There are many places I want to visit again; places which have given me beautiful memories and life changing lessons. Let me share with you one of those places where I didn’t expect God to bring me and allowed me to experience His grace and His love.
Like most of you, I would assume, I also grew up in the city. I lived my whole life seeing tall buildings and upscale structures. I need not to experience what it’s like grow up without a car, or to worry if I would be able to finish school. I am not an “anak-mayaman” type. God just blessed me with parents who never failed to provide for our family. Though it may not be everything we want, it was definitely everything we need.
As some of you might already know, I stayed in Cebu for about 8 months. Actually, back in 2010, I was able to have a unique tour, thanks to my dad’s business trips and was able to go as far from the southern up to the northern part of the whole province. (Unfortunately I can’t show photos because Multiply deleted my albums. Kaines. Huhuhu.) Yes, I was able to go to the city’s favorite tourist spots, but there’s just one place that left a special mark in my heart. A place where God allowed me to visit during my stay in Cebu for 8 months: Sibonga.
It’s a small town in the southern part of the province of Cebu. At first, I wasn’t really interested at all about what or even where Sibonga is. All I know is that every Wednesday night, we pray for this unfamiliar place, the people and the church workers who go there every Saturday. To be honest, I went to Cebu with selfish motives. I was supposed to care only about myself and my own issues. But then after about 4 months of hearing what God is doing in this small town and seeing the church’s burden for the people in this place, I got curious and decided to join the team one Saturday morning.
My first visit was when there was an outreach program sponsored by a church in Antipolo, Rizal. They gave school supplies, bags of groceries, and I think they also had a film showing the night before. Sa totoo lang, I joined the team without even knowing what am I supposed to do when we got there. Buti na lang God blessed me with charm (bwahaha!) when it comes to kids so I ended up babysitting baby Juliana as her parents talk to our pastors and workers. Indeed, it was a happy day. :)
After the program, I had the chance to go with ate Inday. I had no plans that afternoon so instead of going back home, I just decided to join her instead. Ate Inday is a church worker and she goes to this place every Saturday.
Ate Inday: “Ay, dapat pala nasabihan kita na mag slippers na lang.”
Ate Inday: “E kasi baka tumaas yung tubig, kelangan natin tumawid dun kaya mababasa yang rubber shoes mo.”
I don’t know if you’ve been to a similar place, but here, most of the houses were literally huts, the roads were unpaved, no street lights and the list goes on. Here, she gather kids and teaches them songs and Bible stories. When the kids first saw me, their immediate reaction was, “Ate Inday, Amerikana siya?” Thanks to my blonde hair. Hahaha. Some of them were a bit shy because I was around. Hello, ako din kaya. Mas grabe pa ata. Haha! That time, I only know few Bisaya words so I was really having a hard time understanding what they were saying. Although they can understand me when I speak Tagalog, it was still a challenge for me.
Ate Inday asked me to be in charge with the younger ones. The kids were supposed to draw and color in their activity, so she gave me papers and a small container of crayons. I can see they were really excited as they one by one get a piece or two of a crayon and find a spot where they can work. They have no chairs or tables. All they have is a single piece of paper on one hand and a crayon on the other, and you can see their big smiles.
“Sa totoo lang, nahiya ako. Ako, pag wala lang makinis na patungan pag nagsusulat ako, nagrereklamo na ako. E sila kulang na lang sa sahig sila magsulat pero ang saya saya pa din nila. Ako, pag nagsusulat gusto ko iba ibang color pa minsan. Pero sila, halos tag-iisang kulay lang yung ginagamit pero kitang kita mo yung effort nila sa pagdrawing. Kung makikita lang ng ibang mga bata to. Wala silang mga ipad o kung anu-anong gadgets. Malagyan lang ng drawing ko na star yung mga papel nila nagsisi-talon na sila. Dun ko nasabi na siguro nga, mas masaya sila kesa sa mga taong mas angat pa ang buhay kesa sa kanila.”
I just watched them as they do their work. Some were asking me questions which I cannot understand (haha!) so I would just nod and pretend that I understood what they said. Sometimes I would ask them, “human na?” – which in Tagalog is, “tapos na?”. And then they would nod. That was the only Bisaya word I can think of that time so I found myself repeating my question. Until there was a small boy who shouted, “Human na lagi!” (Tapos na nga!) Hahahahahaha. But anyway, it was a fun afternoon with the kids. I even played with them. I saw a boy playing a yo-yo and I was amazed because he is really good. He was doing a lot of tricks so I was amused.
Me: “Gusto mo ko makita mag yo-yo?”
