Wednesday, May 3, 2017

PREGNANCY CHRONICLES

It's my 36th week! I've been feeling heavier than ever, and sometimes losing my balance while walking, or trying to get off from bed, or even just standing from a chair. The last 36 weeks has been quite a wonderful journey, not only for me but also for my very wonderful husband who has been loving and supportive along the way.

As I've written in another blog post a few months ago, this child is indeed a blessing to us. I started praying for a child as early as ten years ago, and even before we got married, my husband and I have had so much faith that God will bless our marriage with children. Little did we know, we will receive this precious gift right after our wedding! It was a most welcome surprise and the best wedding gift we've received!

First Trimester

The first trimester was not as tough as I've heard it to be. I never threw up, nor had the usual morning sickness most pregnant women experience. But I had my fair share of tough times. I lost appetite in nearly everything. I couldn't appreciate the taste of food, even those I used to love. I only ate for the sake of eating. I knew I needed to get nourishment, so I made sure I ate three times a day. But trust me, those times were the worst times I have in my memory of me eating. I've always loved food and eating, so not having the appetite was a punishment for me. 

Aside from the appetite, there was the usual fatigue I would feel most of the day. I had to sneak in for a 30-minute nap in the afternoon because I just can't help it and my energy does not last long enough. During those times, I would be in bed for the night at around 8PM, and would wake up at 6AM. Of course, this includes a trip to the restroom to pee almost every one to two hours. In the morning, I would usually wake up feeling really hungry, but once I start thinking of what to eat, I lose my appetite and just end up with an apple and my usual porridge or cereal to get through the difficult phase of choosing what to eat.

Aside from appetite issues, there's the normal emotional ups and downs, with my husband being away for work most of the time. So spending most nights alone was not easy.

The first trimester was also a time when I did mostly my last travels. I traveled to Cambodia for a week to attend to the last module of the Peace Leadership Training I was part of. At 8 weeks, I went back to Angkor Wat just to take photos with my little bump. :) Though my bump wasn't very visible yet at the time, I made sure the photos showed my traveling bump.



At 12 weeks I traveled to Tagum City to speak with a group of farmers about peace and human rights, and the socio economic reforms. My husband and I have been praying for Tagum City, seeing it as our long-term place of residence in the future. It was good to see the city while I was pregnant and our dreams of moving there have been revived in my heart.





Second Trimester

As I have read, the second trimester is really a friendly time. My appetite came back (right about Christmas season, which is great!) I also felt a little bit more energetic, and since my bump size was still manageable, I felt great and excited.

On the 16th week we found out the gender of our baby. Before we even got married, my husband shared to me how he twice dreamt of us as a family. The first dream was that we have two children, an older boy and a younger girl. The second dream was that we have a baby boy. So somehow, in our hearts and in our minds, we were preparing for our firstborn baby boy! During the ultrasound, when the doctor blurted out that it was a baby boy (without even asking if we wanted to find out), we were extremely happy and it got us all the more excited! There was the feeling that "we knew it all along," but it was also good to confirm it. We also have three names listed for our first three kids! But I'll talk about the name once this baby comes out.

The second trimester was both an exciting and challenging time for my work, and I got around with this bump in all my meetings. Some of the highlights included documenting a briefing with diplomats regarding the updates on the peace process between the government and the National Democratic Front. A few of the diplomats were curious how far along I was in the pregnancy.



Another highlight included meeting with the government and NDF panel members/consultants to present the compilation of Socio-Economic Reforms (SER) recommendations that we have been working on in the last years.




At around 20 weeks, Peace Church community had a retreat in Tanay, Rizal. We hiked at a waterfall where two people were baptized, and then everyone had a great time splashing in the water (except for me), for fear of slipping on the slippery rocks.


At 27 weeks, I was privileged to join Peace church community members in presenting about what it means for the church to engage in Social Transformation at the annual Asian Theological Seminary (ATS) Theo Forum. My bump has been more visible at this time, and this boy sure was a cooperative little one.




