At 10m we set of for the Mangyan tribe in the van. A little drive away, maybe about 30 minutes further into the mountain. We find several small huts and park at the end of the road, which is still in progress. Pastor Rely signals us over to a hut where a women and her children are standing under a woven leaf and bamboo roof structure
. Pastor Rely translates for Owen as he tells her about Jesus. Soon we are talking to three women. Everyone in the Philippines knows about Jesus, and these women say that they know. But after a bit of discussion we learn that they don't know Him personally. When asked who they pray to we are told Jesus, Mary and the saints. They think they will go to heaven if they have had all their sins confessed before they die. Owen tells them that their sins have already been forgiven, that Jesus took their sins upon Himself when He died on the cross, and that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. The women weep, touched by this most important message of the Christian faith. We lead them in prayer as they accept Jesus as their saviour.
The Catholic Church owns the land that these people are living on. By becoming new born believers they risk losing a burial place, and a place for their children at the Catholic school. We try to explain to them that God is interdenominational, that it doesn't matter whether you are Catholic or Protestant, but that the most important thing is you have a relationship with Jesus. We leave them after another prayer. They have one Bible between them. We have to trust in God's Holy Spirit to guide these precious new believers.
During this time, it has been raining heavily, and people have been running past holding big leaves over their heads for protection
. We are next called over to what seems to be the main meeting house, where the male leader of this part of the tribe spends his time during the day. The men who are concreting the road (which has ceased progress due to the rain) also are sitting in this shack. The male leader is just wearing a T-shirt, but thankfully is sitting down. We sit with him and ask about the tribe. There are about 175 families in the Mangyan tribe, living here and further into the mountains. We are told that the biggest problem in this area is a lack of jobs and of food. All this is spoken in Tagalog and translated by Pastor Rely and Pastor Rici, as the Mangyan tribal people can speak very little English. There are seven different tribes on Mindoro Island, and each has its own language and culture, the Mangyan tribe is just one of them. We leave, and drive to a nearby river where we see a precariously built footbridge, and we eat lunch in the van.
There is little communication in the car, and we have no idea where we are going next. We are driven to a building where Mercy Link has volunteers working, and we are introduced to a fellow kiwi, Warren Curtis-Smith from BBC in Tauranga! He and his wife, Pauline have been working on Mindoro island since 2002. They run primary health care and Bible classes, as well as an orphanage and a birthing centre. They are also working on building simple houses for the Mangyan tribe
. They say that it takes time to gain trust from the tribal people, but their ministry is now going strong. The men enjoy swapping snake stories (we still havn't seen any wild snakes here yet), and talk about the people that live here as being resilient and inventive. After a period of very heavy rain a Filipino put a fishing net over his flooded crops!
We get back to the van and drive to see Pauline's ministry, the orphanage and birthing centre. She is working for Ruel Foundation (http://www.ruelfoundation.com
), and has just come back after spending time in another area with a doctor conducting hair lip operations for children. Currently the orphanage has nine children, all under the age of six. These kids are soon running around and playing with us. Ryan, a Mangyan tribe boy, was found starved and very sick because his family was too poor to feed him. He is now running around, fit and healthy with the rest of the children. He visits his father once a month, and the orphanage is looking after him while slowly working on taking him back into the mountains to live with his father again permanently.
Next we drive into town, and head to the market place to buy food and cook dinner. Hannah and I decide to check it out. The smell isn't as bad as the smell in the market at Taytay, Manila, and is much smaller
. About four or five rows of stalls extend about 500m on the concrete road. Its feels good to be walking around rather than being stuck in a van smelling fish and petrol fumes. However I don't understand the attention. I have never been called beautiful (or magunda
in Tagalog) so many times. Finally we are back in the van and make our way to Pastor Rici's house, making multiple stops so that Rici and his wife can say hello to all their friend's stalls that are along the way.
Back at the house Hannah and I wait for dinner and soon make friends with Pastor Rici's daughter, Dianne (maybe about eight years old). She barely speaks any English, but we soon find a common language in drawing. Dinner is served (I am a little apprehensive), but the vegetable dish is very good (although I wish they hadn't put the chicken liver all through it!)
After such a long journey and a late night we wake up at 8am, and work out how to wash ourselves in the bathroom. We are then invited for breakfast, fish and rice. Fish, if you know me at all, is not my favourite thing, and just smelling it this time of the morning makes me feel sick, let alone the thought of eating it. Thankfully Pastor Rici has also bought bread, a cheese spread, and coffee. I still have a bit if rice to be polite, but it isn't just plain rice and I'm afraid it might have bits of fish in it. However once hearing how expensive rice is in this area I make sure I finish what is on my plate. We use the end of the fork as a knife, as they don't seem to use, or have, bread and butter knives commonly in the Philippines.