Boy: “Weh. Di ka naman ata marunong e.” (Itagalog ko na ha, nakalimutan ko na kung pano niya sinabi sa Bisaya e)
Me: “Marunong ako. Sige, manood ka.” (he gave me the yo-yo)
Boy: (tinawag yung ibang mga bata hanggang sa andami na nakapalibot sakin para lang panoorin ako)
Me: (ineexpect ba nila mag ttricks din ako?? Oh no. Pero sige, the show must go on. Hahaha)
*Pinakawalan ko yung yo-yo sa kamay ko at ayun, yung simplest and typical playing of yo-yo lang naman alam ko.*
Boys and Me: “HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!”
I made new friends that day. I told myself that I will go back, and I did. I was able to visit the place twice before I left for Manila. I even bought new set of crayons and some school supplies for them. I made sure I have the cutest pencils and notebooks to give them. Alam mo yung feeling na para kang nagshopping for Christmas gifts? :)
My last visit to Sibonga was the most memorable. The kids remembered my name and I was the one who told them a Bible story. It’s been years since I last taught a Bible story, kaya talagang pinaghandaan ko. =p I drew the characters and made it into like an interactive story telling. Haha! Afterwards, some of the kids pulled me and wanted me to go with them as they look for small crabs. Sorry I don’t know how to call it but it is so small you can put it inside a bottle. Is it agukoy in Bisaya? I’m not sure. Haha. But anyway, again, I was amazed by how simple things can make them happy. I cannot imagine myself having fun just looking for those agukoys. But they were smiling and shouting! They would even call my name just because they have found a new crawling creature. I was happy just watching them on their little scavenger hunt. Oh, simple joys. <3
On that last visit, I was able to join ate Inday as she visit the parents of the kids who attend. We went house to house, spending even just a few minutes for chitchat, asking how they are doing and etc. Around past 6 in the evening, we gathered the “nanays” in the area for a Bible Study. How I wish I was able to take photos that time. I just observed, as ate Inday led the group. Again, I know God was speaking to me. I cherished the moment. I know God wants me to remember that night.
“Hindi ko alam kung anong mararamdaman ko habang pinapanood ko sila. Nagshshare sa bible, nagtitiis na magbasa kahit iisa lang yung ilaw sa maliit na kubo na yun. Ginagamit ko na nga yung cellphone ko para lang mailawan yung binabasa ko. May dumaan na nanay, nanghingi ng bigas sa kapitbahay. Yung panganay na anak naman nung may-ari nung bahay kung nasaan kami, eto nagluluto sa tabi ko. Favorite daw ni bunso yung ulam kaya minamadali ni nanay si ate sa pagluto. Umiiyak na kasi si bunso. Sinilip ko yung niluluto. Isang lata ng sardinas. Oo, baka nga yun na yung ulam nila sa gabing yun. Yung ulam na paborito ni bunso.
Ang nasa utak ko nun, “God’s love knows no boundaries”. Nagpasalamat ako kay Lord nun. Hindi lang dahil sa na-realize ko na sobrang blessed pala ako kung ikukumpara sa mga taong ito, kundi dahil nagamit ako ni Lord para makita nila na love din sila ni God. Kesyo mayaman ka o walang kaya sa buhay, hindi naman mahalaga kay God yun. Ang gusto nya, makita mo na mahal ka nya. Yung kahit na ang hirap ng buhay, okay lang kasi hindi ka nya iiwan. Sa totoo lang, nung mga time na yun, nakalimutan ko yung dahilan kung bakit nga ba ako napadpad sa Cebu. Basta ang alam ko, isa sa mga dahilan kung bakit nga ba napunta ako dun e ang makita at makilala itong mga taong to.
Nung gabing yun, antagal bago kami nakasakay ng bus pabalik sa city. Madilim na. Aircon sana yung bus na sasakyan namin kaso antagal na namin dun sa hi-way kaya sa ordinary na kami sumakay. Sa buong buhay ko, tatlong beses pa lang ata ako nakasakay ng ordinary na bus. Pero nung gabi na yun, sabi ko wala na kong pakelam kesyo delikado o kung ano man. Alam mo yung pakiramdam na sobrang saya mo na wala ka ng pakelam kung anong mangyari sayo? Haha. Bukod dun, pagod na din kasi ako. Oo, sobrang pagod na ko na gusto ko na humiga sa kalye. Pero ano ba naman yung konting sacrifice, konting tiis ng init, pagod at tagal ng byahe, at mga katabi sa likod ng bus na kulang na lang e mag flip-top. Hindi lahat nabibigyan ng chance gawin to. Sabi ko nun, hindi ko makakalimutan yung mga nangyari nung araw na yun. At tama nga, halos isang taon na ang lumipas pero eto, naisulat ko pa din. “
“Love knows no bounds, it reaches out beyond all races, colours, and creeds to embrace every human soul. This is because love is God, and God is both the creator and Father of humanity.
He created all, He guides all, He loves all, and He calls all.”