Third Trimester

Now, we're talking pregnancy! You know, what you see in movies? Big bump, maternity clothes, and walking like a duck. So everything still feels great, but the heavier weight in my abdominal area is sure not good for my balance and walking. I mean, I need not worry about walking like a supermodel, but I know that my walking doesn't look great. And my clothes! Ugh! I already have a set of clothes that are more "comfortable" and "loose", so I have been using those as maternity clothes. But boy, it still surprises me how some of the bigger ones already fit me now, especially on my tummy! Some even got a little tighter!

At 31 weeks, my father-in-law passed away. Surely one of the most challenging times for my husband and his family. So I needed to travel to Tagum City to attend the funeral. But because I'm already at week 31, I first needed to get a medical certificate so I can be allowed to get on a plane. Traveling with a big bump, in my experience, had its own privileges. I get to use the priority lanes for  getting inside the airport and checking in. But, it was also hard when I have to pick my bags, or having to get up and pee a few times during the flight.

It has since been my last long-distance travel for the third trimester. Now that my bump is huge and I am feeling heavier than ever, it has also been harder to commute on a bus from Quezon City (where I work) to Laguna (where my parents live). But because I planned to give birth at home, I had to take an early maternity leave (with the hopes that this little boy will also come out soon enough). Commuting just was not a good experience for me, especially if I have a heavy bag with my laptop on it.



So now, I'm on my 36th week and the waiting game begins. My due date is on May 27th, but the doctor said the baby can come out anytime. And I really hope he comes out, right around the 37th week when my husband comes back from his trip in the south.




Now, I'm praying for a fast and safe labor and delivery. Every day I pray that I will deliver a healthy baby boy without complications for me or for him, and that everything will work out perfectly.












Sunday, November 20, 2016

The FILIPINO FORGIVENESS - and its EXPLOITATION

"Forgive and forget," that's what people would always advice those who are experiencing pain from an abuser. It becomes a blanket advice from people who normally have never experienced the same kind of pain. From people who may never understand what that pain meant.

The concept of forgiveness in the Filipino culture has been exploited too much, to the point that people often let things go in order for them to look like good people. In fact, for them it is an act of "true Christianity." This country has been colonized by the Spaniards bearing the cross, colonizing in the name of Christianity, teaching our people to "submit" and "obey," and if anything unjust was done to you, you are to "forgive" and "forget" as an act of true Christianity. Those teachings were so much exploited in order for the colonizers to continue to enslave our people. So that they will not fight back against the Spanish colonizers who are abusing them in their own lands. For more than three hundred years, it was ingrained in the Filipino psyche, that even after the brave heroes fought for the country's freedom (not without the presence of traitors), so much of the distorted theology has remained in our culture.

The Spanish colonizers were followed by American colonizers, bringing Protestantism and education as a disguise to colonization. Again, Filipino forgiveness has been exploited - you are not to demand justice, especially if the offender or abuser is someone who is in authority. The concept of authority as anointed by God (Romans 13:1-7) has also been exploited, in a sense that anyone in authority - in the church, in politics, in the family - can never be questioned because God anointed them for the position of power they hold. Anything they do is considered right, and even if people do not agree, you are not allowed to question their authority because they are 'anointed by God'. But what if those in authority abused their power and selfishly turn away from the will of  God? Does that still make them "anointed'? They use Matthew 5:38-42 (turn the other cheek) to justify that the people's suffering is acceptable, in order that they will not revolt against the oppressors. Totally misleading people from the teaching of the Bible. Again, our brave heroes fought for this country's freedom, Heneral Luna, for instance, but never without the presence of our country's own traitors who brutally killed him.

The Philippines has become a country with great leaders, and also lots of traitors. Those who are put in power (either by the people or by themselves) are mostly succumbing to greed (for power and wealth), each with their own story. Each protecting their own interests and families, and the few good ones being murdered by traitors.

