Snack journeyed to Manila in the Philippines for two weeks to work with International Needs Philippines and support the work they were doing. Read about our ongoing Philippines Partnership
For 8 days in September, Snack travelled around the Philippines on our first international mission trip. Holly, Jesse, Ruth, Brendan, Chris, Warren, Dwayne, Sarah and Linda Bailey (our International Needs Australia representative).
We gathered at Melbourne Airport around 8am before flying to Sydney then onto Manila.
We arrived safely in the Philippines on schedule, late Saturday night. A quick seatbelt-less drive to the IN compound in Marikina City and we settled down for our first 28° 80% humidity night.
Sunday was an early start for our first church visit in the Philippines - Marikina Christian Fellowship. We felt very welcomed and the whole congregation got right into the few songs we played them. Linda preached up a storm with her sermon "Called to care" - given with less than a day's notice.
The afternoon was spent eating lunch at Kenny Roger's Roasters Restaurant then exploring a large local shopping mall. Dinner was a masarap (delicious) chicken and rice back at the IN compound. Then an informative meeting with Direk Nestor to plan out the rest of our time in the Philippines.
Culinary highlights have included fluffy cheese bread, Ube (uberlicious) flavoured bread (it's purple!), banana catsup, Warren's 3-in-1 coffee, only matched by Dwayne's 7-in-1 doesn't-taste-like-coffee coffee.
Today we hosted a full day training session with around 45 International Needs children's workers and volunteers. We covered using music with kids, the importance of kids ministry, games, object lessons, storytelling, actions and performed some songs with them. We also gave a short presentation at MCF revolving around the skills and thinking behind playing in a worship band.
The rest of the day was fairly unstructured, with some more planning and preparation for the rest of the week, and some Australia vs Philippines volleyball at IN.
On Tuesday morning we visited 3 classes at Nangka High School in Balubad and spoke to the students about Australia then sang some Snack songs with them. The principal explained to us that his school was for the poorest of the poor in their area. The high school has four year levels, equivalent to years 7 - 10 in the Victorian system. The students are all aware of the incredible privilege it is to have education and were very polite and receptive of us. Many classes start at 6am and some go as late as 7pm.
In the afternoon, our first public concert, held in a basketball court in Balubad. It was initially attended by more than 500 children, but unfortunately they were all on their way to the school across the road and were sent to class! But with the 100 people that remained we had a great 90 minutes of songs, games, stories and interaction.
The evening's entertainment included some Philippines-style "Videoke" - similar to SingStar. Some of us also went for a post-sunset walk around the streets of Marikina. We were struck by how busy all the streets were, even at 10pm. Kuya Alan from IN (who has been doing all our driving) was our tour guide for the walk. We then caught a jeepney (common mode of public transport in the Philippines) back to the compound with Chris and Alan enjoying the ride hanging off the back of the packed-full vehicle. The 10 minute ride cost 63 pesos for the seven of us - equivalent to $1.55 Australian.
Today followed a similar schedule to Tuesday - visiting some school classes and then an afternoon concert open to the public, this time both in Olandes.
This morning we visited IVC Elementary School in Olandes and again spoke to and sang with the students - this time all at a grade 6 level. The language barrier has been a problem sometimes, but our IN hosts have helped with interpreting when needed.
We have spent some time walking through the slums of Balubad and Olandes to see, hear and smell what life is like for many Filipinos, and saw one of IN's mini libraries that operates in Olandes. Some of us have also had the opportunity to meet our sponsor children, or those of family and friends.
Sherwin (who we have been calling our Philippines manager - he's done a great job keeping us organised and on schedule) left for a trip to New Zealand, we wished him all the best for the journey and were sorry to see him go.
The afternoon concert in Olandes was again in a basketball court, with around 350 people, mostly children from the adjacent school that we visited in the morning. There was a massive crush for signatures and gifts once we'd finished playing, so we continued to improve our plans for 'crowd control'. While we are all uncomfortable with the celebrity status we seem to be receiving, we are told that in Filipino culture it is a way of showing appreciation for what we are doing.
In a few days, Olandes would be hit hard by the Manila floods. More on this below.
An early night to bed before tomorrow's early flight.
Up at 3:30am to get to the airport for our 1 hour flight to Legaspi in Bicol. Direk Nestor and Ate Beth have joined us for our time in Bicol. We were met by Pastor Raffy with his new $850 van which stalled frequently and gave an occasional ripping backfire before starting. But this was only the start of a very fun and somewhat unpredictable day with Ps Raffy in Camadcud.
To advertise the afternoon's concert, we jumped on the back of a couple of utes and drove as a motorcade for an hour through the main street of Sorsogon, with police escorts and a hundred or so extra motorbikes that joined in.
