The river less travelled

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.

He’s the son of the man running the boat. I kept taking photos of him to the point that he got conscious. I found him rather photogenic. I’ve always wanted a younger brother too…

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.

Yes. We paid P2,500 to risk our lives. No pun or boasting intended. The last time our host’s daughter took this flight (few years back), they almost didn’t make it.
See that zigzag trail between the mountain ranges? That’s the river, Palanan River.

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.

Sailing down the river. My favorite part.


We docked here and climbed those steps to the village.

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

The Walk Up. From the river, we climb these 100 something steps to get to the village. This used to be a hiking trail with no stairs way back when the first missionaries came here some two decades ago!

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.


I won’t tell which one but Ishmael is in this pic. 🙂

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!

Jump shot on the last day of the youth camp. (Sorry I’m not really much of a photographer!)



I Wasn’t Expecting This – Palanan, Isabela Trip Page 2


I like physical activity so climbing the stairs, although it was tiring, was fun for me. So was the plane ride, and the boat ride. But I didn’t expect this kind of reward.

When we reached the top of the staircase, what met us was breathtaking. So, this is what’s on the other side?

The path on the left is the trail to the staircase. The edge of the grass lawn goes downward. The field and the mountains you see afar are on the other side of the river.

I felt like I was Poh of Kung Fu Panda after climbing that high wall (although my tiredness may be way less). After that last step, it’s like I just pulled the curtains to a different world.

“Hello lovely village. Thank you for the invitation to be here.”

The first thing that you’ll notice is the breathtaking view of the river, the fields and the mountains behind you. Then moving forward, there’s the basketball court (very Filipino!) and the village houses.





After a couple of steps from the basketball court, we get to our abode. Boy, it’s big. This is where they have their guests stay. I feel like royalty. Aren’t we supposed to be suffering when we’re on outreach?

Our abode for 1 week (for some of us 2)
View front of our “house”
Dining area
Dining area view at the back of the building
More view from our “backyard” (Some morning fog)
Sometimes we get visitors. The lone turkey in the village. No we’re not going to cook it! She’s part of the family! (Then again, maybe not!)
Our backyard view. Using DSLR cam.
One night, when the sunset was showffing off


We kind of panicked and grabbed our phones and tried to “capture” the sky while the scenery lasted.


Duane, our leader. Chillin’ one afternoon.


Laundry dries on one side of the house.
The boys set up hammocks up front 😉 Neat!
You can dine outside too…


So yeah, now that we’re all set up! We’ll go around the village next.


More on SV Day 1, More Healed and Little Kids Follow Us to Church

the old lady whose eyes were healed and whose little girl was healed of her fever

It reminded me of what I read in the Bible where crowds followed Jesus around. Only this time, it was only a bunch of kids, one of whom had been miraculously healed in his arm. (But that’s how it must have started when Jesus preached.) They were drawn not to us, but to the presence of God. Perhaps, partly because of the miracle, but I’d like to believe it was more than that. It’s everything that goes with “it” — the sense of awe and attraction to something they were meant for — a life in the Spirit.

From the place where the little dude’s arm got healed, we went to another house, the house of that vicinity’s leader. Maybe someone like a barangay captain… Most of the people in Cambodia are Buddhists. Someone shared the Gospel but this lady said she believes that all gods are somewhat the same. She said that she’d accept Jesus only if her eyes get healed. Minutes later, her vision had improved after prayer. Then she prayed the prayer with Pastor San. And she came to church a week from that  Tuesday.

When she said her eyes improved, I kept wondering if she was just saying so to make us feel good or because she wanted to believe that it had improved. With translations going on every time, I keep wondering if the translation had been properly performed. But God must be thinking, ‘Why can’t you just believe the miracle, Riz?’ Honestly, I had no trouble believing God would heal. But after the person has been healed. Man! I keep thing, “Darn that was fast!”

And like I said, the boys from the other house had followed us together with the kid that had gotten healed. So these three little dudes also said yes to Jesus, including a young man who was a drunkard but happened to be sober that day (a rare occurrence that makes one wonder why it happened that day -of all other days in the year- when we were there,.) A little girl was also down with fever. She also was healed.

We went back to church and the kids (including the little girl who’s supposed to be sick but was already well) and the young man followed us there. What to do with them right? Who has right to shoo them away? What do we do when people start following us because they’ve seen God’s miracle and they’re  hungry for more of God?

What if God releases healings on the streets and the hungry start to follow you around wanting to hear or experience more of anything that has to do with your God? It makes me wonder if we really are ready for the ‘revival’ that we keep praying for.

Some of my teammates taught them fellowship songs. They were joyful. Beaming. Life-filled. I was… tired. I had welcomed sitting on a bench. Oh the freedom to just stare at them and not move a single muscle due to tiredness. But I was also thrilled and amazed. But I didn’t have much energy left to teach. I just wonder, what if…. what if there are more? How much do we want to be followed around and asked about God?

