Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Sta Rosa Recap - Philippine Trip recap

So the 10th has arrived.

I am now just waiting for time to pass till we need to be walking to gate 6 and board the plane.
This certainly brings back memories of childhood

Managed to get into a nice little lounge for P650. Finger foods, drinks (booze included...   not much range, but at the cost of a meal and a few drinks, it hits the spot well enough) a comfy place to just chill (though I think their aircon needs dire servicing, I had to ask for a fan... twice... but there were no fans available) Service is the usual Pinoy high standard with bright smiles and helpful staff.

I reckon it was pretty good value for $18 AUD
My GAiN Comrades and I have conned the phrase "Suffering for the Gospel", which means you are caught enjoying the creature comforts of the place you are ministering in.

Frankly, I have nothing against "suffering for the Gospel. In fact, I think that it is completely separate from the work you are doing in the first place. The Gospel work is one, but fellowship with your fellow team mates is another. I ate at a 4 star hotel restaurant, paid for it, and had coffee afterwards with my friends because we just served over 400 patients and prayed with over 200 villagers who accepted the Lord Jesus. Please give me a bit of leeway if I have a desire to enjoy the company of my friends in a different setting.

I had the distinct honour of being the guest of Pastor Mannie Velante and his family. He took me to the LEAD Christian School in Sta. Rosa

The biggest honour was seeing the Holy Spirit move in the congregation and being used by the Lord to lead my cousin and my uncle back to Christ :)

The challenge back home is the funding.

The funding has not only been depleted, the rest of the funds have been withdrawn.

I never know how God sustains us in this endeavor but I know this. That by His Grace (and some smart business planning and fundraising) we can help this ministry for the school prosper.

Apologies for the short and lacklustre post. I have been in anxiety as to the future. This was drafted on the 10th Mar... and it is now the 18th.

I will be posting more, now that my anxiety has turned into a bit of rage... and righteous indignation.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Reflections - The Last Day at Tacloban City

There is something about this town.

I feel so at home here. The people are friendly, the atmosphere is familiar and the mood is somehow graced with Hope.

I know that my heart is to help out the poor and needy, but maybe it is here in Tacloban that I am going to be called.

No mater what, though, the pilot test is going to continue with Sta.Rosa.

Potential orders of business are:

  • Meeting with the project leaders pre-existing
  • Pray and dedicate the project to the Lord
  • Generate a think-tank to assist in the resource funding for the School and the Foundation
  • Develop a marketable business plan for Australian and Philippine funding
  • Set-up partners outside of the Think Tank for continuation
So there. Now that I got that off my chest, I need to let you all know that all is not well in Tacloban City, but it is also not the apocalyptic scenario most people would have initially thought.

As with most areas affected by natural disasters, the time it takes to recover is no joke.

Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans took up to 2007 - 2009 for the relief efforts, resettlement, and re-employment to get the city back on its feet.

It has been only the 8th Nov that the Typhoon hit. It is almost 4 months and there has been power restored to 40% of the population. Businesses are starting to thrive. Displaced squatters have taken residence like mushrooms around the areas where their houses previously were.

Officially? These aforementioned informal settlers were the hardest hit. 90% of the damage, death and displacement were to the squatters / informal settlers.

It makes me sick to my stomach that anyone HAS to live in these conditions
I have heard of firsthand testimonies and a few anecdotal ones about the death and destruction they have encountered.

One story goes how this retired Sea Captain (he once was the captain of a merchant marine ship. I helped him accept the Lord Jesus) was holding on to his wife. Both were wearing life jackets and both were waiting for the storm to hit, sheltered on the top level of their home. He remembers the night before (7th Nov) his neighbours (who were informal settlers) refusing to move to secure shelters as they were still carrying on as if this was just a regular storm.

The truly sad bit was when the storm surges hit, all of these hastily-built shanties could not stand the might of the winds.

One anecdotal statement given by a government official who was in charge of getting people to the shelters, "All the women and children were going to the shelters, but the men were staying behind to guard their personal belongings!" Meagre though it may be, these "things" were vestiges of the wealth they so long to have.

It broke my heart to hear personal accounts on how this one lady survived because the entire house collapsed around her and shielded her from the storm. She and her daughter managed to stay sheltered until the winds died down and they scampered off to a shelter, only to watch what was left of their home to collapse as soon as they turned back to have a look.

Her comment to me? "The Lord has protected me."

I have countless stories of hard workers, just wanting a good-old-fashioned "Fair Go" still on a temporary contract after 9 years of working for the local Government Council. He said that he doesn't even have his superannuation (his retirement fund) paid as part of the package nor any benefits like sick leave et.al !

Now righteous indignation is mixed with despair. Impatience is mixed with fear.

I can only do so much. I feel overwhelmed.

Then I remember that when I am weak, His strength shines through me.

That my God will give me all that I need

That He will never forsake me.

That the dream in my heart is from His desire to see more people turn to Him, to receive His gifts of forgiveness and Eternal Life.

The new chapter begins as I work towards the Foundation.

Funding or no, this will not stop the Lord from using me.

Pinoy Internet Blues

We arrived at the airport Tuesday morning and clamoured into what seems like a shed.

it turned out to be the Tacloban Domestic Airport
As we were landing, I also saw the utter devastation of the land. Coconut plantations wiped out, with just bare tree trunks left, squatters illegally built on land that was previously prime beachfront and water view real estate, and tent-cities with banners ranging from the UN to World Vision.

Surprise-surprise, there was little to no internet connectivity stable enough to warrant my Forex Trading nor my consistent blog updates. The most I can do was to do consistent Facebook updates, and still they do not do the trip justice.

This .... Definitely .... DOES NOT feel like 1.88mbps

As we progressed into the main town, I am surprised to see (sarcasm translates horribly) that The Filipino Channel have lied to us again.

Tacloban is a town ravaged by incredible winds, tsunami-like storm-surges and an incredible devastation to their populace.

The realities are, there was only 20% of the town was affected. Unfortunately, the informal settlers (read: squatters) are 90% of the dead.

I was told first hand accounts of people who suffered complete family losses, and other people who were more prepared condemning their neighbours who were drinking and carrying on the night before the Typhoon hit.

People were well informed about the typhoon. There were safe houses around the area. There were marshals who tried to herald people to safety.

Women and children left their houses and went. Men stayed behind to protect their meagre belongings. Others completely ignored the warnings and continued on with life as if they were invincible.

This is what was left of the surrounding airport infrastructure.

This used to be someone's house

The exciting thing is, the place is starting to thrive. Despite the multiple political maneuvering, businesses are slowly re-opening, and life is returning to normal.

Photo: This place is starting to live again
Seeing how beautiful Tacloban is now, I cannot wait to see this place again in the future

I have had the privilege to serve brothers and sisters in Apitong, Paglaum and downtown. I have translated for the doctors, set-up the clinics, moved almost 112  (metric) tons of baby food and got to personally lead someone to the Lord.

All in all a productive trip.

Once I have more time I will embellish the details of the "Tales of the missing baby food" , the " Reluctant Helper Girls" and  "Political Hobnobbing"

All for now!