. Shine was really annoyed as she'd worked hard on the display and didn't want to disappoint the lady who was like a mother to her.  We found her buying food and gave her a lift home to make up for it.

Back at Joyland we ate our dinner and prayed in each dorm before bed. Randy and Resthor ended up sleeping in my bed which was nice to be close to them with such innocence even though Resthor is 13, and Randy 10. It's a kind of peace and comfort that is hard to share with kids in the UK, because of the fear of abuse. R & R are like my little brothers and I love them with all my heart and I would never intentionally hurt them. 

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Araw 43

Woke at 6am today, giving me slightly more time to prepare myself for breakfast. Feeling very tired from yesterday. School starts with chapel on Wednesdays, so I finally taught the 'you're my rock, my sword, my shield' song that the Joyland kids have been practising for weeks. I also led the devotions about being Salt of the Earth, which takes on a different meaning when most Filipinos are some sort of Christian. Made most of it up on the spot, but seemed to go okay, and I felt more comfortable doing it when Pastor and Mamzet aren't around.

In class Shine has started to make me do the Bible memorisation with the kids, which gives me a chance to get to know their strengths and weaknesses a bit more, and after their behaviour yesterday, they took the chance to redeem themselves. Fredo hadn't memorised the verse so after his 5th try was told to go back to his own office to memorise. For some reason this upset him and he started crying, which I hate. I wrote it in his book and he soon got the hang of it.

I'm still working hard on my Filipino, but there were a lot of new words to memorise, meaning in the whole day I only got 1.5 paces done. After school Shine had to go to Silay so I went along too as we were planning to check out the Sunburst place where I'm taking the kids on Sunday for their Christmas treat; so we told the kids we'd be back late and headed out into the darkening sky and storm clouds. 

Sunburst is cool, a little run down but good enough for swimming. It works out about £50 for all the kids to eat and swim for the day, so I thought that was a pretty good deal. 

After that we had to get some stuff in the market, and I bought some bread for morning tea tomorrow. Shine left the car unlocked, as she said that the parking man would watch it. I was horrified but trusted her judgement and left my bag (minus my wallet, phone and iPod) in the footwell. It was there when we got back, so I guess he did his job. It's a skanky old multicab anyway so doesn't really attract the robbers. 

In Mang-Inasal I was hoping to pick up the wifi but it wasn't working properly so couldn't get a connection. Was a bit gutted as I had a big wait while Shine popped to the drug-store for MJ and could have checked my emails. Never mind. We ate a good meal, and I had 4 cups of rice so that was pretty good.

Headed back to Joyland, and the kids were already in the dorms so we met out the back to pray and say goodnight, before retreating to bed.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Araw 42

It rained hard again last night so the ground was really wet this morning. Everyone was very slow to get going for school so I think own beds tonight.

At morning tea we said goodbye to Pastor and Mamzet who fly to Australia for 3 months tonight. They don't get back till the end of January so the kids and Shine will be alone for Christmas.

Back in the classroom Shine wasn't feeling too good so left me in charge of the class, and oh how havoc reigned!! They were all playing, claiming to have done their work when they actually hadn't done much at all, Sophia threw a strop when I asked her to do some of her Maths, Renzo disappeared every time I asked for his goal sheet, Clarke kept talking, Fredo did very little and all in all it was extremely hard for me to do any study of my own, and I was extremely grateful when the bell rang.

Lunch was fried egg with rice, soy sauce and calamansi. The kids were having bony fish again, so they'd cooked me some eggs, bless them. Was delicious, and I ate 3 cups of rice with my soy and calamansi. 

After lunch Shine still wasn't feelin well so I was semi-in charge, along with teacher Jessa. Shekinah had also finished all her goals so she came in to help. It was the most manic 2 hours of my life. Clarke did no work, Renzo kept talking, Fredo hadn't remembered any of his pace so kept asking me for the answer, and after resorting to messin around was stood up, which didn't stop his misbehaviour, Mikela and Fredo came in from lunch muddy and had to change, Sophia wet herself and had to change, Bobby was being annoyed by Christina, Marites signed her own goal sheet... It was a nightmare. I'm surprised I managed to do any work at all, but as soon as the bell ring for end of school I was out of there. Needed a lay down in the dorm to get over it, and after dinner went straight back to the dorm to get ready for bed.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Araw 41

Monday morning, and school starts again. Today I decided to do something useful and began to work through my Filipino Paces from the beginning: 1001. Found it very hard at first and gradually began to get the hang of it, though took me a while to get used to the instructions, and there are lots of words to learn off by heart. Finished to 1004, and worked through a few pages of 1005 but didn't really understand so decided to stop. Monday night was pretty uneventful, Fredo is beginning to really play up and not listen to instructions, or deliberately disobey them so dorm time is becoming a real struggle. This evening I offered a massage to one of the boys and ended up giving most of them a hand, foot and back massage. It helped the younger ones to relax and I was surprised how willing the older boys were to have a hand massage. Bless them.

I slept in Resthors bed again, with Resthor on one side, Randy on the other. Kim and Jeffrey slept in my bed, with Fredo on my suitcase by the fan... His favourite spot. I'm really going to miss sharing my bed with all these kids. There is something so beautifully innocent about being so close to them when you are falling asleep, almost protective, but knowing they will be there when you wake up too.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Araw 40

When I woke up this morning most of the boys were gathered around mine and Resthors bed. I think JM fell asleep on my bed, but that's okay. It's a feeling of closeness and love that the boys crave- I bet very few of them had their own beds before coming to Joyland.

Breakfast was fried rice with sardines n egg. It's not my favourite meal, so I picked out the egg and left the rest. Everyone started to get ready for church, and the rain also started again. It got heavier over the course of the morning, so by the time it came for church, the roads were already flooded. We braved it though, Mamzet and Pastor staying behind as the guard did not arrive and someone needed to stay at Joyland.

Church was long and the Internet was not working so it felt even longer. Pastora Berlita preached mostly in Illongo, so it was hard for me to follow along, though I got the gist of what it was about.

