Sunday, June 21, 2015

Carabao plowing in the field

A delivery needed to be made in Ayungon; we left around 6:30 am to meet the branch president with the goods.  After the drop off we continued South and came to a cross road; the road sign said  Binalbagan 18 km one way or Isabela 12 km down another road.  George asked where I wanted to go.  I chose Isabela as several missionaries have told me how they love serving in this area.  We were not disappointed.  We headed inland and were in awe of the beauty.

Road to St. Augustine

The white steeple was visible long before we arrived at the small beautiful chapel and the 4 missionaries serving there were greeting people as they gathered for Church.  The Binalbagan Stake President was there, President Antonio.  Two of the Elders were preparing to go to a special sacrament meeting.  President Antonio had never been to the St. Augustine group and desired to go so we took the Elders and President on a journey never to be forgotten.  We turned off the main road and climbed a rocky road.  As the narrow road wound around we saw people working the rice fields with their carabao and mothers and children soaped up taking baths by the community water pumps.

Very narrow pathway in the middle of rice fields - steep drop on either side
Narrow pathway
Shoe full of mud after slipping off the "straight and narrow" path
When we came to the end of the road we were told there was a short walk.  We specifically asked the Elders if the walk could be made in our dress shoes and clothes.  They assured us that we would have no problem if we stayed on the path.  Turns out, this was easier said than done.  Okay so the short walk which took us about 15 minutes over slippery rocks on a narrow path with running water on both sides of the rice fields was a little challenging.  I did slip losing a shoe in deep mud to my ankles, but the Stake President dug for it and found it.  I was thankful to see the meeting place only to realize we had to climb about an 8 foot steep embankment.

Humble meeting place

We arrived to a humble home nestled on a beautiful hill.  Assembled were some 60 people for the Church service.  We were told there were 30 members and some 30 investigators who came because it was the only Church meeting in that area.  We both had the privilege of speaking along with the Stake President.  Our remarks were brief and slowly spoken so hopefully these people who speak little English could understand a few words.

View from behind meeting place

I actually prayed that George and I would be able to safely get back to the truck.  Our prayers were answered when the owner of the home where we had our meeting offered to take us back to the truck.  We walked through a lot of mud and water, but it was much easier than walking on the narrow pathway.  We asked the Elders why they hadn’t taken us on the easier path and they said because the other path was a “short cut”.

People drying their rice near St. Augustine
Carabao pulling a cart

Earlier this week George received a text from a friend.  He said his brother was in the hospital and they were hungry and had no relatives in Bacolod to bring food.  George asked if we could help and they said “Yes” and then added for “three people”.  We went to Jolibees a fast food place, and asked for their best selling Filipino meals and bought 3 with extra rice.  The hospital is the poor hospital (not where missionaries go).  Even with food in hand and the patient’s name, we were scrutinized and had to provide identification.  We were finally allowed to proceed after we gave up our plastic bag; no plastic bags allowed.  I put the bottled water in my purse.  We then walked through the maze of halls and rooms filled with old beds and sick people.  After being directed another way, a small older woman came up to us and told us she was Angelo’s mother.  Our friend’s mother found us.  It is always humbling to come to this place, but today as we ventured into the crowded men’s ward with at least 50 beds full of sick men along with their hovering families, I was overcome with emotion.  We were told the food is not provided in this part of the hospital.  George left pesos for future meals.

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