Monday, December 10, 2007

Two Days in the Philippines

I had an awesome weekend! On Friday at 6pm, I flew to Manila, arrived at the airport and anxiously sorted through a sea of faces, trying to find Jane, the "girl in the red shirt". I finally found her, not long after I had started imagining how I might spend a weekend in Manila on my own. We were joined up by the rest of our group: three South Africans, one Hong Konger, two American Hong Kongers, Jane, and myself.

We stayed the night in Manila. Though I was only there for a very short time, Manila didn't give off a good vibe. I heard quite a few sirens through the night. We were greeted by a guard dog and a security check at the hotel entrance. I wasn't sad to leave early the next morning for our destination- Bohol.

We arrived in Bohol, a tropical, coconut-tree spotted island just south of Cebu, which you may be familiar with. Bohol is known for its chocolate hills, the smallest primates on earth (tarsiers), white sand beaches and the fattest python in captivity. We actually saw all but the first during our day there.

At the airport we were picked up by the Filipino workers for ICM (International Care Ministries). They were a major highlight for me. Such giving, hardworking and joyful people. Filipino people in general are such fun, easygoing, quick to smile kind of people. I have much to learn from their joy-full way of life, evidently not stemming from their circumstances. The ICM gang showed us some highlights of their work there. We stopped by a slum, where we watched the feeding program at work. About 40 ladies waited there to receive their weekly supply of rice, given by the pastor responsible for distribution in their community. The pastor serves as the touchpoint for ICM, feeling out the needs of the people in his area and then addressing them using the ICM resources and workers. We spent time treating the kids to candy.

They also took us to visit two "special patient" cases. The first was a sweet one year old boy, suffering from severe eye problems. ICM takes the special cases and gives them what they need to pay for surgery. We also visited a twelve year old boy in desperate need of three major bowel surgeries. Both were extremely touching to visit, and realize what a difference had been made in their life because of God's provision extended through ICM. I held that baby boy tight, and we prayed for his vision, his life and his family.

In the afternoon, we saw a couple of sights and stopped by the ICM's crusade, "Celebrate Jesus". There were about 2000 people there.

We enjoyed supper with the entire ICM crew. There are about 100 ICM workers, all local Filipinos. They are working in 3 different places in the Visayas area in the Philippines.

The next morning we joined them for church. The preacher was a blazing fireball! He prayed for English before he started....and he had way more than that. He spoke of the futility of our efforts without the Spirit of God. It was a powerful morning- later he prayed for the two fourteen year olds that were on our team. Very special.

We had to leave shortly after that. It was an extremely fast weekend, but so worth it! I was moved by the hearts of the people there, and very excited about the work being done there. It seems the needs are endless, and many times the main response is feeling overwhelmed. But ICM has managed to create a ministry that is touching so many lives, meeting so many different needs. It is primarily supported by Hong Kongers, and within the Philippines it is generally carried out completely by local people. It's exciting stuff! This coming year, they are planning to relocate an entire slum- between 10,000 and 15,000 people!!

The group I traveled with really made for a great weekend, too. They were a lot of fun!! I learned a lot about the Philippines AND South Africa, too! The mother and daughter combo were always laughing...which made them quite a joy to be around. They infected kids with joy by blowing up countless balloons and shaping them into swords and dogs. The street kids loved them.

Oh, there are more stories and more reflections- but this is already very long, and I'm ready for bed! Hope you enjoy the pictures up on Flickr. They always tell the tale best.


Jill Slywka said...

this sounds like an awesome weekend, harm! what a neat experience - even if it was just a quick visit! the little boy with eye problems particularly peaks my interest - but that's because i'm me, and the eye kind of interests me!
enjoy your christmas! sometime soon in 2008 i'll send you a real email - it's long overdue. love and miss you friend.

Gibo said...

hi. im from tagbilaran and am happy to read your post about your weekend trip to bohol and your support for that feeding project there. hope you can stay longer next time. thank you.

Gibo said...

by the way, i stayed in hongkong for a course at hku and really loved the "efficiency" of the transport system there. i think it is a very visitor-friendly place too.

Harmony said...

Hi, Gibo...thanks for stopping by. You live in a beautiful part of the world, though it's really the people that make it such an enjoyable place to be. And yes, Hong Kong is a very tourist friendly place to visit. Glad you enjoyed it!

nonsensical said...

I saw your blog featured in bohol resorts. It's sad that you didn't like Manila but I can assure you, Manila has a lot to offer. Just come to Intramuros and you'll see.

But of course, Bohol is the best. I like the feeling of being in the province. Life is so simple. I want to come back again and again.

Happy blogging!

Bang said...

Hi! I'm from the Philippines. My husband and I have also been in Bohol a few weeks ago. It's a great place. The people are kind. The beach and the chocolate hills are both wonderful. We want to go back next year, together with our friends. There are other great places here in the Philippines, come and visit again. Happy new year!