Thursday, April 15, 2010

I chose the road to...the Philippines

As I prepare for my return to the Philippines in May, I have been reflecting on my previous trip in February which I have yet to inform you about. It was one of the most amazing and exhausting weeks of my life. I say that because I managed to pack a serious amount of traveling into a very short amount of time. From airplane to van, to car, jeepney, to bus, to bus, to jeepney, to bus, to bus, jeepney…well you get the point.

My heart was touched from the moment I arrived and continuously throughout my stay. I made new friends at the National Church Office and Mission Center in Manila who were incredibly hospitable and treated me like family. The best part for me was that immediately everything slowed down from the crazy fast pace of Hong Kong. It didn’t appear that anyone was in very much of a hurry about anything and that was just fine with me for a change.
Filipino time, at last.
I was planning to meet my fellow YASC volunteer Melanie in Baguio, and fortunately for me a few of my new friends in Manila were headed that way the next day. The only downside was that they were leaving at 3:30am. Aiya!! I went to bed early that night, and before the rooster’s started crowing, we left in a tiny car bound for Baguio. It took about 6 ½ hours, but we made it… a little worn out and sleepy. I was so excited to finally be reunited with Melanie and to have her show me around Baguio.

We made a decision to keep travelling that day and hopped on a bus bound for Bontoc around 2:00pm. This was the most entertaining 7 hour bus ride of my life. Not only having Melanie for a seat mate, but the bus radio was playing U.S. country music the entire ride. Melanie and I, along with two cute Filipino guys sitting behind us were singing at the top of our lungs to song after song all the way up the mountain. We arrived in Bontoc and stayed two nights at Bishop Alawas’s house with his family. I really fell in love with Bontoc. It was so beautiful and everyone there was so friendly. The children simply stole my heart.

After two days in Bontoc, Melanie and I took a jeepney the rest of the way up the mountain to her home in Besao. This was really exciting because so far no one has been able to visit her there. It was a beautiful day and I can remember the drive up the mountain like it was yesterday. The air was suddenly clearer and cleaner. It was simply a beautiful place.

I know that Melanie sticks out enough as it is, but TWO Americanos in Besao at once was almost more than they could handle I think :) We definitely got more attention than I’ve ever had in my life. It was quite an experience. I really enjoyed that no matter where we went, everyone in town knew Melanie and needed to know her business. They wanted to know who this person was with her and where we were going at all times. It was pretty funny, but kinda nice knowing they were keeping such good tabs on her all this time!

Unfortunately we were only able to stay in Besao for one day and had to begin our trek back down the mountain the following day. We stayed over again in Bontoc and then I took the rest of the 13 hour journey onto Manila alone. It was very hard to leave Melanie, but I knew that I would be returning in a few short months; which brings me to the present…

I am returning to the Philippines in May for the elections. I am taking part in the “People’s International Observers Mission” (PIOM). On election day, scheduled for May 10, 2010, more than 17,000 offices will be contested across the country including the key posts of President, Vice President along with representatives to the House of Representatives, the Senate, and a range of provincial, municipal, and local offices. The election will mark the end of the tyrannical Presidency of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, whose nine years in power have been marked by hundreds of politically motivated killings and enforced disappearances, along with a climate of impunity for those guilty of the crimes.

Our purpose in going is to monitor and investigate electoral fraud and violence, particularly since this is the first nationwide automated election in the Philippines. The goal is to assure that voters are protected and free to vote according to their conscience and that democratic processes are fully respected. The PIOM is organized by civil society groups in the Philippines, including churches, human rights advocates, lawyers and other non-governmental organizations.
As you know I work with Filipino Migrants and I have become attached to not only them, but to their country. I feel very passionate about finding a way to bring peace and hope to the Philippines. Attending this mission is how I intend to do my part. I am asking for your prayers for a successful journey as well as the safety of everyone in the Philippines.

You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you will join us, and the world will live as one.

**If you would like to make a financial contribution towards my expenses for this trip, I would appreciate the support. In the U.S., you may send checks to Rev. Allison Liles at the address on the right hand side of my blog.