The utes pulled up outside a building which turned out to be a local TV studio, and a few minutes later we were on the air. We introduced ourselves and sang a quick song. Ps Linda, Direk Nestor and Ps Raffy explained and promoted the afternoon concert which was now a few hours away.
A short presentation in Sister Ma'an's school, set up some gear for the concert and then another delicious lunch.
The concert was at the Camadcud National High School and was kicked off by the school's marching band. Then we played (plus a story and a game) for a little over an hour to about 1000 students. We had some time afterwards to connect with the students and with some other people in Ps Raffy's area - including some that Linda has met on previous mission trips. It was encouraging to hear stories of what previous missions had done to help people.
A long drive in Ps Raffy's van (which turned out to be not waterproof) to Ligao where we had dinner and then met Pastor Choi and Sister Alma, with whom we are to spend Friday.
Then we collapse after a long, Pastor Raffy style day.
Sister Alma provided us an amazing breakfast of eggs, pandesal (a sweet bread roll) and a cake for Linda's birthday (today). Then we were off to the Ligao Community Children Learning Centre to sing with and talk to two classes.
We then took a short tricycle (motorbike with a sidecar) ride to the Ligao National High School, where we met with the principal and heard about the school and its 3681 students. The school has recently started a partnership with Trinity Grammar in Melbourne and were visited by some Trinity teachers and students a few days before we were there.
Next was Pastor Noli's school, Aletheia Christian Academy, where we split into two groups to visit nine classes. We introduced ourselves, spoke a little about Australia and sang two songs with each class. We've tried to be very careful when entering classes of Filipino young people as we appear to them as a group of nine white giants. But today was our only case of a student hiding under their desk for the whole time we were in the room.
The afternoon was another concert, in the open-walled gym at the Ligao National HS. We had over 1200 students stick around after their classes to join in another 90 minute concert. Some confusion over organising a keyboard, but it arrived by the third song and we were in full swing.
We were planned to have a second concert in the evening, open to the public, but also open to the rain. There had been steady rain all day due to Typhoon Ondoy (international name Ketsana), so the decision was made to cancel the evening concert.
After saying goodbye to Ps Choi and Alma, we took a jeepney to Pastor Joe Dasco's church in Legaspi to run another full day training workshop for about 50 local ministers and children's workers. Many of the attendees were very thankful for new ideas and for a renewal of inspiration and energy.
In the evening we visited a few local markets and had dinner at Graceland. The new taste experience today was a dessert called Halo-Halo which is a bowl of shaved ice and milk with some Ube ice-cream, topped with mung beans, custard, jelly, cherries and a few other goodies. 'Halo' is Tagalog for 'mix', so you mix up all the ingredients into a chunky purple mush before eating.
During the day, we heard the news of the floods in Manila. Direk Nestor and Ate Beth spent much of the day on their phones as they heard that the IN compound was under 1.5m of water, and it had reached the level of the top of Nestor's office desk. Many of their files, papers and computers had been damaged or destroyed. Being a weekend, only two people were in the IN compound to help move things to higher ground.
Aside from the damage at IN, some that we knew were affected personally. Direk Nestor and Beth's home was flooded - in a few days we would hear that the basement is now full of mud. Sherwin's small two story house sat near a river bank and was completely destroyed by the water. Other IN staff were affected, but thankfully none lost their lives or families.
Thank you to all those who have been praying for the Filipinos in this tough time. More information about the floods is below, with opportunities to support relief efforts.
With the hotel's restaurant unexpectedly closed, breakfast this morning was a bag of pandesal while riding in a jeepney to the four different churches that we were splitting up to visit. In groups of two or three we took part in the morning services at four IN churches, giving short testimonies about ourselves and of Snack, singing a song with the congregation and then Linda, Ate Beth, Chris and Direk Nestor preaching at their respective churches.
We then were collected by the jeepney and drove back to our hotel (Jesse and Brendan this time travelling on the roof), before our final concert in the afternoon at the Daraga Covered Court to around 1000 people - mostly youth.
We had a dinner with all the Bicol pastors that we'd come into contact with, to say thank you and goodbye and to give them some gifts. A few of us were then treated to a massage from Pastor Raffy - a highlight!
After our morning flight back to Manila, the 45 minute drive from the airport to the IN compound was spent witnessing the devastation of the floods. Mud everywhere. Rubbish strewn across footpaths, plants and powerlines. A smell that verified reports that the city's sewerage systems had flooded. Cars abandoned after being swept into buildings and onto other cars. The constant sound of the sweeping of mud and water towards drains. Muddy mattresses, couches, papers and cardboard. Wooden cupboards, desks and bookshelves rendered useless by their soaking in muddy water. Rebecca Coulson (from Nunawading, is spending a year volunteering with IN Philippines and helped us to settle in an IN) observed, "Cupboards, desks, fridges and couches float, karaoke machines, typewriters and motorbikes don't".