There was once a rich ruler who succumbed to his greed - both for power and wealth - that he became a dictator and ruled for two decades. He ruled far beyond the time allowed for him. He created many big projects that until now are being used by the public. He built schools, hospitals, roads, trains, and bridges. Anyone who questions his dictatorship are either thrown in jail, tortured, killed, or would mysteriously disappear never to be found again. His rule was loved by some of the people who are ignorant of all the murders and plunders he has been doing in other parts of the country. Some parts of the country have been relatively peaceful and people who are 'good enough' to know not to question authority, adored this leader with their lives. This ruler's wife has exploited all the riches they have been stealing from the country, displaying their extravagance to the entire world. His children also enjoyed all the family's riches. They were given everything they needed, vast resources spent to adorn and entertain themselves. They were given positions in the government, without having to go through the normal process others would have to go through. At their whim, their enemies, or anyone who tries to question them will immediately be murdered by their rich father, the ruler (dictator) of the land.

At one point, the people decided that this dictatorship needs to stop. There has been so much injustice and human rights violations in this leadership, including thousands who were tortured and killed, several communities that were massacred, and billions of money loaned from international comunity to build all his beautiful projetcs, because the people's taxes are kept in the family's treasury to sustain their extravagant lifestyles. These loans are still being paid by the people, until thirty years later. Not all the people know about it because the information being sent out to the public through the media are all controlled by the dictator. At that time, the people were united into a people power revolution. One that inspired the whole world of the power of democracy. The dictator was replaced by a rich widow, wife of one of the dictator's political critique. The dictator's family was exiled after the revolution, bringing with them all the wealth and jewelries they plundered from the country. After a few years, the dictator died from a decease. He was initially buried privately, but the family has a plan. They wanted to bury him as a hero. They wanted to come back to the country and rule again.

The widow's leadership was not without controversies and human rights violations as well. The leaders that followed after her, each with their own interests and anomalies. Eventually, the dictator's family was allowed to return to the country, with an agreement that his body will be buried far up north in their land. The family signed the agreement, but they never really buried the dictator. They wanted a hero's burial. They wanted to come back and gain power all over again.

Thirty years after the revolution, the dictator was buried in the Heroes' cemetery like a thief in the night. They arranged a hero's burial secretly, because they know that many people will not allow it to happen. The children defend their father, saying he can be buried as a hero because he was a soldier. They say there was nothing to apologize for their father's cruel leadership, because they did not know anything about it, and that they were 'too young' to understand what happened during that time. 'Too young,' they say, when they were already young adults at the time, enjoying all the extravagance of their status and wealth. They call for the people to "move on," "forgive" - without asking for forgiveness, and to heal.

The tragedy of this is that many people, good people, accept their call for forgiveness, healing, and moving on, without even understanding that until today, thirty years later, there are still thousands of victims of this dictator who have not experienced justice. There was never even any "apology" from the family, acknowledging that there was wrong done. There was only denial and lies. Many, many lives were lost. Many young people, who could have been today's great leaders, have been raped and murdered in gruesome ways. The dictator, who was ousted by the people, has been buried as a hero, 30 years later. It was an insult to the democracy that many fought for. And it has divided the country - families, friendships, and relationships. The very family who was calling for "forgiveness" and "healing" - has caused division in so many levels. Yet they are the ones who have never moved on, even waiting for thirty years before burying the dead. Poor skeletons!

Ironically, the division was caused mainly by the call for "forgiveness" and "healing." Many people - Christians, especially - would justify that the dictator's burial can be accepted and he can be forgiven because the law allowed it and that God would judge everything in the end. That it is not for us to judge those who sin against us.

Here is where conflict occurs. In the New Testament, Jesus often talked about forgiveness, even saying forgive 'your brother' seventy times seven (Matthew 18:22). The missing point here is that, Jesus' parables and examples of forgiveness have always been forgiving those who are indebted to you, which in that context means, that person has lower power or authority than you. In that sense, you forgive unconditionally (Luke 7:41-43). In Luke 17:3 Jesus talks about forgiving a brother, in which case there is no hierarchy set up, considering the offender as an equal. Here Jesus talked about forgiveness 'if there is repentance'. If an equal has offended you, you must rebuke, and if there is repentance, forgive. If you have been offended seventy times, and that person came back to you seventy times, you must forgive. Here there are two things: Rebuke, and Repentance. The process of forgiveness in a relationship of equals require repentance from the offender.

