Sisters

Mihaima. She is a curious 9yr old. Right away she jumps on the wall next to me as I sort medicine. 10 pills in every sachet.

“What is your name?”

“Adam. Ano pangalan mo?”

“Mihaima…” She stops and smiles before jumping down and running off.

After awhile I take off my sunglasses and keep working: 7…8…9…10 pills sorted without contaminating them. Grab a new sachet.

“What is your name?”

“Adam. You are Mihaima?”

She is back this time with her brother who whispers something to her while I continue to sort, seal, sort and seal.

“Are you my man?” She repeats aloud to me.

“No” I reply, “I’m here to help”

“Are you my money? What is your money?”

“I have medicine: gamot “

“What is your name?

“Adam. Ano pangalan mo?”

“Mihaima,” she smiles pleased that we had a conversation that tested both of our language skills.

“Adam. This my sister”

“Ako si Adam, Ano pangalan mo?”

“Nurhaida”

Emboldened by each other they reach out and poke my freckles, laughing, and pointing at my blue eyes as only two curious children who’ve never seen a harmless, friendly foreigner up close can.

Mihaima and Nurhaida are two of the many children of the 400,000 people affected by the widespread airstrikes during the Marawi siege.

They’ve been living with their families at an evacuation camp since they were evacuated in May 2017. Millions of dollars in aid has been given by international organizations and foreign governments yet only meager low quality rations and destitute living conditions exist for the evacuees. Where is the money going?

Nurhaida and Mihaima’s family just want to go home, even if there is no home standing after the destruction.

“What is our money”

I smile. “No no, this is just medicine. Kung sakit mo.”

They pose for pictures with other missioners. I ask them to if I can take a picture with them…they run away.

Perhaps I’m too tall 😊.Nurses fill patients’ prescriptions after they finish being examined by the doctors. Here I helped by sorting pills.

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Day 2 : International Interfaith Humanitarian Mission – Bara-as, Iligan City

Just Arrived at the site, yet already turning to leave? No -to get the intake forms of patients who patiently wait for doctors but have zero patience for injustice.

Children wandering the site, I perch Phone in hand to photograph the medical services. Mothers, daughters, sons, soon to be mothers, soon to be older sisters and brothers. What will they tell their children? How will they remember the days they fled from violence and death? Will the children remember? What do we say in the face of aerial bombings that are used by “peace keeping forces” that force us to scavenge for pieces of our lives, of dignity, of humanity destroyed in the name of a war on terror that sows what it claims to fight.

Medicine in both hands a little boy stares at me. A smile offered, a gesture costing me nothing given to someone who’s family has lost almost everything. Given, received and returned.

March is here!

March is already here.  I’ve been here just over a month.  This past weekend I had an opportunity to reflect, interestingly enough it was initiated by going to church.

Tri-lingual church is a special place to be.  I don’t fully understand what all is said, likewise it is hard to keep up with a sermon that transitions from Tagalog to English to Bisaya and back again.  In general my understanding of the sermon comes in waves:  I concentrate trying to distinguish the fast flowing Tagalog from Bisaya before just spacing out wrapped in my own thoughts.  Then I hear English, and I perk up and sit straighter, listening carefully and often, Bisaya comes right after the English so I can follow along then…and sooner or later back to Tagalog we descend, and I am lost again, lost also in my own thoughts and reflecting on the part of the sermon I understood.  The application of that sermon in my own life.

Church then has become a place of reflection and guided instropection although I am missing large chunks of the message, I have to make do for now with what I am given to understand.

I have now almost fully settled here:  I have a place to live, I have a bed. I have a place to sit, a kitchen.  My budget was approved (YAY.)  I already have a church home.  Today I am having another meeting with InPeace to get a clearer understanding of my portfolio.  Tomorrow I am going to finally drop off my Missionary 9G visa which, if all goes well, will get me a 3 year visa to work and live in the Philippines.

March is a busy month around here.  Schools finish this month, beginning summer vacation.  We have a big conference next week that many people are busy preparing for = I am throwing in wherever I can.  It is also the 80th celebration of “Araw Ng Davao” translated to Day of Davao which is a weekend celebration of Davao City.

I find myself getting weird deja vu feelings as I walk around town.  I get confused sometimes what year it is as many places have many memories for me.  All in all this time adjusting has been different, and in many ways will continue to be different.  I am glad that so far is hasn’t included debilitating sickness or overwhelming sadness.

Yes I still miss places and people from previous lives elsewhere.  Yet overall, I am feeling extremely lucky to be back here.  Here’s to March, and the beginning of something new.

16, 601, 997 Compelling Reasons for Peace

For those unfamiliar with the current state of affairs, the Philippines has been in a state of civil war for almost 50 years.  Each presidential administration since the 1990s has tried to forge some measure of peace, but always abandoned those attempts quite early on.  After all, peace is much harder to achieve than war.

Current president of the Philippines ran on the promise of being dedicated and serious in addressing the root causes of the nigh on 50 yr conflict between the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Government of the Philippines (GRP)  After his election, the peace talks that had stalled under the Aquino administration were resumed along with a 150 day cease fire.

Three rounds of peace talks concluded with promises of a fourth round in February, when miscommunications between the negotiation panels and the forces on the ground ruptured the cease-fire.  Duterte then pulled out of the peace talks, threatening at all out war and not returning unless he had a “compelling reason” to.

This past Feb. 18th I attended a Peace Consultation for the resumption of peace talks between the GRP and the NDFP held at a university downtown.  It was heartening to see a large conference room overflowing with people representing all strata of Filipino society: lawyers, clergy, nuns, bishops, missionaries, community organizers, students, journalists, labor unions, farmers, indigenous peoples, former political prisoners, artists, writers, politicians, government officials and many more.  Notably, it was very heartening to see negotiating panel members of both the NDFP and the GRP.

For four hours we discussed the progress made, the peace process so far and disappointment in the Duterte administration backing out of the peace process.  We finished with a consultation on coming up with compelling reasons to resume the peace process.  There were many.  The one that made me perk up the most is when a participant stood up and said:

There are “16, 601, 997 compelling reasons for peace” representing each Filipino who voted for Duterte and his promise to bring peace and address the root causes of social injustice that plague the Philippines.

I think there are really more like 102,250,133+ compelling reasons for peace.  Every Filipino deserves genuine peace based on social justice, human rights and dignity.

So Mr. President, instead of focusing so much on your War on Drugs and War on NDFP…Focus on Peace.  102,250,133+ Reasons for peace, the present and future of the Filipino people.

DO IT TODAY FOR TOMORROW’S OUTCOME!

The Book of Fellows

I need to give affection and love, because without that, I wither. I need to give that love to someone. Without that, I’m rudderless.

My heart sobs!

Flower, my beautiful flower, my very precious flower.The mother flower in my garden which gave out many flowers including me.You were my flower, but now the flower that has withered without being sick.

Yes, I once thought of this, that one day we might depart; you first or me. But I never thought of you just departing so fast, so easily, so silently without a goodbye! My flower, you were matronly beautiful. Daily, you marked the beauty of my world and made the scent of my garden. Whenever I saw you while watering you, I always prayed for you to wait a little so as to see me grow too

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