That phrase was first uttered (okay more like shouted) by me in the year of 2006 to two unsuspecting Norwegians by the names of Kim and Siri Marte. I met them when I studied in South Africa, along with many other fantastic Norwegians, to add to the list of the wonderful ones I already knew (Annette Morwena Hope, you are at the top of that list!). This past week I had the chance to meet even more amazingly lovable people from the great land of Norway. Funny, I went to the Philippines and spent my time with a whole lot of… Norwegians.
The first stop on my short trip was Cavite (an hour-with no traffic!-south of Manila) where Natalie (my travel companion/friend) and I stayed at the Ministries Without Borders Philippines, Inc. (MWBPI) mission house. Our first night there two woman gave birth in the Maternity Clinic… where they offer mother and birthing classes and all check-ups as well as the delivery free of charge. I had no idea that my first night in the Philippines would entail me watching two babies gasp their first breaths of air; watching them turn from a dark shade of purple to a healthy dark almond color was simply poetic.
Attached to the Maternity Clinic is a Children’s Home (orphanage?), a home for abandoned babies that are put up for adoption as well as children who are malnourished or have other medical problems. The children are treated and as soon as they are healthy they are reunited with their families. Currently a beautiful 3 year old boy with Down Syndrome is being taught how to walk (among other things) so that he can go home. They also have two or three malnourished children trying to get healthy to go home and more kiddies who are up for adoption. Each and every one of them is so precious, it was so hard to say goodbye to them.
Second stop: Mindoro Island
On Mindoro Island I witnessed even more love, care, and generosity. El Nino (Southern Oscillation, is a climate pattern that occurs across the tropical Pacific Ocean on average every five years) may be causing the United States to have record breaking crops this year, but it is doing the opposite affect on the Philippines. El Nino is causing strong winds that dry out the land, leaving the Mangyans (name for the eight indigenous groups found on Mindoro island) with little to no food. It has been about a month and a half and many villages are forced to eat the only food they have left; poisonous roots, they spend all day washing out the poison in order to eat it. MWBPI has been working on helping the people grow crops in order to sell and support themselves, but the affects of El Nino has set them back. While I was there we packed and distributed food (enought to last two weeks) for 300 families. We also saw fields of dead crops caused by poor farming and the drought, but the Mangyans are willing to learn and are extremely appreciative. They were respectful and are being led by some wonderful and kind-hearted pastors.
I gained so much knowledge on this trip it is overwhelming. Noralv and Tone Askeland (the Norwegians who run MWBPI) were fantastic hosts and opened their hearts and every door possible to help me understand the programs they are running and the way things work in the Philippines. For example, the government is extremely corrupt. If people are starving the officials will request food and instead of handing it out they store it until it is time for re-elections, then pass it out under their name to the places where they know votes will count (which is not among the Manygans). If the police suspect you are working with the NPA (New Peoples Army) they shoot you, no warning, a bullet and you are dead.
I could go on but I will draw this post to a close. All in all I cannot wait until time and circumstances brings me back to the Philippines and until then they are in my thoughts and prayers. Also, the country is beautiful!