As Frederick Keene puts it in "Structures of Forgiveness in the New Testament,":

...the progression of forgiveness can be broken only by a more powerful person refusing forgiveness to a less powerful person. The progression of forgiveness does not move up the structure of power, only down.
The only example where one with less power forgives those with relatively more power, was Jesus Himself on the cross (Luke 23:34). One of Jesus' last words on the cross was "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." At that time, He was crucified on the cross, in a situaion where He has no power. But He was not the one who forgave those who crucified Him. He asked God the Father to forgive them. Being less powerful in the situation, He did not offer forgiveness Himself. Instead, He asked the strongest and most powerful to forgive. He did not indicate that a less powerful can forgive a more powerful.

The link between forgiveness and justice can be established by relinquishing power of the one who is more powerful. In cases of sexual abuse, say, of a pastor to a church member. It will be very difficult for the victim to offer forgiveness, especially if power is not relinquished. There must be space, or action done so that the power imbalance is addressed, and repentance is offered by the offender. Otherwise, a victim cannot offer forgiveness.

In a larger scale, it is the case of this country, where thousands of victims of injustices have never been given justice. There was never even an apology, nor relinquishing of power. Sadly, the offender was even self-declared as a hero. And the dictator's family trying to go back to power. For a large-scale injustice where victims are powerless, it is easy to say "Let God, who is more powerful, forgive." Yes, God can offer them forgiveness. But it is lazy to just sit back and do nothing, watching the victims suffer from all the pain, all the wounds unhealed from the past, and the offender rubbing salt on those wounds. We can offer forgiveness to the dead, but what happened to love and compassion for the victims?

Right now, it is not just about the dictator, or his family. It is about the system that allows cruelty to remain, for evil and injustice to reign, because of the culture of forgiveness that has enslaved this country for hundreds of years. It is a culture that tells people to be lazy. To just sit back, watch God forgive and do the rest, while those who are not yet affected by injustice, remain comfortable in their own homes.

When Jesus said "Follow me," I understand Him saying "Follow what I did. Turn tables, challenge unjust laws and systems, challenge those in authority who are not following the will of God." I did not take it as, "Sit down and just pray while injustices roam on your streets." No. It is a distorted theology passed on to us by our colonizers and oppressors. When you've surrendered forgiveness to God, it does not mean you forget and neglect all those who experience injustice. It means you do something, no matter how small, so that the oppressive and unjust system will somehow allow justice to be served. When you seek and pursue justice, it does not make you unforgiving. Love and compassion for those who are neglected by the institutional injustices, can never be equated to unforgiveness. Yes, forgiveness is offered to the dead. But the family of the dictator needs to show repentance and relinquish power for true healing to happen. Otherwise, we offer our exploited forgiveness as a nation, all over again. We mock ourselves and destroy the future of the next generation, who will live in the same institutionalized injustices.



.



Friday, October 21, 2016

THE BEST GIFT

"My child, I have conceived you in my heart, long before I conceived you."

Nine years ago, in September 2007, I had a surgery. I had a huge cyst around my ovary, so my left ovary and fallopian tube had to be removed with the cyst. I was still in college and recuperating was pretty much easy, with the strength of my youth and the support of family and friends around me. But there was a scar left. A 13-centimeter scar that reminded me of the lingering question every time  - will I ever have my own baby? I had no idea.

Before entering into any relationship, I make sure the guy understands my situation very well. And so I fell in love. And this man asked me to marry him last year, December 2015. From the very beginning of our relationship, we both decided we are going to wait til marriage before we have sex. We prepared for our wedding for 8 months, and things turned out to be more awesome than we expected. Of course, it was exceptional because of all our family, friends, and community who poured all their love and support. It was a beautiful day - August 27, 2016. That day, I imagined my life - my future, with this man. I knew it would be full of challenges but it will be worth it. As faithfully as God has provided for our wedding, we knew He will be our constant source of provision throughout our marriage. We made a promise to love each other through the best and even the most difficult times. We will stick together through the most certain things, and even through uncertainties, doubts, and anxieties.