After church the older ones were in the multi-cab and stopped by the market for sugar, so I jumped out and bought bread for the older ones who hadn't got a snack in Sunday school, and some lotion for the older girls. On the way back to Joyland it was still raining heavily so we all got soaked, me especially, as I had my back against the cover to keep it shut. It's so hot here, but surprisingly cool when the rain starts to fall.

During lunch we chatted about Sheena going, talking about who would do what jobs etc. Everyone said some words to Sheena about how much they love her/ will miss her, some more serious than others. Afterwards we prayed for her, said goodbye and then she left. I ended up crying again, probably because I haven't seen any of the kids that have left Joyland and I will be gutted to miss her. Thankfully she has Facebook and a phone, which makes it easier to keep her on my radar.

After lunch I relaxed in the boys dorm until Pastor wanted to go to Richmond Inn, and wanted me to go with him to show him how to manage some stuff on Facebook. especially on the newly set up Joyland page. I got a chance to FaceTime Dave though which was great. It's been a while. 

We got back just in time for dinner, prayed and headed to bed. The boys spent a while playing game on my iPod and phone and eventually settled into bed.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Araw 32

Today I woke about 6am, but dozed until half past, by which time I was getting restless. When I got up we were keeping an eye out into the road for the runners in the National Marathon from Silay-Patag, a mere 43km of bad road, travelling up a mountain for the final 25km. A hard race! By the look of the runners, they were all African or Filipino, but as the prize was php200,000 for the winner, I didn't blame them for trying. Everyone who finished the race also received php10,000.

After most of the runners had passed and we had eaten breakfast (chicken n rice) me, Shine and MJ's brother Nanoy headed off to get some fresh buko. We didn't got far, past some houses, up an alleyway, over a stream and into the trees. Nong Noy put down his big knife and sack, and headed up the tree barefoot. When he got to the top, he use his foot to kick the buko off of the tree, and we kept out the way, picking them up from wherever they had rolled. Sometimes they broke open as they hit the ground and Shine said they were good. She cut one open and we had a try of the buko flesh and juice. It was really good. Once we had got 9 buko Noy came down and we collected them all. I carried one in each hand, Shine too, and Noy carried the other 5 in the sack.

We stopped of at Noy's uncle's house, the man who owned the trees, and picked a cacao pod from a tree as well. (Cocoa bean) we carried them all back to MJ's and broke open the cacao pod so we could eat the flesh around the seeds. Some of it was very sour, others very sweet but it is a nice fruit. MJ used the juice and flesh from the Buko's to make a chicken soup and other food to take up the mountain for Shines baptism lunch. We joked and ate all morning until Mamzet and Pastor arrived at around 11.30. Shine started cooking popcorn so we all sat in the kitchen munching and chatting. Once everything was ready it was time to leave.

- Shines Baptism
- chatting to pastor
- motorbike back
- looking after the kids

Friday, 2 November 2012

Araw 31

Happy All Souls Day!

This morning went down much like any other, though I was packing to come to Patag with Shine ready for her baptism tomorrow. I was am very excited, though gutted I missed Emma n Jo's visit to Joyland. Haven't seen them in a very long time (Emma more than Jo) and would have like to have seen them.

We got a ride into Silay with Mamzet and Pastor, then went to the supermarket and dry market to get some food to take to Patag, as apparently you can't buy much food up the mountain, only local vegetables and drinks. Shine spoke to the bus driver and reserved our seats at the front so we could see everything. We also went to to Shines mum's house where her brother and sister were (mostly all adults), walking through a street much like Payatas, but without the smell of the dump. The electricity wiring was so ridiculously dangerous here I took a photo. Once we had got all the food we wanted we went back to the jeepney stop, and hot and sweaty I bought a ice cool coke for 10php. Then I bought another!

Finally we set off, back through Silay and down the road that leads to Joyland, but just at the corner where you turn left for Joyland we turned right, and headed straight towards the mountains. The road was terrible most of the way, an sometimes we veered so close to the sugar came I was fearful of us getting stuck in it. Every now and again a 50ft stretch of good road provided a welcome rest bite from the bumpy jerky rattling of the bus.

As we travelled further up the mountain the road got steeper and 'villages' further apart, though fields and harvesters were plenty. The view was spectacular, being able to see all across the Negros plain to the sea, where Dacutan lay and beyond. The air became cooler and cleaner, though the dust from the bus trailed behind us. Every time we stopped to pick up passengers (or furniture) or drop off passengers (and furniture) the locals stared in my direction, an local children waved or looked nervously at their parents. I smiled, excited for the adventure that lay before me. 

When we arrived at Patag we came to Shines friend Mary Jane who we were staying with. Her mother, brother and sister also live here, but they cannot speak English, so I just smile at them. After eating my bread I bought in the market and handed over the chicken and other stuff we bought to MJ we decided to take a walk up to the pool just further up the mountain. It was about a 10 min walk, but I was hot and worn out by the time we got there. My back and leg pain has also returned which made it rather painful, but having not brought my medicine I just had to grin and bear it. 

When we got to the top we walked past the swimming pool to the Japenese shrine, set up in memory of the Japenese, Filipino and American soldiers who died in the Second World War. The view from here was amazing. Back up at the swimming pool, I welcomed a swim in the warm water to cool myself, and having changed into my swimming costume before we left, spent 15 mins in the pool. Then we walked back down the mountain, dripping all the way, but enjoying the company as Shine started to teach me the National anthem.

Many of the locals that we passed came out to look at this strange white girl walking through around far from the nearest tourist spot. They were friendly enough, and I smiled at those who plucked up the courage to say hello.

Back at MJ's she cooked us Fried Chicken and rice, which was amazing, and then we set out again for the youth meeting which was at the church - the opposite direction to the pool: down and up the hill, about 15mins away. It was dark already by the time we left and there was a thick blanket of stars in the sky. When we got to the church the youth were gathered outside, about 10 of them. Many had been swimming during the day and were tired. Shine led the meeting with a short message in Illongo from James about fighting with our brothers and sisters, then we prayed and some of the youth left. During this time I was occupied by the many bugs, insects and spiders that were roaming the space around me... 

