It was like we were walking into a wall of humid heat as we left the terminal at Manila International Airport. We made our way out of the door and into a world so far removed from our own—a world in which brightly decorated jeepneys, roadside sari-sari stores and crowded streets were the norm.
I had jumped at the chance to accompany my dad to the Philippines to catch up with his former students and to attend a Conference with many of them in Manila. Having spent the first seven years of my life in Legazpi City (Southern Luzon) and Ozamis City (Northern Mindanao), I welcomed the opportunity to travel to the place closer to where I began my journey.
It was amazing to see how my distance from my birthplace had coloured my memories. I didn’t recall the humidity being so oppressive. I didn’t remember eating rice every meal. I didn’t seem to be able to call to mind crowded streets filled with cabs, buses, jeepneys and tricycles (motorbikes or bicycles with covered sidecars).
It didn’t take long for these things to jump back into my mind with a vengeance.
But my memory did serve me well with regards to the people: warm, welcoming, caring, considerate. Hospitality is a part of their nature.
Meeting us at the airport was Manuel, one of dad’s former students—now a pastor and supervising minister in the Grace Gospel Churches of Christ in the greater Manila area (He arrived in Manila 25 years earlier and had seen 14 churches planted around the region in that time).
It took us 2 hours to traverse the 27km from the airport to Manuel’s home in Quezon City. The early evening came alive with markets along the road, people returning on the train, buses and jeepneys from their day’s work, and the sounds of children playing. . . .
Every turn in the road brought a new sense of wonder. I must have looked like a typical “Americano” tourist with wide eyes and camera going full-pelt.
We arrived at the house around 8 where we were treated to a lavish spread of rice, chicken, salad and conversation liberally sprinkled with laughter, memories, and a few Cebuano phrases (at least the best dad could remember them!)
My dad was in his element, reminiscing about the “good old days” of mission trips into the mountains, riding carabao on muddy trails, Bible College days and many other such experiences. Manuel, also, told stories of his time living with our family in Legazpi, walking me to Kindergarten every day, then moving to Mindanao to attend Bible College.
I was reminded how, though we may be worlds apart in many ways, yet here we were at this table sharing food, talking as if 41 years hadn’t even passed, celebrating God’s goodness, however we conceived it to be in our own surroundings.
(to be continued . . .)