Saturday, April 19, 2014

CaRaBao, CaR RiDeS, aND CHiLDReN

Holy Week. I'd never been in the Philippines the week before Easter, so that wasn't ever a thought that crossed my mind. It all starts on Maundy Thursday. Stores either shut their doors or drastically reduce their hours from then until Black Saturday, with Good Friday falling in between.

As we were driving down that street on the coastline I talked about yesterday I remember seeing a group of five young boys walking down some stairs towards the water. Two of them had on dark red hats that looked like something the ancient roman solidiers would wear. In between those two boys was where the other three boys were. It wasn't until we got closer that I realized what was going on. Two of the boys had whips in their hands and right in front of them was a boy with a cardboard cross on his back. That was the first, but certainly not the last time we would see something like that. Good Friday was in full swing. 

The next morning began Black Saturday. Bright and early Beth got a text inviting us to a Holy Week Celebration in a place called Carigara about an hour away from where we were staying. One of our goals in coming to set up the program was to get a better understanding oh the people, their needs and the culture, so Arturo, Beth and I jumped in her truck and began the drive. 

When we first got into Carigara we pulled in to a church parking lot to meet up with the people that had invited us. We piled five more people into the back of the little red truck and made our way through about ten barangays (the native term for something equivalent to a village). With each barangays we passed through we picked up more and more people. Everyone was on their way. It almost felt like a parade with everyone lining the streets and making going in the same direction.  Only this was a parade that anyone and everyone could join, and believe me they did; bands included. I love about the culture here :)

Over the next couple hours we would see native dances, listen to a local singer, get trambled by people trying to catch a better look at the horse fights, watch as people got chased by carabao, and stare in shock at the cock fight. There were police everywhere trying to keep people from getting to close to the animals, but it never worked. It was absolute chaos, but that's just the way things are around here. The culture is it's own and it is such an exciting thing to experience. Although the cock fight was a little too intense for my liking, being able to see life through the eyes of a local is one of my absolute favorite parts about traveling! 

We were just about to head back to the little red truck when some of the missionaries that also happened to be at the celebration asked us if they could catch a ride back to the church with us. In true Filipino fasion we told them to pile in. There were ten of us in the back of that truck on the way down the hill. Five of them were missionaries, and three of the five missionaries were American. All of them were all here when Typhoon Yolanda hit. The stories they had were almost unbelievable. Three days without food or water. Some of their homes flooded with over 4 feet of water. In the church we had stopped at the day before 500 people had climbed up into the ceiling and straddled 2x4's for 5-6 hours to avoid the contaminated water below. 

Before the typhoon there were abot 240 missionaries in the entire mission. Afterward about 80 of them went home on temporary leave until they could find a place for them, but not many of them came back to Tacloban. Elder Baird was one of the missionaries that went home for a short amount of time, but he was able to come back to Tacloban and happened to be one of the missionaries riding in the back of the truck. He said that while he was home he was able to write his entire account on a website ( and as of now it is the most detailed account of that day written by a missionary. For the last six months I have been hearing stories about what it was like over here when Yolanda hit. But to be here where I am looking the destruction in the face, and listening to the stories of the people that were here first hand puts things in to a whole new perspective. 

After grabbing a bite to eat with the missionaries the three of us made our way northwest to Capoocan to visit a barangay called Talisay. The whole drive was right along the Carigara Bay and the entire thing was dotted with coconut trees. The view was breathtaking!

Being in Talisay has been one of my favorite things so far on this trip. There is something about those rural barangays that I just fall in love with every time. The main reason for us going to Talisay was to check out some projects that had been done there earlier in the year. Several homes had been constructed, and they even put up a tiny church right there in the Barangay. In that area there aren't quite enough priesthood leaders to make a branch so what the church had them do was organize a "Group." "Group Leaders" where then called to lead the group and just like that it is a fully functioning portion of the church. 

As we were looking at the different construction projects there was this group of four little kids that began to follow us. Up until that point I hadn't been able to use much Tagalog. I wasn't even sure if they spoke it wife Waray Waray is the native language in this area. So at one point I turned towards them, got down on their level and said "Nakakintindi ka ba ng Tagalog?" (Or in English: Do you understand Tagalog?). All of a sudden they looked at me, grinned and said "Oo!" I went on to ask them their names and how old they were. From that point on they went everywhere we did. 

Rumel, Ashley, Sammy & Wednesday
  Once we finished looking at the various projects in the upper half of the barangay they wanted to take us down to he lower portion to take a look from tag the ocean from the shoreline. With the Group Leaders as our guides and fifteen mini followers we took the quick walk to the shore. I will never ever get sick of the view from the coast looking out over the ocean.  

There was only one more thing on our itinerary before we would head back to Tacloban. We wanted to continue up the path we had driven in on to see what other barangays were there. This time we didn't have the group leaders, but our trail of followers was with us every step of the way. 

Do you know what I love about these kids. I can barely speak their language, but in such a short amount of time I am able to get to know them and their personalities so well. Like the boy who carried his little toy car, rolling it down every hill we can across. Or the boy who made sure everyone felt loved by him. Then there were the girls who loved it when I would say something in Tagalog so that they couple tell me what I said in English, and the little boy who carries his bamboo boat everywhere like Linus and his blanket. It was only after a lot of coaxing that he let Arturo carry it for him. There was also the boy who ran up ahead of us, plopped down on the ground, posed, and begged us to take a picture. Before we knew it everyone else was there too.  Some of the kids were shy, but when one child would begin to sing even them would join in. I live for those little moments, when all of a sudden it's not a disaster zone, but a place where life is so simple and so full of joy. That's the reason why I keep coming back to this place that I love, and I am thankful everyday for those little moments. 

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