Reylee (a scholar from Joraben) lives up here and his Dad is the Pastor of the church. His Mum is very friendly, Jubilee, and came and spoke to me in what she calls 'Tomato English' because its 'squashed'. Lol. We chatted for about half an hour and then left because it was getting late and we were all very tired. Back at MJ's house I. Went straight to bed and slept until morning, getting only 1 mosquito bite.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Araw 30

Happy All Saints Day!

I had a horrible dream last night, that I was in the Philippines, in some kind of squatter area on the side of a hill, much like Payatas but not, though there was a small swimming pool in front of me with something just sticking out of the water, when I looked closely it was Glen standing on the bottom of the pool, not floating up, just with his hair poking through the surface. Terrie Yandall was there also, and Des. Suddenly above is we saw this balloon sort of thing, (like those floating war things) fly over our heads and descend quickly into the valley of houses below us. As it hit the ground there was a tremendous explosion and looking at Des we knew we had to get as far away as possible. I remember thinking it was some sort of nuclear explosion. We began running but the 'house' we were in began to shake and slide down the hillside. Soon it was upside down on top of us but we managed to get out as it slid towards the explosion. I was standing next to Des as I stood up. Then I woke.

Every morning as soon as the kids think I am awake enough, they come over saying 'Morning Manang Ami', leaning onto my bed for a hug. Normally as I am in some kind of 5.30 confusion, and am not particularly responsive. This morning was no exception, though I felt a certain relief in knowing the explosion was just a dream. I have been in the Philippines 4 weeks, and am missing home and thinking of it a lot. To some degree this is worsened by the isolation from the outside world that I feel at Joyland most of the time, but I am comforted to enjoy the little time I have with these kids.

Spent the time after breakfast reading, while the girls performed a long clean and scrub and tidy of the dorm. Then morning tea (bananas) and I spent some time in Pastor and Mamzets house talking to them about jewellery making (they are experimenting) and about speaking English and the kids.

I asked Pastor what he knew of Roz's background, and he said that her parents were murdered in front of her. The men came with balaclavas over their faces, with machetes and Roz' father was protecting her and told her to run, else she would have been killed to. They were arguing over the land. This shocked me a little, as it was more terrible a story than the one Roz herself told me, but I guess an 6-year old copes with this trauma only by blocking it out. 

We spoke also about Melanie and her behaviour, and he said her mother had gone crazy and Melanie was like a wild animal so I guess her behaviour has improved somewhat. She is a bright kid and very competitive, pastor thinks he will be a leader one day. Pastor also mentioned Zhavy, a girl much like Marites who had been abandoned but who had left Joyland a few years ago to be adopted. Unfortunately her street kid mentality was always getting the better of her and despite her sweetness she would steal, sometimes petty and worthless things; she once stole some wool out of my suitcase that I was using to make bracelets for each of the Joyland kids. She stole from the lady who had taken her in, and eventually the lady gave her up again, and she was back in a home like Joyland.

We talked at length about the issue of wealth and how many Christians use the Bible to say what they want it to say, lest they have to sacrifice their money for the poor. There are so many who can afford to give and don't, and many who can't afford and do. It is all about the use of your wealth rather than the quantity of it. You are rich not from the money that goes into your bank account, but by the love that gives out of it. We spoke about many things, and it was a pleasant time getting to know Pastors heart and thoughts better. They long for me to come to Joyland and work, and welcome Dave too.

I also found out that the reason we hear gunshot so often is because there is a shooting range nearby, a welcome relief to me, who was beginning to dread that one day I would be told that gunmen had stormed Joyland and killed everyone, a horrid thought that doesn't worth thinking about.

Soon it was lunchtime - which included pumpkin, my favourite Filipino vegetable. After lunch we had some marshmallows! I was pleasantly surprised as we never have dessert! It is Joys birthday on Sunday, and Mamzets soon so they were talking a lot about different treats, doughnuts, ice cream, chocolate cake, pavlova. It made me very hungry!

I showered and rested with the younger kids during the afternoon, and slept a little longer than they die to my lack of sleep last night. I soon got up and joined them outside, playing, taking pictures and venturing to get berries off the tree by lifting them up to stand on my shoulders, or using a stick to drag down the branch and grabbing the berry before it was flung skyward. Good fun.

After Mamzet had finished a meeting with the older ones in the Payag we relaxed inside watching Beauty and the Beast, before dinner- pumpkin and coconut milk soup. Yumm. I guess they have pumpkins to use up but that doesn't bother me! It was delicious and after prayers it was back to the dorm. During their showers Melanie, Tesa (Marites) and Tina (Christina) were playing around and I playfully grabbed them as they came out of the shower, wrapped them in their towel and rubbed their back as you do a small child after a bath. Then I carried them to their beds and after they were dressed combed their hair. It became a game of mum and babies, and surprisingly; after her outburst earlier in the week;  Melanie kept calling me 'Mama'. I did not encourage it, as much as I would love to be a loving parent to these girls, I am leaving in 3 weeks and do not want them to think another parent has abandoned them. I know it was just a game, but I am fearful of letting any thought like that fester - the girls asked me if I liked to have babies, and when I said no, they were relieved because they would be jealous. I assured them that even if I had children I would love them just the same, but the thought stuck in my head. While life attachments remain in the UK, I am content on being Manang Ami, distant but loving older sister, much like Mel and Laura were whilst we were growing up. 

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Araw 29

Today I woke early, and despite tired due to lack of sleep last night,  I got up once awake and got ready for breakfast, that did not come till past 7am. After breakfast I rested on my bed while the kids did their chores. Normally I would sit out with the kids doing weeding and join in but I did not feel too good so waited for them to come back from that and played with them in the dorm.

