Friday, April 20, 2012

firsts and lasts

There have been a few “firsts” and a few “lasts” these past few weeks. 

  • I am currently experiencing my first Filipino summer… and whew- it’s smokin’ hot here!
  • I got to hold a less-than-one-day-old baby. My friend Lindsay and her husband Brian had their baby Joseph. He is the youngest and tiniest baby I’ve ever held, not to mention already so handsome.
  • I said good-bye to two of my good friends… Sara and Tone Lise. Sara is going back stateside after serving here for 6 months. Tone Lise is taking an adventure for the next couple of months but will eventually wind up back at home in Norway. They have both been sweet friends to have here. I will miss them both dearly.
  • I will be leaving on Monday to go and spend time in Naga to do some surveying in the tribes with Megan who lives a little further down south. Adventurous blogs are sure to follow.
  • I got my driver’s license.
  • I found some awesome new things at the market… a little shopping therapy.
  • My good friend Sara taught me how to make earrings.

Tone Lise! Such a sweet friend. Our last breakfast together.

Cards from my awesome brothers and Mrs. Linda! Mail never gets old. Ever.

Letters and photos... two of my favorite things in the world. All in one envelope. Can't get much better than that.

"And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has lead you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, weather you would keep his commandments or not. And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord." Deuteronomy 8:2-3

drivers license

Yesterday, I went to the Land Transportation Office… the Filipino version of the DMV. After checking and rechecking for all details… I had the forms I needed filled out, copies of each item I needed, and a full bladder ready to fill the drug test cup. 

I arrived at the medical drug testing facility, and after shewing off about 15 “fixers” I got in line. Yes, this is the second drug test I’ve taken since arriving here. After that, I walked upstairs to what seemed like a sister company of the drug testing facility to have an eye exam. After covering each eye with a spoon to test my comprehension of the letters written on the wall, I went to the next station. The height and weight station. I wish I had a photo of the scale I stepped on, but it may be likened to one that you could find at an estate sale that had already been passed on for a few generations. Approximate value: 25 cents. As I stepped on the scale, I realized that I had either gained about 25 pounds or either the scale was off. This is not going to be a confession of weight gain.. since my clothes wouldn’t even think about fitting me anymore if the number on the scale was true. 200 pounds. Yes. That’s what the scale said. I had to hold back laughing a bit. I didn’t fight it, since it doesn’t matter in the slightest… although, it definitely hurt my pride a little bit. 

Next, I proceeded to “window 14.” I confidently walked up to the window to present all of the papers I had collected… ready to receive my license.  I passed the papers through the barred window and smiled. The man quickly replied that I didn’t have the correct things, since my original passport wasn’t included in the pile of papers sitting on the counter. I thought to myself, “Seriously?! The website said a copy of the original!” I began to plead with the man in broken Tagalog, and soon he told me that I should see the Chief. Yes, the Chief. I took my paperwork and walked past two guards on the way to the Chief’s office. The entire time, I was thinking of the most polite way to beg for this copy of my passport to be acceptable. After about thirty minutes of begging the “Chief” to accept a copy of my passport, and having a another copy of my original passport faxed over from our home office… she signed off on the paperwork. And, I let out a big sigh of relief. 

After approval from the Chief, the rest of the process was a breeze. And, now I can officially and legally drive in this crazy city! Yippie! 

Here it is... The license!

Waiting station... Window 14 is on the right side.

And, right outside the waiting center. A church. Really? They probably have mass during the day for the employees.

"Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him." Hebrews 11:6

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


What a wonderful weekend! I got to spend the weekend with a whole bunch of college students from Manila. We all filled 8 charter buses and made our way to Tagaytay. It’s a wonderful getaway from the busy and hot city. The temperature is cooler there… that’s one of my favorite things about it!  I enjoyed every minute of the retreat! We all stayed up late… getting about 4 hours of sleep each night. I drank coffee at every meal. I also ate more rice and ulam (toppings for rice- usually some kind of meat and gravy) than I have in a while. We had it every single meal. Good thing I brought fruit and granola bars for breakfast. 

