I want you, a Jesus freak, to write, now.
Last April 22, 2017, my friend and I took a 10-hour bus ride to Tuguegarao City up Northeast of the Philippines. From Tuguegarao Airport, we waited 5 hours for a 45-minute, 20-seater flight to Palanan Valley in Isabela Province. We were early and the plane was 4 hours late.
Palanan is not a popular travel destination, more so the village we went to. I was jobless with savings slowly draining away. What on earth was in Palanan that we were ready to get Php 8,000 (almost US$200) poorer and some backaches richer just to be there?
It’s not in your push. You’re not strong enough to push that far. It’s not in your push. It’s in your position. And I want to position yourself inside of love this morning. And let the the confidence that you are loved by the One who created you straighten your back to stand in this day. – Steffany Gretzinger
I would be exaggerating if say that the “road” to Palanan is difficult. The trip is lengthy, yes. The last leg had no roads, yes. But it is possible. Actually, I found crossing-the-river part most fun.
Yet, it is still a road less travelled for both leisure seekers and church ministers. Here’s a summary of the journey:
- 12 (or more, or less if the force is with you) -hour bus from Manila to Tuguegarao
- 5-minute tricycle from bus stop to airport
- 45-minute flight in a 15- or 20-seater from Tuguegarao Airport to Palanan Airport (with possible 2-hour flight delay depending on whether the plane from Palanan was able to get enough passengers to fly to Tuguegarao and vise-versa… Yes some flights are like jeepney rides, waiting for the seats to fill up)
- 10-minute tricycle from the airport to the river
- 25 to 40 minute motor boat from one side of the river to Dibungko, our destination. (If you’re going to Divilacan, a popular beach, it takes about 2 hours.)
Moreover, flights from Tuguegarao Airport to Palanan only happen 3x a week and they don’t jive with the Manila-Tuguegarao flights in case you want to take a plane to Tuguegarao.
The flights are not cheap either. They cost P2,500 one way. And yes, they rarely leave on time. I spent roughly P8,000 for my trip back and forth last April 2017. By the way, these flights were also popular for having had crash landings.
At the village, there aren’t millions of people, only a simple village. There’s no crusade or hotel or VIP rooms. When you go, you go not to be seen but to see. And to tell them that you see them. That they are not forgotten.
But for sure, there are some of us who love this kind of challenge. Like I said, it didn’t feel difficult at all when I first went there last year. The only struggle I had was the way back, with me needing to catch my Saturday morning class (for my graduate studies) back in Manila.
Why I’m Going Back
Well, first of, Duane, my former YWAM leader, a pioneer in the mission work in the said village, invited me again to come over. I was hesitant at first because of my health condition and my strict diet but the Lord touched my heart again and reminded me of how precious these people are to Him.
Let me tell you about a few of them whom I met there. Forgive me, I have been struggling with my ability to remember things because of my health condition. I may not remember some of the names correctly, but the faces, the faces for sure I will remember.
On one of my talks (It was about dreaming big in life), I asked for a few of them to share with the group what their dream is. One of them, a young man maybe around 17 years old, really wanted to share but we could all see that something was holding him back. He stood up and thought for a long time before he finally went up front.
After I handed him the mic, he said in Tagalog, “My dream is to be…(pause)… My dream is to be… (pause)… My dream is to be…(pause).” The teenagers laughed. The adults were stunned and wondered what was wrong. (Was he making fun of us or was he really struggling for the words?) I said, “Go on… what is your dream?”
He repeated the same lines over and over and over for what seemed like eternity. I am not exaggerating. I’ve heard people hesitate before, but not as much as this one. Just when I thought that he finally was going to say it, he would pause again and look down, or laugh, or hide his face in shame. It was such an awkward moment for him (and us) but he held on to the microphone.
He was ashamed to say his dream. After several tries and much encouragement, he finally says it — not a lot of words but just one.
“My dream is to become an architect. But it seems impossible.” And he said something to this effect, “I am ashamed to admit before people that someone like me should have a dream this big.”
We, the ones from outside Palanan were stunned. Perhaps, especially me, the first timer. I grew up a freakin’ dreamer. I dreamed of becoming an Olympian when I was in my teens. Then I dreamed of becoming a stage actress. Now I’m dreaming of becoming a rich, successful entrepreneur, and a pioneer in a certain brand of Christian publishing.
I don’t have much accomplishments. I didn’t make it to the Olympics, I didn’t even make it to Freestyle 6 in figure skating, my sport. I never got back to acting after one free elective in college. And I am having a hard time right now making a business plan. But I dream big even if the odds are against me. I still believe that I will reach my God-given dreams. Some of the ones I mentioned above were not really God-ordained, you know. Haha.
Seriously, I could not believe that this young man took more than 10 minutes to say that his dream is to become an architect. It broke my heart. But I don’t blame them. It was only a few years ago that they started to have their first college graduates. If I am not mistaken, just recently, their first college graduate who took up education became the very first teacher in the village who also came from the village. Whoever she is, she is a forerunner.