We only had a whole week for honeymoon before we go back to our long-distance setting. He has to finish his work for a few more months, and so during that time we'll have to endure being apart from each other. Before the wedding, most people asked us if we have any plans on having children, and when. I always said we wouldn't plan. We'll wait and see whenever that is. In my mind, in fact, I always thought "if ever that is going to happen?" A question of doubt and anxiety that haunted me for nine years. I knew nothing was impossible. My husband and I had faith that God will give us children. We even have two names lined up for the first two kids. But we were also prepared in case it never happens. We are willing to adopt.

Two weeks after our honeymoon, my monthly period was already delayed. I thought it was probably just due to adjustments in my reproductive organs. The following week, my husband encouraged me to get a pregnancy test to see if ever it's positive. Or else we'll just have to wait a little longer. I thought it wouldn't hurt to try. And so I tested. And it was positive! I tried a second time, and it was positive again! I couldn't believe how possibly true and fast things have been! But I certainly am now conceiving a child. A child I prayed I could have - for nine years! I am so thankful that throughout the years of fear, anxiety, and doubt that haunted me, God  has ever been faithful, answered a little prayer, a heart's desire to be able to carry my own child. Now in the next months, things are going to change inside my body, but I feel like I can endure anything. In Christ!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

ON DEATH PENALTY

Change. Discipline. Heinous crimes. Death penalty.

People are hungry for change. They elected a leader who promised change and suppression of crimes in a few months. He has a track record for developing a city and making it one of the best in the country. Change, he says, is coming.

People rely on him for discipline. He is a man of strength and courage. The day after elections, some drivers already start dropping off passengers in the allowed drop-off points. Some drug dealers have already made plans to change business. His victory inspired change.

He hates drugs. He hates crimes. The first thing in his agenda is to suppress crimes. Fast. The way to move the country forward is by making sure crimes are not tolerated. 

He is open to bringing back death penalty - by hanging, even. The death penalty has been abolished nearly a decade ago. The Philippines was the first country in Asia to abolish death penalty. But this president who will bring about change, is about to bring back a law that was abolished a decade ago.

There are many debates around this issue, and not surprisingly, a lot of people support bringing it back. Because their president wants it back. Period. What he says, they support. What he wants to do, they will be willing to do. Because he is the only person who can help transform this county.

The church is still silent on this issue. Famous personalities with Christian faith have been asked. Surprisingly, one famous personality agreed that death penalty is biblical. The passage he cited? Romans 13:1-10. The passage talks about duties toward state authorities. That authorities should be respected because God put them there to lead. 

In the Old Testament, death was God's punishment for the people of Israel who disobeyed his commands. God punished not only individuals but whole clans (Num 16:31-33), who dare disobey His commandments. When people worshipped other gods (Deut 13:9), He killed them. When people stole what is supposed to be in God's treasury (Joshua 7:25-26), or when they do not obey simple instructions. He punished them, and their families, if need be - with death. He burned people (Lev 10:2), punished them for complaining (Num 14:36-37), for rebellion (Num 16:31-33), and for committing false accusations (Deut 19:21).

Throughout the Old testament narrative, the children of God continue to forget Him and worshipped other gods. But God's love was unfailing. He continued to send people to lead them back to Him (Deut 4:37). But we humans continue to fail. Crimes and sins against God and against humanity have become our nature. And because sending leaders to lead people back to God wasn't enough, He sent his only Son, Jesus. Jesus became fully human, born as a human, raised and grew up as a normal human. He experienced what it was like to be human, and even though he did not sin, he was sentenced to die. He died hanging on the cross. Death on the cross was the ultimate form of death penalty at the time. He died through the ultimate form of death penalty. But in his death, he reconciled man to God. No one can come to God, except through Jesus. He died, but He rose again after three days. His death  and resurrection was a symbol of victory over death itself.