On the retreat we talked about being “wired.” With such a technology driven generation… everyone knows what it means to have things plugged in and wired together. We talked about how important it was for us as Christians to be in tune with the Lord and what He has for our lives. It was a wonderful weekend of renewal for some and new life for others.

Me and my sweet friend Charisse. She was one of my first Filipino friends.

Our D-Group.

Jhoana, my new friend and fellow Miriam student. Looking forward to getting to know her more!
Jino!  :)  He's wonderful!

Having fun with the incredibly large beach ball.

Tagaytay never fails to have an incredible sunset while I'm there.

"The heavens declare the glory of God and the sky above proclaims His handiwork." Psalm 19:1

Don't you love all of the umbrellas to shield the sun? Yes, I live in Asia.

Buried with Christ in Baptism...

Raised to walk in newness of life.

Great guys!

Sweet girls! After their baptism.
D-Group for the retreat.

Two of my absolute favorite girls in the Philippines!

The Three Divateers.

Yes, I live in Asia.

Coco and Teki. I love them!

"One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in His temple." Psalm 27:4 

"Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known." Jeremiah 33:3

Monday, April 9, 2012


Easter was celebrated differently this year... but it doesn't mean that it was void of good times. Sara and I went to the Seaborne's house to see the Alay Lakad, and we all had a great time together. We were treated to some homemade ice cream... and for breakfast we had homemade biscuits and gravy, grits, yummy Filipino fruits, and bacon. It was the whole spread! What a wonderful treat! 

Sara and I went back to the Harvell's house later that weekend, and we played a couple rounds of Joker. What a fun game! On Sunday, after house church we enjoyed playing some more games including one of my new favorites: Tribond!

Yummmmy! Homemade Ice Cream!

Neal loved it too!!

Everything comes in small quantities here! Anyone want to buy 3 eggs?

Some good coffee, and fruit!

One of the biggest treats! Grits!! I haven't had them since I left America!
Grill Master! This chicken was wonderful!

Viking Hats for the winners!

They stole our Victory.

"But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned- every one- to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all." Isaiah 53:5-6

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Alay Lakad

This is the perspective of an outsider looking in. 

Deception. That's one word to describe Easter weekend here. What I saw this weekend, I will never forget. Alay Lakad (Sacrificial Walk)… a march of almost a million people… walking distances that sometimes reach over a marathon. Each person gaining merit, blessings, and forgiveness of sins. Some walk with no shoes, some walk with purpose of hanging out with their barkada(posse), some walk with cigarettes in their hands, some walk with loud rap music playing, some walking with reverence- others walking with utter irreverence, some walk with children on their shoulders, some walk with old knees and feeble bodies. They are all walking to the “National Shrine of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage” in Antipolo City which houses the 385-year-old image of the Virgin Mary. Yes, an image. They are walking to an image of the Virgin Mary.

An article in the Inquirer pretty much sums it up. Read this story about Manalo Marigondon:

