Monday, 25 January 2010
For those of you who read this morning's blog you will be pleased to know that i did get some sleep! Hallelujah. The problem was i slept through my alarm and suffered the humiliation of Kath knocking on my door and asking if i was OK because i was 30mins late for breakfast. After breakfast (i went for toast rather than corned beef hash - for breakfast??!!) we set off to see a drop in centre. This is run by Roel a truly inspirational guy. He is 50 but seems to have the youth of a student or twenty-something and its clear by the way the children relate to him that they are totally comfortable around him and respect and love him. The day centre is a drop in for children of all ages - most of them are not at school because they are out to work - begging or selling something on the main streets - so the drop in centre is a haven where the children can play, learn and be safe. We were treated to a dance which was great and had the privilege of chatting with Roel before praying for him and the project.
We moved swiftly on to Benitez House, the main centre for Kanlungan. This was also a lovely experience with the 20 or so boys and girls fighting over Tony's awful hat and my sunglasses! They introduced themselves one by one in English, and then we watched two dances the second of which performed by three teenage girls was profoundly moving. I'm sure the children loved performing but there was the sense of staged-ness about it which prompted some questions and reflections in our discussions later.
After a lovely lunch we headed out to the notorious smokey mountain. There i met the Pastor of Hesed Baptist church who proudly welcomed us to a building which if i called it a tin shack would have been talking it up. This was his church, one of the more stable and better of all the buildings around because his church and a shanty town of 8,000 people live on compressed rubbish, because we were standing in the middle of a rubbish dump.
Smokey mountain has been a rubbish dump for years, it is on Manila Bay next to the docks and the government have helped the community there to build and grow on the rubbish dump gradually reclaiming the land. I cannot express in words what the physical scene was like there, suffice to say we navigated our way through open sewage and rubbish everywhere, stray dogs, chickens, and children all over the place. This was still very much a rubbish dump with cardboard, tarpaulin and tin shacks built on it. The families scavenge on the garbage selling anything they can to make a living.
I contrasted my emotions with those outwardly expressed by the Pastor, our host. I felt anger and frustration at the sheer hopelessness of it all. It is said that if a child is born on smokey mountain he/she will never ever leave and die there as an adult such is the unending cycle of poverty. our host on the other hand was a man full of passion and devotion, full of godly wisdom and a love for the people. He explained to me his plans for church growth with enthusiasm and optimism and it was a deeply moving experience. Even now, hours later, i'm not sure i've processed fully the day's experiences.
Within minute we were back in Metro Manila among 5* hotels, international embassy's and huge malls that make the Trafford Centre look like the Fence Village Store. The contrast of it all is perhaps most shocking. We ate here, visited starbucks where i bought my first souvenir - a starbucks Philippines mug and headed back to the hotel so we could sleep (hopefully) and so i could blog. There will be much to ponder and reflect on if this evening is another sleepless night.