Morning tea (bananas) was again served at the back of the boys dorm, and afterwards we headed to the Payag to watch The Princess and the Frog. Good movie, and took us straight through to lunch. I waited with trepidation for the revealing of lunch today as the smell of whatever it was cooking was making me feel nauseous. Before me was laid my rice as normal, an entire fish (head, eyes, fins and tail entact) covered in a smelly yellow liquid, and a bowl of vinegared boiled vegetables. Not caring for either, especially having to de-bone the fish (and knowing the pain of missing one and having to extract it from my gum midway through eating) I could not face eating it, and though I had vowed, where possible to eat exactly as he kids did, I pushed all three parts of the food away and resigned myself to drinking water. I wanted nothing more than to lay on my bed and sleep, but Mamzet, Pastor and Shine had once again gone into town, and the teachers having gone home for semester break, I was left in charge.

After lunch I retreated to the dorm with the younger kids for a few hours rest, and ensuring the middle kids were happy to watch a film, got to having a shower and some sleep. After about half-hour Recel came in and asked me if I was hungry and wanted to eat. I wasn't particularly hungry, due to my stomach cramping, but assuming she had already cooked me something I followed her back to the Payag, to find her and Emelie busily cooking me a few fried eggs with garlic fried rice. It was possibly the best meal I have thus far eaten at Joyland, and heartily thanked the girls for having cooked it me.

I watched an hour or so of Power Rangers, I headed back to the Dorms again and as the smaller kids were waking and hurrying for more tv time, I slept. At around 4pm I thought it rather quiet and sought after those in my charge. Finding four of them playing what I could only describe as 'frisbee it'. The childish candour and frivolity with which they played rendered me merely an observer, though glad I was to be that, and joined with their laughter as I sat atop the climbing frame, enjoying the warm afternoon and pleasant breeze. Then deciding that the others had perhaps spent far too much of this sunny day glued to the TV set; and wanting more of a chance to engage with them 1:1 for a chat; I went inside and promptly ushered the younger and middle kids out to play whilst the older girls got on with the cooking in peace.

At first they were all rather grumpy at being torn away from their beloved affection of moving cartoon pictures, but eventually settled for childish arguing, play-fighting, chasing and exploring, any of which I was glad of as long as they were breathing some fresh air and catching the sun! We spent some time playing catch, the old past time of getting berries from the tree by lifting children onto my shoulders, and running about to get away from whatever child was being the monster.

I observed several things during this time: the distinct rivalry between Melanie and Christina, which although noticeable at times was never quite so obvious as now; how little Jeffrey spoke or interacted with the others, and how easy it is to render Marites in need of attention.

Of the former, Melanie remains a terror, and although affectionate at times, can set you speechless with a glare, shares her less than agreeable opinions openly, picks on the other children (especially Christina) and is rather bossy and selfish. In a word, she is a handful, and perhaps this is partly due to her being so much younger than her siblings, or perhaps because she was taken from her parents at so young an age, but for whatever causes it requires one to have a strength of character and of love in dealings with her. 

Marites became offended at some action of someone and; deciding to try and reach out to her; quietened myself next to her where she sat, legs tucked up and face down and hidden, a position I knew only too well. I have not yet worked out Marites. She is a compassionate girl, attention seeking definitely, but helpful and eager to please. She has perhaps not got so much going in her favour: she is 10 years old and still in 1st grade: but her determination and eagerness will serve her well, and perhaps one day she will be settled enough not to need to compete for attention.

Anyways, I asked a few questions to try and get her to open up but to no avail, and soon it was hard to have any sort of 1:1 with the other children, especially Melanie, also demanding of my attention. During this time Jerevie had joined us and I tried getting her to share what made her happy or sad in the hope of drawing Marites into the conversation. Still she remained with her head down, and Jerevie revealing that 'Nang Lovely' was the one who cheered her up, (Lovely was 16 and decided to leave Joyland just a few weeks ago) I gave Jerevie a big hug and said that someone else would cheer her up now! Then, proceeding that Marites was not likely to open up here, carried her into the dorm and sat cradling her for a while. Then, upon deciding that perhaps this is just what her schemes desired, and knowing there were also 10 children outside also wanting my attention, I placed her on her bed and left her to it. It was not long before she reappeared, apparently forgetting whatever it was that made her sad, and proceeded to observe the game of catch going on. 

The rest of the evening passed without much incident, and in managing to chat to Sheena, discovered her passion for Brgy. E Lopez and the children there, and of her intentions to have a feeding program for them, due to it being where her Diabetes struck Father lived.

Dinner was soon served and over, prayers said, hugs and 'I love you's exchanged, and with Mamzet and Pastor still not returned, I permitted the middle kids to stay up till 9pm to watch a film, and the older ones whatever charge they normally given, and headed to the comforts of a shower, bed and lights out at 7.30pm.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Araw 28

As today was the first proper day of the holidays, we ate breakfast at 7am, though I still stirred at 5am to hear the older kids rising and showering. Today was fairly uneventful, I slept a lot and the kids played a lot. The older kids got on with the gardening, especially the boys, though I was fairly shocked to find Hill using a machete type knife to chop the banana trees. He seemed confident in its use, though it sent shivers down my spine to see one being used when I knew how such weapons have been used in massacres across the world for centuries. It is an ugly tool to look at.

After morning tea at which I shared out the leftover pack of crisps I had bought when we went to the river, we watched Tangled before lunch. After lunch rested with the younger girls, though I remained asleep even after they left the dorm in the afternoon. I awoke at around 4pm to find that Mamzet and Shine had returned, meaning I was no longer in charge.

Roz came and sat by my bed, and then insisted on cleaning my nails from the nail-varnish we had applied on Saturday. They used a small scalpel like instrument to scape it off rather than nail varnish, but she set to work diligently and carefully while I read a book, even insisting on cleaning ad clipping my toe nails! Roz is a very compassionate child, and I have noticed her watching me and serving me ever since I arrived. She is a new child to me, though she has been here two years, arriving just a month after my last visit.