We spent much of the day doing what we could to help the IN staff - cleaning mud from around the grounds of the compound; emptying the water and debris from Rebecca's room; helping kuya Alan to remove all the seats from IN's two vans, scrubbing the seats and cleaning out the engine; sorting and cleaning the thousands of toys, books, clothes and other little things that had been in the IN office.
The evening was spent debriefing the whole trip and making some decisions about how best to use the extra funds that were given to Snack for the mission. We decided to direct $500 to help recover the IN office from the floods, plus 3 x $150 towards the three mini libraries that IN runs in the area. The remaining funds will go towards music projects and resources. We'll give more details about this to our supporters once they are confirmed.
Our official work with IN complete, we spent two days in Borocay - from Manila it's a short flight, bus trip, boat ride and then drive in a van. Apart from an unplanned a capella performance in a shop, there were no concerts. It was interesting to experience a very different part of the Philippines, a place far more popular with Westerners and more upper-class, but still gripped by an underlying poverty.
We left at 11am on Thursday to begin the 23 hour journey back to Melbourne - van, boat, bus, flight, drive, flight, bus, flight, welcome home.
Thanks for your support and prayers!
Our trip to the Philippines was one of contrasts, humbling & exciting, uplifting & sad, funny & surreal.
Here are a few of my recollections:
I would like to thank the coloured, black and white members of Snack for making the trip so memorable.
Wow, what an amazing experience! It's so hard to express the impact that the Philippines has had on me. The people there are FABULOUS. Their joy and love for God even amongst their poverty and devastation is mind boggling. There is such a rich sense of community and hospitality everywhere you go. I don't think I ever heard anyone complain about their situation, only joyous laughter about life!
My highlights were:
My lowlights were:
Overall I had a brilliant time and look forward to maybe one day visiting again!
It's been just over a week now since we have returned from our time in the Philippines. My head is still swimming with all the amazing and humbling experiences that we were a part of whilst we were there. One of the things that impacted me the most was the amazing generousity of the Filipino people. They have so little, yet when you visited them or spoke with them they were always so happy and would give you the best of everything. There was nothing that they wouldn't do for you - even when they were in the midst of cleaning up after the horrific floods that swept through Manila.
I am so excited that God gave us the opportunity to work with International Needs Philippines. Direk Nestor and Ate Beth are such amazing people of God who give so much of themselves and have such a vision for the Philippines. I am so grateful that we were able to share God's love and hope with so many people as well as support the work of local ministries. It was an honour to run workshops and share our resources with so many people and so many churches. It was humbling to hear the stories and see the amazing work that these people do with so little. The pastors and their wives are just amazing. They sacrifice so much, but do it with a glad heart because they know that they are serving God and that He has chosen them for His purposes. To hear their stories and see their communities made me want to do so much more than just provide some resources and put on a concert, but I guess that's something to think about in the future!
God is alive and well in the Philippines, He provides hope, comfort, strength and much joy (to mention a few). I continue to pray for all the people that we met - children, parents, pastors, children's workers, students, teachers... I pray that they will be encouraged, I pray that they will have strength to continue the amazing work they do and I pray that they will remember that each day God says to them "Well done, my good and faithful servant."
Even though I was in the Philippines for such a short time, I know that it will forever be in my heart and I will be continually challenged to see what else I can do to support these amazing people in the ministry they do.
Where do I begin? Such a mind blowing trip. Meeting people who unashamedly love God and their community and who will do anything it takes to serve the people aound. Seeing such contrasting sights... Mansions on hills in the immediate area, right near slums where people have not a lot at all. Children who take their education so seriously because it's their only way out and who know how to smile even though their lives have been devastated. Pastors whose lives are lived for their local communities and are willing to drop everything to help others out. Sharing their living space with their community to give them the best chance at life.
The Filipino people are smiley, funny, positive, and great to be around. I loved the friendships that were formed, the fun that was had and the challenging sights we saw. God is definitely working in the Philippines and it was a privilege to be there to see it.
This being my first time overseas, I was surprised by the degree to which Western culture has found its way into the Philippines - it wasn't quite as foreign as I think I'd expected. I was also struck by the contrast of the developed areas to the slums, and amazed by the closeness in proximity of the different classes of living.
The Filipino people have a great sense of community, a fantastic sense of humour and an incredible faith in God - in the big things and in the little. I hope and pray that I was able to make some sort of positive impact on the people we met, as they certainly have done so for me. I know I have a lot to learn from the way they prioritise people and relationships and their trusting in God to provide for them, each and every day.
A fantastic trip that far exceeded my expectations. Great camaraderie within the SNACK team and also with the Filipino IN staff. All credit to God for making this trip happen in the first place, then for being so successful.