In present-day reality, death penalty or capital punishment is an issue that still causes heated arguments, especially among Christians. Some people support death penalty because God's punishment for sin is death. Some people are against death penalty because it does not align with restorative justice principles.

Yes, death is God's punishment for sin, which is why we are all supposed to die. But Jesus Christ's death on the cross was an ultimate form of sacrifice. He is the reason why we can have eternal life.

We, humans, are not worthy to impose death to others who have committed crimes. It is only God who can do that.

As a human rights and peace advocate, I strongy believe that death penalty is not the answer to reduce crimes. It would only show that the government does not value the life of its constituents, and would only promote fear and terror. What this society needs is not fear - to force them not to commit crimes. What we need is inspiration - so we can actively and proactively work together towards a better society. We need to explore restorative justice processes. Yes, it may take more time, more energy, more resources. But in the long run, restorative justice is what we need so that the pains and injustices of this generation will no longer be passed on to the next.

Monday, April 11, 2016

THE WISDOM OF THE AGED

I come from a small church denomination with less than a thousand people across the country, with five bishops! Throughout the years it has been puzzling for me and for many people I talk to, how we have so many bishops in so little a denomination as ours.

Recently, I've been reading the stories of church leaders from all the member churches of our congregations and it suddenly hit me why we had so many bishops. Each area/district is in a separate province, a few hours away from each other (by driving), and a few days away by hiking. In each of these areas, people have different cultures, different languages/dialects, different context, and different perpectives. They often need a leader who understands their context to mentor them and disciple them. They need a leader whom they can visit for advice and who can also visit them from time to time to encourage them. In their geographical locations, it would be hard for one bishop to visit the churches on a regular basis without being physically exhausted. That is why, perhaps, they needed five bishops - one for each strategic location. They needed a bishop not just to lead, but mostly to serve as a mentor, a fatehr figure, an adviser, a counselor. 

This now becomes clear to me. The wisdom of the aged people can be puzzling for us, younger generation, but it is amazing to finally figure out that yes, somehow, their wisdom made sense.

There is a lot of things we can do to improve on our current situation, and we need not ditch the wisdom of the aged. In fact, we need their wisdom, their past experiences and lessons from pains ad mistakes - in order to guide our generation into dreaming for the future. :)

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

THE COST OF LEARNING 4: TACLOBAN, LEYTE AND SAN JUANICO BRIDGE


Tacloban City, Leyte

13 September 2015 - From Davao, there are no direct flights to Tacloban City. You can only fly through Manila or Cebu. So instead of the  expensive air fare, I opted for the more adventurous and cheaper option. I took a bus! The whole trip lasted for about 26 hours for me! From Davao Overland Transport terminal, there was a 12nn trip to Tacloban which would last around 21 hours, but I missed this one. So a conductor told me to take the Butuan bus and either catch the 12 noon trip, or wait for another five hours to get on the next bus to Tacloban.

(On a side note, when I got off a taxi at the terminal, men came flocking towards me, asking me where I'm going, and grabbing my bags. I had to yell at them to stay away from me. First, I can pull my trolley bag, and then I only have a shoulder bag with me which is not heavy, so I don't need any help. Second, I feel like I am being harassed as several men came towards me when they saw the taxi stop. This same scenario happened almost the rest of the trip, in any bus terminal or port area, where guys just flock and ask you where you're going and trying to get your things from you. I know they are only trying to help and earn some money by doing so, but most of the time they are just so threatening and harassing. I hope the government and transport groups could pay attention to systems that would work better for porters and passengers.)

So anyway, I got on the bus to Butuan and paid P490, travel time around 8 hours, because the bus stopped at every terminal in every municipality. When I finally arrived in Butuan City, the bus to Tacloban just left, so I waited for another five hours for the next bus. I spent time drinking coffee and eating cup noodles. There are several stalls there and I also happened to charge my phone battery, with a charging fee of P10. There are a lot of trips to Cagayan and Davao in the evening, so waiting was not boring and staying at the terminal for a few hours felt safe.