After she had finished she lay on the bed that had appeared next to mine on the floor and began speaking an asking questions. Before long she told me that her mother and father were dead, killed by 3 men, including a neighbour and her uncle, out of jealousy or revenge for Roz's families plantation or wealth when she was just 7/8 years old. It happened after a disagreement when one of their carabao had destroyed some of the the neighbours crops, and he met not have been contented with the sack of rice Roz' family had paid in compensation.
 I asked if she had any photos of her parents but she did not. I asked if she remembered what they looked like, she said a little. Her dad had a tall nose and her mum was a bit chubby. I asked if she saw her parents being killed and she replied that she had seen her father being 'shot with a stone'. Suddenly I looked into the eyes of this child before me and understood the look of sadness that dwelt in the back of her eyes.

Roz' older siblings, a brother and sister, did not take care of her after her parents died so she was passed around relatives until she came to her Lola (grandfather) who brought her to Joyland. She used to live near Kabankalan, but after her parents were killed she moved in with her sister and boyfriend who didn't feed her enough so she was skinny. She said that she used to steal, as she did my think anything wrong with it, she did not know about Jesus and was only little, but one time her sister caught her and hit her arms and hands. At school the teacher noticed they were swollen and reported it to the DSWD who took Roz away to live with another relative, and her sister moved to Manila.

My heart was filled with so much compassion for Roz as she told me about how she learnt about Jesus and knew it was wrong to steal, and how she had only stolen once at Joyland - some cards to play with. She did not steal any more. I asked if her family ever visited her but the did not. She said that she liked living with her family, and added that she liked it here too. We said she loved to live with Gods family.

I began to wonder of the possibility of reuniting her with her brother, who she said looked like her dad, and after the silence passed between us, she said, "It is sad when your parents die." The tears hung in my eyes, but I held them there as she went on to say that sometimes when she saw others crying she cried too. But sometimes she just got angry, especially when the younger kids did not do as they were told. I wondered how much anger was stored up inside of Roz, even though she was such a compassionate child.

I enquired how much she had told the other kids of her background, knowing that some of the others had had similar experiences, but she said that she didn't like to talk about it. It surprised me then, how willingly she had opened up to me, mostly without prompting, and asked if she had ever spoken about it to Mamzet and Pastor. She said not. I asked if they knew and she shrugged. I wondered how effectively anyone could care for a child such as this without knowing their background, but deduced that her Lola must have explained when he brought her here. I was surprised though, that no one had ever offered her counselling.

A few times after this, some of the other girls came in and interrupted, but Roz only spoke when we were alone. I wondered how many times this week she had wanted to share her story with me. She asked about family, and I told her about my parents. She said I was lucky to have my parents alive, even I they were not together, and I couldn't agree more. Soon the bell rang for dinner, and as Roz walked away I gave her a big hug and repeated again how much I loved her. We spoke no more of our conversation at dinner, and I mentioned it to no-one, but I held her hand at prayers and fought back the tears as I prayed for our loved ones who were not with us, and that God might comfort us this night with his love and strength. When saying goodnight to the kids, I held each one for just a second longer than normal, hoping that something in my love for them might comfort their broken souls from whatever pain lay in their past.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Araw 27

Once everyone was in uniform and ready they went into the Payag, where already some of the non-Joyland scholars and their parents were already seated. Deb was leaving with Pastor Rick as he was going to a retreat in Bacolod, and we said our goodbyes. The kids were sat in the front in rows and the parents scattered on seats at the back. It occurred to me that none of the Joyland kids had parents present, and I was sad for them, but knowing how proud I was of them I hoped my affections might make up for it, maybe even the tiniest bit. The presentations started with the pledges to the flags, Filipino and Christian:

"I pledge allegiance to the Christian flag, and to the Saviour for whose kingdom it stands, one Saviour, crucified, risen and coming again with life and liberty for all who believe. I pledge allegiance to the Bible, Gods holy word. I will make it a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path. I will hide its words in my heart, that I might not sin against God."

The national anthem was sung, followed by a worship song sung by Teacher Jaika and Sheena, and then Mamzet read some Bible verses and introduced the proceedings. For the first time ever since I met her, she appeared nervous! I wondered if it was the parents presence, or because Rick would have normally done the introductions. Shine presented the first set of awards, then Jaika, and it proceeded like this rather rapidly, broken only by a dance to worship by some of the 4th and 5th graders. After the awards Mamzet spoke a message in Illongo, which I didn't understand at all, and the wife of the WOLM church (who is also Shekinah's mum) prayed for everyone. Then the children filed out, some to their parents, some to clear up, and some to stand around chatting.

After most of the visitors had left, the Joyland kids changed back into play clothes (the ones with many stains and holes) and played in the dorms - mainly a strange form of Uno, filipino Monopoly and Boggle. I slept. Morning tea was served at the back of the boys dorm, bananas and bread rolls, and then the younger kids had a turn to watch a film. Soon it was lunch, after which Mamzet and Shine left for Patag, which meant I was in charge!

 I slept most of the afternoon and got up for dinner, and was in high spirits as the kids thought it very funny that I was in charge and wondered what I would do. Mamzet had left strict instructions that no-one was to leave Joyland, but apart from that I had no instructions. I trusted that the routine would generally run things more than me, and I was right.

Some of the older boys were gardening so didn't come for dinner, and we ate early anyway. But they did not come back for prayers though Ferlita rang the bell, and after Erwin came back saying he could not find them, a slight panic rose in my heart that they had jumped ship. The fact that Resthor was with them gave me comfort as I knew how affectionately he cared for me and would not leave whilst I was here. Finally they returned, we prayed, said goodnight and departed for the dorms. I thought it time I brought out my speakers and the kids liked to gather round watching my iPod as it changed song. Soon, lights out, and I stuck to the routine knowing I would be surely found out if the younger ones stayed up later. I was tired, so left the older kids to govern their film-watching and went to bed at 7.30pm with the younger girls after a shower. I don't know what time the older kids went to bed, and didn't ask the following morning at breakfast.

