Saturday, October 4, 2014

Philippines 2014 Visit #2 - John Dave

Monday September 29th, 2014
The second stop on my journey was John Dave in Canlaon City, who is now sponsored by my parents. To get to John Dave’s home required a long bus trip. I arrived in Bacolod about 5.30pm, and as we were driving to the bus terminal, the passengers all agreed that there would be no more buses, so the driver offered to take me there directly, for a relatively exorbitant fee. I didn’t really have much choice, so away we went.

The driver was a friendly old chap called Vincent. He asked me why I was in Bacolod and I was able to share with him about my work with Ruel and Compassion. By this time it was dark, and after all the other passengers were dropped off he pulled over and transferred me to his brother’s van, “because my eyesight isn’t very strong” he said as he squinted at me from close range. I believed him.

Well, the next three-and-a-half hours were a crazy adventure. I give him credit for trying to get me there in record time, but you have to drive to the conditions. The roads were atrociously bumpy and pot-holey but he rarely slowed down, resulting in a long trip of bumps and jolts that wasn’t much fun. Like I thought he might, the driver tried to wrangle a few extra hundred pesos out of me when  we arrived in Canlaon City, but I wasn’t having any of that. Because I hadn’t eaten since lunchtime, the first thing I did was wolf down a cheeseburger and a club sandwich, and went to bed relieved, content and on a full stomach.

In the morning I was picked up by Crystal, the Project Director of PH813, Lampara Child Development Center, where John Dave attends. The Project has been running for 24 years, and currently has 373 kids of all ages in their sponsorship program. They also have 41 mothers and babies in their Child Survival Program, which is funded by a couple from Tasmania.

This day was not an activity day, but all the staff were there. When we arrived I was greeted with smiles and met John Dave’s whole family. His Mum works for the government on short term contacts. His Dad is a bodyguard for the city Mayor. He normally works every day but had taken this day off to see me. There are

four children in the family: Jeannel is 15 and in 9th Grade. She didn’t seem too sure what she wanted to do once she left school, but she came up with ‘nurse.’ Bryan is 14 and he wants to be a soccer player. Robin is 12 and he wants to be a scientist. John Dave is nine and he wants to be a doctor. The older three speak and understand some English, so it made communicating a lot easier and more enjoyable.

We had a short conversation with the family, then I was introduced to all the staff in a barrage of names, and taken on a tour of the Project. When we got to the church John Dave was keen to show me his drumming skills. He was very good for a little guy, and learns to play as part of Project activities. Of course I got on the drums straight after, and all the staff joined in a drums-only version of ‘One Way, Jesus.’

I have to say, in my experience the friendliest Filipinos seem to be the ones who are associated with Compassion. This group of staff were incredibly welcoming and joyful, and they came with us everywhere during the day, so there was a nice convoy of motorcycles following our truck. Normally it’s just the translator and Project Director who accompany me. The best thing is, about seven of them are former sponsored children themselves, including the Project Director!

The home visit was next. The family had been living in their current house for about three years and they own the rights to it, which means they don’t have to pay anything to stay there. The house has three rooms: living room, one bedroom for the parents and one bedroom for all four kids (poor 15 year old Jeannel!). They sleep at the back of the house, and one of the walls was destroyed by a falling tree during a typhoon, and still hadn’t been repaired. They put a big mattress up against the wall in an attempt to keep out the cold and rain.

Early on in the day John Dave had been subdued and visibly distressed due to a persistent toothache. I was really worried this was going to affect our day together or even cut it short. When I prayed for the family at their house, I asked God for healing for John Dave. I closely studied him for the rest of the day and there was not a single time he put his hand to his mouth or showed signs of discomfort. God is a healer!    

The next stop was lunch at my hotel for the whole family and the Project staff. I met the senior Pastor of the church, Pastor Bert and we chatted. After this we jumped in the back of our truck and headed on a nice, bumpy, uphill ride to see the “Century Tree,” which is about 400 years old. I had never seen anything like it, it was just mammoth. I believe it is a sacred site, and we had to stop into the tourism office to ask permission to go there. I was told it used to be the location for spirit worship and people were afraid to go there because of superstition and fear of the beings that were living in the tree. 

While there, we were able to have a kick of the Australian football, or as John Dave called it, "the red ostrich egg.” I met John Dave back in April 2013, but he had to share me with my two other sponsored kids. I got the sense that today he enjoyed having me to himself. He was very animated and fascinated with me. My white and hairy arms and legs were the focus of constant attention, he would rub them slowly with a sense of wonder. It was funny to watch.

The final task for the day was shopping. Canlaon is a small town and doesn’t have a mall, so we went to the market in the middle of town. I gave Mama some money to buy the family groceries, and I gave each of the kids the equivalent of $10 to buy whatever they wanted. I could tell by their reaction that they had rarely, if ever, been entrusted with that amount of money before, and it was humbling to see their sense of anticipation as we walked to the shops. The older three kids bought some shoes and there was also badminton racquets, a basketball, a SpongeBob Squarepants backpack and a Ben10 video game.

Finally it was time to go. The whole crew followed us to the bus terminal, the guys grabbed my bags and plonked me safely in the front seat of the big coach headed for Bacolod. They worded up the driver about who I was and where I was going and waved me off when the bus left. I was so grateful to be so well looked after and cared for. I praise God for the staff at Project PH813 and I know He will continue to bless them.

2 comments:

  1. I love how many former sponsored kids are now working in Compassion!! And how funny that John Dave was fascinated by your whiteness ;)

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  2. Loved this! I sponsored a young lady at the Lampara project until she joined the LDP.

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