That’s Ishmael and his boldness in sharing his dream to the crowd inspired me. Actually, not just his boldness in sharing but his boldness in dreaming.
He is one of the reasons why I want to go back.
There are many more I want to tell you about. I’ll write about them in the coming days.
Perhaps, you are starting to feel like you want to go with me. I wouldn’t blame you. It really is worth the trip. They are worth the long (and expensive) trip. But in case you are not volunteering for this one, would you like to help me go back by sowing financially to my Mission Trip to Palanan, Isabela this April? Please do pray quickly about it and send me a message ASAP. I only have 3 weeks to go and I need to book some flights and notify our host about my plans. Thank you so much! Prayers are also welcome and needed!
I still feel broken
Yet many times more whole
But I will not stay here
I will keep moving
Much like before
For sure I am most grateful
This time I can run and not just crawl
I haven’t posted about the ministry work in Palanan yet. I’m sorry about the delay (to those who asked for updates!). But just wanna share a blessed time I had with a friend, and another friend, yesterday at Rustic Mornings in Marikina City PH.
It’s a really lovely breakfast place tucked behind the historic Shoe Museum of Marikina.
I had salad greens with roasted vegetables and my friend had bacon and hash browns with rice! They agreed to put stevia instead of sugar in my strawberry-mango slush. (I brought my own stevia powder packs.) Later around lunch (we were there at 9am), another friend of mine came to consult me about business/marketing stuff. 🙂 Then we started to pray before we leave. My friend is leaving for Cebu and this is our last meet up before she starts working there. And my other friend needed direction and wisdom, and when I started praying… it also started to pour! Our table was at the pavillion-ish area but thank God we didn’t get wet! We had to wait for the rain simmer down. Danielle was in such a mood to stay longer but I had house chores waiting for me. And we’re not sure if it would start raining hard again. If it does, we might end up getting stuck a long time at Rustic Mornings…. Not that it’s a bad place to get stuck at!
I wish I had taken more photos. It was such a lovely place. I’ve been planning to go there for quite some time now since we transferred to Marikina 8 years ago. So glad I finally made it. The salad and fruit slush were good. I couldn’t speak for the other items though coz I can’t taste them. You know how most salads taste almost the same. This one has a unique twist though with the roasted veggies on top. 🙂 And the sweet-ish balsamic vinaigrette dressing.
It felt nice when it rained. It was like we’re wonderfully stuck on an island, surrounded by shrubs, bamboo trees and other trees. I was also reminded of God’s healing rain. I need healing and so do my two other friends, I believe… We are all going through a challenging life season and I guess we also needed the refreshing from the rain. It’s like God saying my presence refreshing like the rain, spend time in my presence! Let’s get stuck on an island with God. Why not get “stuck” with God for a while and feel stranded in the beauty of His presence? 🙂 Sadly though, we had to leave soon. Spent the whole morning there and had to do ‘stuff’ at home. It was mid-afternoon!
Let me know your thoughts on this song’s lyrics. 🙂 I love the part that says, “Those who fear the grave, never find the truth”
Campfires and Masquerades
by Jason Upton
I remember a story
A story of a little boy
The story of a mother’s child
The story of all
I remember the middle of the darkness
Reaching out for a hand to hold
Reaching out for anything
That will lead me back home
I’m still here
I’m still waiting for you
After all these years
I remember the shadows
On the walls of my memory
They more around like reality
In this prison that we’ve made
And I remember the first born sunrise
Couldn’t stand to open my eyes
Like a blind man wandering
On the edge of his grave
I’m still here
I’m still waiting for you
After all these years
After all these years
Campfires and Masquerades
Come and go like cheap parades
When nothing’s lost and nothings’ changed
We like it that way
Our politicians have to lie
Because if they opened up our eyes
We’d kill them just like the others who tried
To pull us out of this cave
Maybe that’s why we’re so shaken
When our questions have the courage to
Come and drag us from our fiction
Those who fear the grave
Never find the truth
Everyday begins at midnight
If we’re ever gonna see the sun rise
Somebody’s gotta wake up
Before the morning comes
Somebody’s gotta wake up
Gotta wake up
Somebody’s gotta wake up
Before the morning comes…
Four little pigs.
If you like the sound of snorting piggies outside your bedroom window early in the morning, then Dibungko is for you.
If you like to find them grazing at your back lawn, looking for food, then Dibungko is for you.
I was wrong again. Something is wrong with me. Or with the way I think.
I’m a negative-thinking optimist. Does that make sense? I hope for the best but I expect the worst. For the past few years, I have become more and more aware of this. And like a girl looking from the outside in, I watched myself prove my negative expectations wrong. To my joy, relief, and amazement. I proved that I was wrong in expecting bad things to happen. I doubt my worthiness too much. I doubt myself, too much. And here’s the evidence.