Monday, 15 October 2012


Is the church really the church if it builds walls instead of tearing them down; if it builds church halls instead of houses for the poor?

Is the church really without walls if it refuses to support activities that are not on the 'premises', and is it really a family if it doesn't support the struggling congregation down the road?

Is the church really standing and supporting the broken if it writes policies to keep them out?

Is the church really placing children and young people at the centre if it disregards their needs and ignores their presence?

Is the church really walking in the light if it does everything on its own terms rather than Gods?

Is the church really one of truth if it remains blind to the lies presented to them?

Is the church really living the Great Commission if it worships by singing songs but doesn't action the words in their life; is it really worship at all?

Is the church really loving thy neighbour if it prays for itself but not for persecuted brothers and sisters across the world?

Is the church really understanding true religion if it shuns the homeless but glorified the rich; if it spends hours decorating its building and then leaves them to sleep outside in the snow?

Is the church really practising good stewardship if it spends more money on lighting, heating and equipment each year than it does feeding orphans?

Is the church really local if people drive for miles to their favourite 'church'? Is it really global if some congregations are mega-rich whilst others are struggling to feed their families?

Is the church really understanding forgiveness if it banishes leaders and members for their mistakes? If it views some sinners as worse than others?

Is the church really growing spiritually if leaders are 'nice' rather than risk-taking, adventurous, outcast-friendly rebels?

Is the church reading the right Bible if its response to the Gospel message is only to have a cup of tea?

Is the church really going anywhere if on a Sunday most of the congregation are engaging in traditionalism rather than spiritual disciplines? If members are like a man who looks in a mirror and then forgets what he looks like?

Is the church really going to survive if it ignores the heart-felt longings of the young to satisfy the wants of the old? Is it really prepared to become like little children to understand the Kingdom of Heaven?

These are just some questions I have been pondering over, to continue with my personal questioning over whether what many of us call 'church' is really Gods answer to the problems in this world.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Araw 9

Today I rested, and then Kuya Mhel came and picked me up and took me to Tito Lito and Tita Meldy's house. It is in a very posh subdivision, with lots of big houses, and when I saw their house I could not believe how big it is! The downstairs (cellar) is about 15 times the size of Des' entire house. It also has three TV's, air-con, Wii, WiFi, pool table, darts board, mini kitchen, two bathrooms with hot showers, many chairs, dining table - and that is just the basement. It is unreal.

Kuya says that the Fider's are very hospitable. They support PNA a lot and have many people to stay. It is so good to know that there are well-off Filipino's who are still engaged and actively helping the poor, when it could be so easy to cut yourself off from that part of society. Personally though, I am not too sure where I stand. It is nice to stay here and relax, with everything, but it can be very lonely. Des is so friendly, and her generosity means so much more to me because she has less. When I am with her, we share what we have, she with me and me with her, it is not given from the what is left, it involves sacrifice.

Anyways, at dinner I had a chat with the Fider's and they are a genuinely lovely couple, with two kids, both very friendly and welcoming. We had a good chat over dinner about what I loved about the Philippines so much, and I talked to them about my wish to one day build and open an orphanage here. They know someone who runs a street-children project in Manila and said that they would introduce me to him, and perhaps I would be able to visit the project and see what they do. They are two of the friendliest people I have met in the Philippines, and it is great that they are so involved with PNA and are so giving of their time, money and their home. I can tell that knowing them would be really beneficial to get my project off the ground, as they have the right connections.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Araw 7/8

Tuesday I was ill. Very ill. Sickness hit my stomach hard, and even after all the food was gone it was still trying to reject the water I was drinking. So I basically spent a lot of the day sleeping. Now it's 5am and I'm finding it really hard to sleep. The noise outside is now at daytime levels - very noisy!

On Monday night the next-door neighbour C* came over. She is 10-years old. Des told me that she has been abused, physically and sexually by people who are supposed to care for her. It is a really sad story. I asked Des about social services but apparently the abusers lie and cover it up. Even within a family not in extreme poverty there is sadness and brokenness. Oh, it breaks my heart.


Wednesday during the day I was feeling a bit better, so Kuya Mhel came and picked me up on his scooter to take me to Payatas. The scooter was fun, if not quite dangerous. Mhel is a good driver, but the roads here are dangerous in general. We had to travel through the different parts of Payatas so I got to see parts of Payatas A & B that I've never seen before. There were so many people hanging around on the streets, so many people trapped in the circle of poverty, each with their own story. We visited Lhen and her baby (toddler) Nicole, and Licel and Efren with their baby Josh (9mnths). Both very very cute. And growing up in Payatas. Many children growing up in Paytatas, with the shadow of the mountain that both gives hope and destroys lives.

Mhel also took me to see his son Nicolas, so big now. 3 years old and top of his nursery class. Mhel's house is now smaller than ever, as they have put a divide down the middle to make a seperate space for their extended family. It is now no bigger than about 10ft2. 

When I got back I was so tired I fell asleep. I woke about midnight as Des and Paul came to sleep in my bed again as JR had been called to an emergency meeting! I don't know what's going on with his business, but I'm guessing if he is being called to an emergency meeting at 11.30pm something's not right. Des started telling me about when JR was earning good money and they were living in a nice condo that was in the good part of town. But they did not save as much as they should so when JR lost his job they had to move. 

I didn't know it, but the room I am staying in is not normally part of their 'house', but only the kitchen and small living room. Des wants to move into this room when I leave as it is bigger and has an inside toilet. It would also mean that no-one would have to sleep in the kitchen! I asked Des about the dump, and she said that her father worked there when she was 9 she joined him on the dump, along with 6 of her family. She has many scars and marks on her hands and feet but when I ask her about them she says she can't remember how she got them. Now only 2 of Des' siblings live at home: her two younger sisters, Niclin and Levie, although they stay here a lot to look after Paul when Des and JR are at work.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Araw 6

Today I went with Des & Emmy Lou for their work. They go to 'Beauty Bar' in different malls to take inventory's etc. (Emmy Lou is training Des at the moment, so after that Des will do it on her own) This means that I get to sit in air-conned coffee shops in posh malls and use the free WiFi to catch up with England.