Finally, when the bus to Tacloban arrived, I gladly took a seat. When I tried to put my big bag inside the storage space beneath the bus, a guy helped me load. I gladly thanked him and sat inside the bus. A few minutes later he came for me and asked me for a fee. He specifically asked me for P20 (for carrying my bag! Which I didn't even ask him to do! I could have done it myself!) So anyway, I was pissed off but I know he wouldn't leave me alone. I checked my coin purse and I only had P15 change in there so I told him that's all I had and he left unhappily. It was around 1:45 AM when the bus to Tacloban left Butuan City. The bus fare was P650.00.

At around 5:30 AM the bus arrived at Lipata Port in Surigao. Passengers had to get off the bus and purchase our own ferry ticket, terminal fee, and another fee that costs P5. After getting the ticket, I realized it was a Red Cross charity ticket. I was surprised that in this part of the country they seemingly charge by force to donate to Red Cross. Anyway, the ferry ticket and Red Cross donation totaled P142, and then there was a terminal fee of P16. It was raining hard that early morning, so we waited around 40 minutes before we were able to board the ferry. The trip took only around 45 minutes, and then we were already in San Ricardo, Southern Leyte.

After getting off the ferry, I had to look for our bus (before getting off, we were reminded to look at the bus number to make sure we don't get lost). The ride from San Ricardo to Tacloban took another eight hours. Riding from Mindanao and then Visayas, I could totally sense and see the difference of the landscape. I know I am already in a different island, in a different province, with a different language. I enjoyed the trip, but I couldn't wait to see the person waiting for me in my destination.

Finally, the hour has come. The bus arrived at Tacloban New City Terminal around 1:40 PM. From the bus terminal, we took a tricycle to downtown where my hotel is located. Tricycle special fare is P100. I checked in at GV Hotel which cost P775 per night. It is relatively a cheaper option in this city, where most hotels tend to be over-priced after typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in 2013. Most of the hotels needed some restoration and renovation and with the tourists and humanitarian workers flooding the city, hotels are back to good (and expensive) business. So this room I got had an aircon, TV, and private toilet (but no hot shower!). The space was small, and generally not clean and neat. But since I had no other affordable option, I just closed my eyes at night so I could sleep fast.

I stayed here for a week to relax, restore my energy after three weeks of traveling, spend time with my beloved (John), and to meet up with my colleague, who I will be traveling with in the next provinces in Visayas.


During the day, I spend time at PhilRads office in San Jose area, where John also works and stays. The jeepney (or multi-cab) fare from downtown to San Jose is P9 per way. I would have to warn you that I had to squeeze in to fit inside a multi-cab if it's full. From the Rotonda area going to the office, you can walk for around 10 minutes, or ride a pedicab that cost only P5, (but we pay P10 each because we feel like we're so heavy! Poor drivers!).
Invading PHILRADS Office!


There's lots of pork lechon around the city. Meals cost around P50-P200 per person depending where you eat and what kind of food you are looking for. If you keep an eye, there are places that sell fruits and vegetables for reasonable price, but pork is really the most common food all over the place. I also noticed that they are not fans of soupy food.

Hanging out at their lechon place!


There are tons of restaurants and coffee shops around the city,but I tried the local places. For dinner once, we went to a grill park near the city hall and had a satisfying grilled squid and barbeque for only P266 (including rice and drinks). Another evening, we tried the lechon park and had satisfying meals too for around the same price.

I had a chance to cook here,and as if being spoiled, a random lady knocked on their door selling crabs. It was only P180 for 1 kilogram. I was so excited, bought it, boiled it in salt, pepper, garlic and soda,, and then it was gone. :) It was a tasty treat!
The tasty treat!


A popular place to hangout is the Robinson's place. Beside it is Go Hotels which is also a really nice place to stay if you could afford it. I stayed there twice before and it was really worth it and in a nice location. For grocery shopping and other options, you could also visit SaveMore, which is near the market. I've walked around the market shopping for fish and vegetables too, and prices are also pretty decent, especially if you know how to haggle.