I want to start a magazine. I am starting a magazine.
I am working hard and am getting close to getting this magazine started. I wanted to get in touch with the founder of another magazine in a similar niche. Perhaps, he or she could help me out. Perhaps, we could even work together. Besides, we’re both Christians and the magazine I have in mind also aims to glorify God.
Then, I started having negative thoughts about connecting with this person who I still don’t know who is. What if he’s not as good a person as I hope he would be? What if she takes advantage of my being a newbie instead of help me? What if…? Yeah, until I had forgotten the idea. That was a few years back.
Then weeks ago, I met up with her!
A common friend connected us. It turned out we have a lot of common friends! Friends I trust. Good friends. We should get along, right? I had forgotten that I had planned on setting a meeting with this person before. I didn’t realize that until (I think) we finally met up. (“Hey, I thought of this, but imagined it turning out really bad, years ago!”)
After that meeting, I rebuked myself. Thank you.
She was definitely a better person than I am. Based on my assessment. (Forgive me, I’m still struggling with being judgmental.) She’s more selfless, more hardworking, more stable, more mature, more… more… more… I was so wrong. And happy that I had been. 🙂
I think I’m gonna get in touch with her next week to ask her to mentor the team I’m starting.
And then there’s this other instance.
There was another person that kept popping in my head. Haha. You guessed it right, I thought that this person will reject me if I share my vision. I was so concerned and negative about it that I set aside the thought until a friend suggested that I get in touch with this man’s daughter. I thought, what the heck, I should probably reach out to them for help. He was thrilled about the concept. Wrong again.
Then last week, I sent a friend of mine a message saying, “I wanna reach out to this girl but she might not be interested in what I have to share.” That girl, it turned out, gave a resounding “yes.”
I have changed a lot. The negativity I carry now is a lot less than what I used to carry around. Just imagine DOUBT personified. That would be me. Self-doubting. Rambling for worthiness. Brainwashing self that she’s cool, but running away from validation. What. In. The. World.
But hey. I have some victories too. There were actually times when I told myself the opposite. Like I would tell myself, “I’m gonna do awesome.” “Things could only get better!” “Good things are coming my way.” And they do. They do! I’m not talking about positive talk. I’m talking about aligning my mind to God’s word:
“For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11
This is probably one of the most quoted scriptures in our day. I cling to it. I speak it. I chew it. I translate it into declarations over my life and my days.
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” Psalm 23:6
How about, “Surely goodness follow every minute of every day of my life”? I try that every morning. Not because I have the power to make that happen but because the God who said it does.
Sometimes, negative thoughts still come barging in my head. I chase them away with God’s Word. Positivity only goes so far. But God’s Words are powerful. It changed my life. It changed my mind, the way I think (negatively). And though I’m still working on it, I know I’m headed to a better place now.
What did I do in Palanan Valley? More specifically, in Dubungko, a village tucked away on a hill beside Palanan River.
Palanan is difficult to reach. There are two ways you can find the village we went to. One is by taking a 10-minute boat ride after flying on a 20-seater plane for 40 minutes from Tuguegarao City to Palanan Airport. Tuguegarao City is 10-14 hours from Manila via bus.
The other way is by taking a 5- to 7-hour motor boat ride from somewhere in Quezon Province’s docks (I think), East of Luzon. Quezon is around 3-5 hours from Manila by bus.
(Read more of our travel and arrival at Palanan here.)
My friend Duane had been visiting Dibungko and its nearby villages one to two times a year for the past two decades. Duane lives in the US. He has patiently sown and gradually reaped for God in that place that now has a network of churches that pastors the villages.
He works with a Christian couple there that pastor Dibungko’s community of lowlanders and Agta families not only by sharing God’s word but by helping them improve their lives–teaching them how to farm, and make and sell handicrafts. They also helped them see the value of, and have access to, education.
The Agtas especially have gone a long way from not having access to education, to having two of their very own, graduate with degrees in education so that they are now the ones who teach their fellow Agtas in Dibungko.
Going back to the question… What did I do in Dibungko? Well, they didn’t really need me to teach them how to farm or weave. I think they have to be the ones to teach me that. I came there to teach at a youth camp. 🙂
As far as I recall, I had only been invited to speak to young people four times in my entire life. I am not exactly a preacher girl, or your resident Bible teacher. So I was surprised to have been given this opportunity to speak in a place this far.
Here’s our team of 5. Ate Ruth was the one holding the camera. The room behind us is the church hall where we had our youth camp teaching sessions. To my right is Masui, the main camp speaker. We split the number of sessions between us two. Masui is a missionary who leads a mission base in Canada. It was an honor to serve God and the young people alongside him. He would be your preacher-missionary type. I happen to be your ordinary gal from church. What an honor, really. More on the youth camp on the following blogs… 😉