We travelled a lot today, and I got to see a lot of Manila, the good and the bad. So many here in poverty; and so many living with wealth and excess. When we were leaving the MRT station there was a small boy asleep on the floor - maybe 6/7 years old. Fast asleep on the stair-well of a busy train station, and hundreds of people just passing him by. I wanted to stop and talk to him but it was so busy we were just pushed along by the crowd. I couldn't get the image of him asleep out of my head all day.

There were many more 'street' children walking around barefoot in tatty clothes outside the MRT stations and hanging around at the Jeepney stops. I wanted to talk to them all, help them all. It brought be  back to reality with a thud, reminded me why I am here after all. There are so many sad sad stories, in a country of such beauty and promise. Things must change.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Araw 5

Today I needed some rest - I'm not feeling the best and it's taking me a while to adjust to the heat and humidity. I went with Des to the Veg shop, and couldn't believe how many flies there were. The meat around here is nearly always out on display in the stalls, despite the heat, so you have to be so careful cooking it. Des was teaching me how to prepare and make Chop Soy, which is basically lots of vegetables cooked in vinegar and soy sauce. 

I rested again in the afternoon and then this evening we all went to church. Des and JR attend a large Catholic church. The entire service was in Filipino, so it was an interesting service, to say the least. I didn't know any of the songs, but followed Des and JR's lead in when to recite, sit, kneel or stand. Even though I'm always being looked at, it was the first time I felt uncomfortable. There was a few kids a few rows in front of me who kept turning round and looking at me. I guess it would have been a strange sight - a pale, youngish female (unaccompanied by a white man) attending a Filipino-speaking church. Not exactly something that happens every day. After the service, we took Paul (Des' son) up to the Father for a blessing. On the way out, Des lit some candles for various prayer requests, and we got a Tricycle back to Dahlia.

Back at Des', Dang, Lhiz and Reymond came over for dinner, so we had lots of joking around until it was time for them to go. Outside, it was raining heavily and there was loads of lightening. This evening, Sharmaine, me and Nicki slept on the double bed, and JR, Des and Paul on the floor. Family living. :)

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Araw 4

Today we went to Moa for a GK Expo with the Human Nature team today. The journey was nearly 2 hours on jeepneys, and the MRT but it was really good. The whole thing was about Filipino businesses that exist to aid the Poor, and there were some really good initiatives going on. People here are so resourceful. The last guy up was Dylan Wilk, a guy that everyone keeps talking about: he's one of the presidents of Human Nature, and married to Tony Meloto's daughter. He's British, but loves the Philippines and Filipino's. Whoop Whoop! He gave a really moving speech about how important it is to treat people like people in business, rather than collateral or as a means to an end. He also talked about Filipino's as being people of worth - just as worthwhile as English or American or Japanese. Sadly, it seemed as if every person in the room really needed to hear somebody say that. I made it my mission to somehow show every Filipino that I met how amazing and special they are. After his speech he invited all the Human Nature employees up onto the stage, and I was beaming with pride as I knew a good number of them. (And had made friends with a fair few during the journey there.)

After the Expo, we went to Jolibee's for lunch and then headed to Trinoma so Des could do some work. She works for Human Nature too, but her role is to visit each of the Beauty Bar's that stock HN products and take an inventory of what they have, as well as tidying the HN stand and promoting the products. Human Nature's strapline is : Pro Philippines, Pro Poor, Pro Environment. All of their products are made by poor Filipino farmers, and are 100% natural. They have some really nice stuff.

At Trinoma I wandered round the Mall and bought some books about living as a true Christian and helping the poor. Back at the Human Nature main store, I sat down to read some while Des wrote her weekly report. Home, dinner and bed. It's been a long day but I've had so much fun, can't believe I've only been here three days, it feels like forever.

Friday, 5 October 2012

Araw 3

I had a lovely long sleep. Not too hot, and no bugs. Nice :) I woke up a few times in the night but it was still dark so I went back to sleep. Des came in at 8am and had cooked breakfast so I ate that (pancit, egg noodles) and went back to sleep. Got up again about 1pm and JR had cooked chicken adobo. I watched some films with Des' sisters: Nicki and Levi, and JR's sister Sharmeen. I needed to buy some plug adaptors so they took me to the local mall via tricycle. I think the jet-lag was sitting in as I didn't do much else but sleep until Des came back in the evening, and we chatted and laughed about things until bed.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Araw 2

I arrived in Manila at 4.30pm local time. The Philippines is currently GMT(+7), so it's been just under 24 hours since I left home. I am very excited. I smile at every Filipino that I see. There is always a little panic that goes through my stomach when I've been waiting for half hour and have little way of contacting people and little idea of where I've got to get to. Des lives in Dahlia Avenue, Quezon City, but I've not been there before so would have no idea if the taxi driver was taking me the right way or not. So I was pretty glad to see Gladys and Budda when they arrived to pick me up. 

We took a yellow airport taxi as they are slightly more secure and trustworthy (apparently.) On the journey to Des' we passed a minivan that was on fire, and had been abandoned in the middle of a busy road. We drove around it, and I was starkly reminded of where I was. It looked like it had been there a while and there were no emergency services yet in attendance. The journey was 2 hours, but I fell asleep after catching up with Gladys. I received a great welcome at Des'! Gladys, Emmy-Lou, Budda, Angelo, Mark and Mhel were all there! There was a great feast of sweet spaghetti and 'RC' waiting (Masarap!), and they had put a sign up in 'my' room saying 'Welcome home Ami'. It felt so right.

I managed to chat to all of the guys and gals from Payatas, a lot of them have finished the Mission Volunteers programme and are now working and providing for their families. All that I spoke to have managed to avoid the trap of the Dump. It is so great to be here with them again. Des said she will take me round all the Malls with her while she works, and then we'll be at church on Sunday. Her day off is Tuesday. I've had a shower now, (a cold bucket of water and a jug) and I'm off to bed now. All this excitement has tired me out.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Araw 1

Flight QR076 to Doha. Seat 11A.
Boarding: 2.30pm.
Take-Off: 4.00pm.