We watched the movie Heneral Luna at Robinsons for only P155.5 each. We enjoyed the movie, and then a few days later it became popular through social media and was extended by most cinemas nationwide.

Places to visit in Tacloban are the: MacArthur Park (aka Leyte Landing), and the Sto. Nino Shrine where you could tour the Marcos mansion and their extravagant rooms.


San Juanico Bridge

There was a place which I couldn't distinguish whether it was part of Leyte Province or Samar Province. It is somewhere in the middle of San Juanico bridge, the longest bridge in the country connecting the two provinces. It was built during Ferdinand Marcos' era, and legend has it that he built it as a symbol of his love for his wife Imelda. But of course, he used the government money, and it was actually part of his public service.

From downtown, we took a jeepney going to the New Terminal, which cost P8 per person. There are buses and vans going to Basey, Samar that can drop you at the entrance to San Juanico Bridge. We got on a van and had to pay the full fare of P30 each. We got off a few meters before San Juanico. From the starting point of San Juanico bridge, up to the end, John and I walked hand-in-hand.(Wait, we had to stop to take some selfies and quarreled a little bit when he couldn't take a nice photo of me, and all the photos I took of him were great!) But yes, it was a great experience! We walked around 45 minutes including all the selfie and emo moments in the middle of the bridge.

When we arrived in Sta. Rita, Samar, we waited for a jeepney to get back to Tacloban. The fare from Sta. Rita to Tacloban was only P8!



Monday, October 26, 2015

THE COST OF LEARNING 3: SOUTH COTABATO AND DAVAO DEL SUR


Marbel (formerly Koronadal), South Cotabato

08 September 2015 - From Kidapawan, I rode a van (with Kuya Bebot, our partner from Arakan) going to Tacurong. The van fare cost P120 each. In Tacurong we took a tricycle to YBL Bus terminal (P17), and hopped on a bus to Marbel (P52 each). Tricycle fare in Marbel is P10 each. We stayed at Villa Princessitas at Jabido Compound. The rooms cost P500 each. My room had twin beds, an Air-con, TV. and private bath (but no hot shower). It is very cheap for a room that can accommodate two people. This place is always full of groups that conduct seminars and training because they also have function rooms and catering services.

I only had a day to go around the city looking for offices of organizations we wanted to visit. Somehow, I had a chance to pass by the provincial capitol of South Cotabato which looks beautiful and modern. We went inside, but I was disappointed to see how the clean and new look outside the building was not sustained in its interiors. It was still an old building badly maintained. Nearby is the Notre Dame University which looks neat and interesting, but I did not have a chance to even enter inside the university premises.

Our favorite (not really, just the closest to where we stayed) restaurant was Nadie's Chicken Haus. When we ate there they didn't have all the specialties they offer, so we ended up having chicken barbeque. It tasted good,but the first one we had was under-cooked. The second try was perfect. Our meals cost P259 for two persons already.

Unlike in Kidapawan, the tricycles here are small. Two people hardly fit inside, and I always have to duck so that I don't bump my head during the ride. They are nicely painted yellow though, which looks neat. :)

Provincial Capitol of South Cotabato


Notre Dame of Marbel University


General Santos City

09-10 September 2015 - I traveled to GenSan for two consecutive days while billeted at Marbel City. Bus fare cost P95 per way. Tricycle fare is also P10. When I got there, their Tuna Festival just ended, but there were still some stalls at their Oval Plaza. I wasn't lucky to taste their tuna kinilaw, but I would surely love to go back to this place and roam around if I have a chance. Food is fairly affordable, and there are also affordable places to stay. I was recommended to stay at Lea's Pension House, although I no longer had the time to try.

The tricycles here are also big, similar to how they are designed in Kidapawan.

Digos City

11 September 2015 - From General Santos City, bus fare to Digos City cost P115 per person. Tricycle fare is also P10. I only spent a few hours in this city, There are lots of durian and pork lechon here, and I think the prices are reasonable. I went back to Davao City and spent a night there before traveling to Tacloban City by bus.

The tricycles are designed similar with how they are in GenSan.