Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Me and the kids from Noah's Ark Orphanage
Grayzel and I

Batad Rice Terraces
Batad Rice Terraces

Noah's Ark Orphanage

Last week our team led a group of 10 Filipino youth on a 5-day mission trip to an orphanage in Banaue, Philippines. Banaue is famous for its beautiful 2,000 year-old rice terraces. Banaue is located in the mountains of Northern Philippines, about a 10 hour drive North of Manila. We held a vacation bible school (VBS) program and a daily feeding for the children of the orphanage and surrounding towns, totaling 75 children in all. We held the VBS at one of the local churches of Banaue, which is located on top of a small rice terrace in the town, overlooking the beautiful valley of rice terraces. The VBS was the idea of Mary and she was the main force in organizing and promoting the event, traveling to countless churches in the Manila area to stir interest. Mary was able to get 10 Filipino youth and two team leaders inspired to make the commitment to each raise P2,500 ($65) and commit a week to the mission trip, no small task to say the least! Unfortunately Mary wasn’t able to make the trip as she is now home with her Mother for the month of May while her mother starts chemotherapy to treat lung cancer.

It was very inspiring to see the Filipino youth, none of whom had ever served on any sort of mission trip before, take charge of the daily lessons and activities and really pour their hearts into the children. I’m a firm believer that when a person does any sort of service work for someone else, it’s not just the person receiving the service who is affected. I think that the person doing the work grows and receives just as much, if not more, in return for the work done. Our goal going into the trip was that the lives of both the children and the youth would be changed as a result of the work done, and by hearing what the youth had to say at our debriefing each night, I think our goal was accomplished. After the VBS was completed we had a recreational day where we took a jeepney ride to Batad, the next town over, and hiked the rice terraces in that area.

It was so nice to experience a different area in the Philippines and it amazed me how different life is up there. First of all, it’s quite cold (that is, cold for the Philippines). The temperature was about 50 degrees and rainy/foggy. It was such a relief to have some cool weather for a change…it’s summer here right now and Manila has just been sweltering lately. Second, the language spoken in that region is Ifugao, not Tagalog. It’s crazy to drive only 10 hours North of Manila, still in the same country, and have people speak a different language. It was a bit of a challenge for out team because nobody on our team spoke Ifugao, and in fact more people there spoke English than Tagalog. Finally, it’s hard to believe that each rice terrace you see is man made, over 2,000 years ago.

Even with all these rice terraces, the area is still feeling the effects of the rice crisis, as the rice grown on the terraces isn’t enough to support rice needs of the towns. Rice import prices have increased by 50% over the last year and it’s becoming harder and harder for many to feed their families.