Journey up to London was pretty easy going. Dave came with me. We grabbed something to drink in the airport, but I had to say goodbye and head through security as they seemed to be calling people to the gate really early. I can do airport security blindfolded nowadays. I've done it on my own so many times. Seems strange, 5 years ago, I was barely able to get the train alone, let alone fly half-way around the world.

On the plane. It's really hot in here. I'm sat behind some passengers with a young child, who seems to scream a lot. I really hope he doesn't do that all the way to Doha. Not that I'd notice so much, I'm so excited that I'm finally on the way. It's come around quick. The in-flight entertainment loots pretty good: Dark Shadows, MIB 3, Good Will Hunting, Moonrise Kingdom, etc...

Take off was delayed. Apparently there is a critically ill baby on board flying home to Qatar with their parents. They have medical escort so I guess they needed to make sure everything was stable before take-off. It all seemed to go smoothly once we hit the run-way anyway. All good.

It's strange how toy-like the world looks from up here. How vast and glorious the British landscape looks. Miles and miles of interwoven roads and towns, surrounded by fields and trees. Flying into a cloud now...

I've spent a long time on the flight thinking about Dave. A few people have questioned my decision to go out with him, perhaps because I took so long to give in. All I know is that my heart feels content when he is around, and I shall really miss him over the next few months. I kinda wish he was coming with me, could share this experience with me, but it wasn't possible.  We're only a few minutes away from landing now. See you on the ground.

Brief moments in Doha airport - then swiftly back through Gate 17/19 to board the shuttle bus. Back on another plane, Seat 11A again. A long 9 hour flight ahead of me, but for some reason, whenever I am surrounded by Filipino's, (as I am now) I feel as if I am amongst friends. :)

Thursday, 27 September 2012


Church. What's the first thing you think of? Boring, old-fashioned, big ugly building, weird Christian people who don't have any fun? Or perhaps you have more optimistic thoughts... Nice. Organic. Friendly. But even with these latter thoughts, where does our idea of church even come from? Why is it that we sit in rows and sing songs and read liturgy and baptise people by 'full-immersion'? Does our current idea of 'church' actually fit in with what the Bible tells us, or have we gone astray?

Perhaps the answer lies in it's meaning. In the original Greek texts of the New Testament, the word 'ekklesia' is what is substituted in English versions of the Bible for 'church'. But in ancient Greek, 'church' was 'kuriakos', meaning, 'of the Lord'. Therefore, when the original translators chose to substitute 'ekklesia' for 'church', there was a shift from the 'called-out ones' of 'ekklesia' to the 'of the Lord' people of 'kuriakos'.

Be that as it may, in name or meaning, what signifies that 21st Century churches deserve the reputation  of 'ekklesia' that is used to describe the disciples over 115 times in the NT? Paul and Silas had a reputation. They were 'trouble-makers' all over the known world (Acts 17:6). But what were they doing that had caused such uproar? Perhaps they were telling people to go to church, or to support the local Minister, or to be nice to their neighbours? No.

Paul and Silas were declaring that there was another king: Jesus. A king bigger than Caesar, a King that was building his Kingdom, a king that was at war! Paul and Silas were not advocating for churches, they were building God's Kingdom. And being part of God's kingdom means over-throwing all the other kings in the minds of the people and alienating them from the mental hold of the things that ruled their lives. They were calling people out of their differences to surrender their hearts and lives to the Kingdom where all who heard and believed would join as one community.

So where does this modern idea of 'church' come from? In effect, (without boring you with a very long lecture on church history) it grew, influenced by culture, from the moment Constantine legalised Christian worship in 313AD, until around 1950... (when it just got stuck.) Churches reflected the culture around them, strict, formal, controlled. No longer where Christian's the ones 'called-out' to follow Jesus, they were the ones that 'ventured out' on a Sunday morning. For many, faith bore no resemblance nor significance to everyday life.

Fortunately though, this was not true for everyone. There are many amazing men and women of God in British history that lived the message they heard and believed. At one time -  the church was at the forefront in societal change - providing hospitals, schools, food, shelter, clothing, care and love. It took the governmental institutions decades to catch up with what our forefather's were doing. But now? Many churches reject homosexuals whereas society has been accepting for years. Many churches reject divorcees though society has deemed it acceptable. Many churches demoralise women though they won 'equality' in society nearly 100 years ago. When did the Church stop leading the way in love, acceptance, grace and humility?

Have we become so scared that our values will be undermined by society that we have locked ourselves away in our brick buildings to sing our songs and say our prayers before creeping back into the world to join the crowd? Why are we afraid to stand for what we say we believe? Is God not big enough? Is Jesus' message not radical enough? Church should be about more than going out on a Sunday morning to sit in an uncomfortable pew in a building that is normally too cold or too hot, standing occasionally to sing a few songs half-heartedly, and listen to someone talk for half an hour before saying a few heartless prayers, stand around drinking average coffee and making awkward conversation and then go home, unchanged. 

Even if the preacher is particularly good, or the worship particularly pleasing, how long before you're back to your life, living the same way as always, buying non-fairtrade foods, unethical clothing, moaning about the bills and how expensive holidays are, fobbing off charity workers in the high street because you 'can't afford' to give, and yet had pre-ordered the latest child-laboured Apple product and enjoy the luxury of hot meals, new clothes, couple of holidays a year and Sky TV. Isn't anyone else fed up of the hypocrisy? We watch Man VS Food and we laugh, because it's funny to watch a man trying to eat ridiculous sized portions of food in an hour. But the deep sadness is that 21, 000 children died today because of starvation, unclean water and easily preventable diseases.

So I ask you this: If the 'ekklesia' of the 21st century are satisfied with being 'church', then what is the point?