"Manalo Marigondon, a tricycle driver, has been making a pilgrimage to Antipolo City for the past 20 years. But he will not be going by himself. Every Maundy Thursday, thousands of devotees—most of them unshod—walk from the Edsa Shrine in Mandaluyong City to the National Shrine of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage in Antipolo City which houses the 385-year-old image of the Virgin Mary. The journey takes around five to eight hours to complete. Along the way, participants in the procession pray to seek forgiveness for their sins or to wish for the fulfillment of a dream. “For any devotee, the night-long thoroughly exhausting walk is nothing,” Marigondon told the Inquirer. He was just in his teens when he went on his first “penitential walk” in the 1990s. At that time, he said he did it “just for amusement” since his friends were his companions on the road. But as the years went on, the long walk became more of a tradition for Marigondon. “I don’t often make a wish that I ask God to grant although I always pray for good health for my family,” he said. Ponga Cabuang, a 55-year-old resident of Antipolo City who also goes on the annual penitential walk credits the success his children enjoy to his devotion to the Blessed Virgin. Cabuang has three daughters and a son whom he put through college by peddling food in the streets and driving a tricycle. “I now have a banker, a psychologist, a teacher and a technician in the family. They all have decent jobs,” he said. Msgr. Rigoberto de Guzman, the rector of the national shrine, said that from Maundy Thursday until Good Friday, at least 2.7 million people visit the church. The pilgrims come from different parts of Metro Manila and as far away as the provinces of Batangas, Laguna and Cavite. “For them, the long walk is part of their penitence and sacrifices which wash away their sins and renew their devotion … We worship not only with our lips, with our hands but with our whole body,” De Guzman said. “The longer we walk, the bigger our sacrifice and the more effective our prayers are,” he added. The image of the Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage was brought to the Philippines in 1626 by the Galleon El Milrante which traveled from Acapulco in Mexico to the Philippines. De Guzman said the people at the time believed that the safe arrival of the galleon was attributed to the presence of the image of Mary on board the ship. Antipolo has become the image’s sanctuary, but during World War II, it was moved to a more secure location in Quiapo. It was then brought back back to the Antipolo Church in a procession that would be replicated every year on Maundy Thursday. A rector of the shrine for eight years, De Guzman said the number of pilgrims has not decreased even with the passage of time. He and the other priests have just one wish: A stronger faith for the faithful and their more active participation in Church activities." (Inquirer Headlines- Metro Manila ©2011)

Groups also walked up and down the streets dressed as characters from the Bible… King Herod, Jesus, the thieves, etc. People were being whipped in the streets as penance. Some of the people were even teary eyed from the pain. It was really an unreal sight. There were idols set up in tents on the side of the road. People would enter reverently… reaching out for forgiveness of their sins. 

Holy Week turned Manila a ghost town... All of the shops were closed down on Thursday and Friday. Even the LRT, the train, was closed. Although traffic was scarce, dedication to "works" was very present. Working to earn salvation. It's missing the point. Jesus is our salvation.

In my mind, I can’t help but think- don’t they know that “It is finished?” Why can’t they see that when the Word says that “He is risen” … it is true? Why can’t they see that Jesus was the payment for our sins? 

People claim to know the Bible and believe it… but do they really believe the words on those holy pages? Do they really understand? 

Traditions have a stronghold on a lot of people here. Pray for those strongholds to be broken. Pray for the Lord to truly set the captives free. 

Pray that the resurrection would be the focus. Pray that the resurrection would bring hope to these people during this Easter season and the ones to come. 

I can’t explain what an odd feeling it was around here. Sadness. Darkness. Hopelessness. 

Pray that the gospel is made known among these people. Pray that the Lord opens eyes, breaks strongholds, and awakens His people.

About 7pm. Just the beginning.
Beginning of Alay Lakad,

Same view as above... about 10pm.

So many people... This went on for hours!

Ortigas Extention.

This is about 5 miles from the church... At this point, people could have been walking for 5-7 hours.

On the side of the street.

Decorated for Easter. Housing images of Jesus and Mary.

I'm not sure who these statues are of.

The beginning of the street processions.

I think my favorite part of the costumes was the facial hair that was glued onto their faces.

Not exactly sure who these guys are dressed up as.

What a chest... too bad he only has 4 abs instead of a "6 pack."

Notice the whip in the guys hand... front left, dressed in black.

They walked up and down the streets all day Friday.
"But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to the tomb, bringing the spices which they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. And it happened that while they were perplexed about this, behold, two men suddenly stood near them in dazzling apparel; and as the women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, "Why do you seek the living One among the dead? "He is not here, but He has risen. Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee, saying that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again." And they remembered His words, and returned from the tomb and reported all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. Now they were Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James; also the other women with them were telling these things to the apostles. And these words appeared to them as nonsense, and they would not believe them. But Peter arose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen wrappings only; and he went away to his home, marveling at that which had happened." Luke 24:1-12 

"...Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of kings of the earth." Revelation 1:5 

"And he said to them, 'Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him.'" Mark 16:6 

"For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied. But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep." 1 Corinthians 15:16-20