While the Sablayan sun was already beaming with mirth, I started running towards Pag-asa from San Agustin SDA Church.
Literally, Christmas was in the air. The breeze gave me goosebumps, and yet, the hint of summer was evident.
Initially, I planned to run at 5:30 AM, thinking that the distance to the Barolo’s home (missionaries) from where I spoke during Educational Sabbath is only two-kilometer run. That’s according to my college bestie, Mhai. She is the wife of the church school’s principal, Mark Maynard Taleno. They’re my college comrades and former colleagues in the youth ministry of Philippine International Church. When they invited me to speak for the hour of worship, I didn’t hesitate. I said yes right away, a few months ago.
But when my alarm woke me up, my body wasn’t able to resist the strong gravitational pull underneath the bed. I ran at around 6:30 AM instead. Haha! I thought of running to and fro to complete at least 5 kilometers. I also thought that running with my Strava app would record the location and exact distance.
Wanting to surprise the Barolo couple, I didn’t tell I would visit on Sunday morning. But Auntie Jessica knew I’d come because I mentioned I’d be in Sablayan a week ago. Since I didn’t bring water for hydration, I brought only P50 to buy a buko, and also have a fare in case I need to go home immediately.
The soothing verdant scenery captivated my heart with glee! Negative ions refreshed me while my sweat seemed to evaporate easily under the smiling sun!
Uncle Peter was surprised to have seen me! He was about to leave with his motorbike when I arrived. It was a perfect timing because he needs to leave for an errand. At least we had a short chat, and I told him I really wanted to visit the new Mangyan village in Mambugan that was opened recently through His divine providence! He promised to wait for me once he’s done with his errand, so we could visit a nearly Mangyan village that recently opened its door for mission school.
Auntie Jessica was nowhere to be found in the house, she’s up there in another mountain village where she had immersion, to get along well with the Mangyans and learn the dialect in another new mission territory.
Enthralled for the visitation, I went home to change outfit and to eat breakfast. I needed to be back so I could return in Uncle Peter’s home soon!
But soon lingered.
While waiting for tricycle or van to pass by, some Mangyans marauded my attention. Barefoot and looking wornout, convivial smile painted their faces. It was mirrored with mine.
After greetings, they asked where “Bunso Barolo” was. I immediately replied that Uncle Peter went out for an errand. Only to find out later that it’s his sister that they inquired and looked for.
“Laging sarado ang bahay ni Bunso Barolo kapag nadalaw kami.” (The house is always close whenever we visit) She uttered with sadness.
The old couple had two kids with them which I presumed, their grandchildren. They looked as if they skipped more than a meal. My heart skipped a beat.
The old man asked if I have money. They needed for fare, to ride a tricycle because they’ve been walking for hours while their destination would take them a walk until noon. Long way to go.
I responded with delight, albeit I only had P50 which supposed to be my fare back to my temporary home.
“How much fare do you need?” I asked in vernacular.
“Limampung piso” (P50), the old man replied.
I took it out (grateful it’s exactly what they need) and told them I’ll wait with them until they got inside a tricycle. While waiting, we had a short chat. The kids were shy, but consented to have a souvenir shot. I want to see them again next time I visit Sablayan. The picture would remind me of them.
When a tricycle stopped, I requested the driver to bring them to their destination. I handed the P50 to the old Mangyan, hoping it would suffice. I actually regretted bringing only P50.
I wished I brought more, albeit my funds were limited (I save money for travel expenses (faith trips), sometimes subsidized by the church that invites me for speaking appointment). I really wished I brought more so there’s something for them to eat while traveling.
But I realized that it’s not money they need most of the time. They need understanding, especially for their peculiarity and culture. While we tend to pity them and think of material stuff to offer for relief and comfort, we forget that they need more beyond that. They need Jesus. They need unconditional love and acceptance.
They can survive. They are used to that kind of lifestyle: eating once a day most of the time; doing kaingin; crossing rivers; hiking and trekking long trails; braving strong river currents.
We can show them Jesus on how we treat them though. We can represent Jesus through generosity and care, but more through our presence and friendship.
I remember one of the directors of frontier missions, orienting me about the reality of the lifestyle of the minorities, and the ministry approach especially tailored for them. She somehow discouraged short-term volunteer work and frequent relief goods distribution. Don’t get me wrong, she appreciates those, she only wanted to instill in my mind that while it’s good to provide their immediate needs, we ought to be more mindful of their real need — the Gospel, the Living Bread!
While we don’t want them to just rely on what we could offer, we want them to know that there’s a Great Provider who cares for them and who could provide their needs. We ought to appreciate their culture, while not trying to change them to what we are used to. But of course, we teach them hygiene and we encourage them to improve their lifestyle for health sake.
Hence, during our short mission trip (feeding and gift giving) in June 2017, we encouraged the Chieftain of Kimali Village to start a sustainable farm for their consumption and livelihood. We donated a few thousands worth of seeds to prompt them. We also thought of donating a horse, but God led us to a better project — Bridge of Gospel.
“Everywhere there is a tendency to substitute the work of organizations for individual effort. Human wisdom tends to consolidation, to centralization, to the building up of great churches and institutions. Multitudes leave to institutions and organizations the work of benevolence; they excuse themselves from contact with the world, and their hearts grow cold. They become self-absorbed and unimpressible. Love for God and man dies out of the soul. Christ commits to His followers an individual work,—a work that cannot be done by proxy. Ministry to the sick and the poor, the giving of the gospel to the lost, is not to be left to committees or organized charities. Individual responsibility, individual effort, personal sacrifice, is the requirement of the gospel.” EGW, The Ministry of Healing, p. 147
Keep posted for the Mangyan ministry series! While you wait for the continuation of the story, please pray for the missions to the minorities around the Philippines.
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