So that was ‘day 1.’ Honestly, until now the memory of that day is like oil on the water of my understanding. Sa Tagalog, di ko pa rin ma-absorb! So I kept on replaying what had transpired. And then I asked the same question over and over, “What was that all about?” Until now, I could not come up with an answer that feels right. So I just smile, shed a tear and say, “God is really really good. How He loves us.” Truth is, every comment I could make just feels so lame. And I honestly don’t know how to end this blog entry. Uhm, please wait for ‘day 2‘?

It’s Time (Divine Appointment with Ate Lorna at Starbucks Podium)

Alarm Clock Ringing Royalty Free Stock PhotoI was trying to piece things together – the burden, the information overload, the reeling questions, the lack of experience, the sense of urgency, the helplessness, and just weeks ago – the growing discouragement caused by not having anyone to talk to about this, and the cluelessness what to do next. What to do with myself?

Well, ask God, of course.

God, what to do? Talk to my pastor? Talk to a friend? Talk to a stranger? Talk to my neighbor? Talk to my mom? Talk to a churchmate? [Talk to my apple mac? Talk to my tweetmates? Joke!?] Oh God, I’m listening. I had a roll call of names but unexpectedly, it’s none of my usual confidants that God impressed to me. Why not Ate Lorna? Continue reading “It’s Time (Divine Appointment with Ate Lorna at Starbucks Podium)”

the nations are calling


Image borrowed from


Just got back from Jesus Revolution (JREV) Asia Outreach Launching and Ptr. Cha’s story hit me again for the 2nd time (or is it 3rd?) Well, it stuck me stronger than ever before this time. Here’s the story. This is my version already. Hoping it’s still pretty accurate. I tried my best to make it as accurate as I can.:

He was on missions trip in an Asian communist nation where Christianity is not allowed. One night in his hotel room, a local knocked on his door and when he opened there were three locals whom he does not know and they suddenly knelt in front of him. They were saying something in native tongue and so he asked his roommate/ interpreter to translate.

This was what he learned. The men heard that he was a Christian doing missions work in their nation. They wanted to pay him respect. The man said they were from a mountain tribe and he used to be a witch (which also meant that he’s a leader) in their place. One day, while listening to a radio broadcast from the Philippines, he heard about Jesus and he accepted him in his heart. He became a Christian! He shared the radio to his wife and children, they eventually became Christians and so did his village! Now there are thousands (3,000 i think) of them who are hungry for God and they heard that in order to grow, they have to read the Bible. Thus, he went on journeys to the city with men from his village, to look for Bibles and bring these to his people. At first they didn’t know exactly what they’re looking for but when they found it, they got a lot and would try to smuggle them up to the mountain passing through a series of government checkpoints. Every time, some of his men would get caught and some of them he still does not know where they are until that time. But they just kept on risking their lives just to get Bibles.

The man finally gets to the bottom line of his speech and pleads with Ptr. Charlie: Pastor, we might not see each other again but promise me, wherever you go, tell this to the Christians you meet, never stop praying for us, never stop doing what you are doing because we need your prayers and many are coming to know Jesus because of them. Never ever forget us!

One of the Scriptures that struck me during my Bible reading this morning was when God told Abram that through him many nations will be blessed. Reflecting on tonight’s gathering, the testimonies shared, and the challenging words spoken, I realize that the Holy Spirit is working His way to give me a deeper understanding of his heart for the nations. God had indeed called Abram to be the father of Israel and a source of blessing for many nations BECAUSE God wanted to bless the nations! Yes, Israel is special. But when you take a few steps backward, and take a look at the bigger picture, one of the things God is saying is that, “I want to bless the nations of the earth Abram, that’s why I’m calling you. I want them to be blessed so you have to step out in faith in order for them to have a tangible example of what it means to be loved by me and how it is they can be blessed!” God’s heart is crying out for the NATIONS!!!

Hours ago, Ivane told me to check out the blog entry of one of the team members of 1040movie. For those of you who still do not know what the movie 1040 is, it’s a documentary of God’s current move in Asia and the vision of the 1040 team is to awaken nations to the sweeping move of the Holy Spirit across Asia, stir up a zeal for the lost and a jealousy to be part of what God is doing, cause them to recognize that all of us are called to be modern-day missionaries by breaking old mindsets about missions, introduce a new wineskin strategy, and of course to ultimately compel them to GO step out into the field where the harvest is ripe for the picking!!

1040movie is currently touring North America’s campuses as part of a the Purple Pig Tour (an undertaking by Luke 18 Project in partnership with other groups like TheCall) and here’s the goal: to call young adults to a culture of prayer and a life of mission.

Prayer and Missions cannot be separated.

…these I will bring to my holy mountain
and give them joy in my house of prayer.
Their burnt offerings and sacrifices
will be accepted on my altar;
for my house will be called
a house of prayer for all nations.” Isaiah 56:7 (Emphasis mine.)

Some of us may not be called to be long term missionaries in a foreign land, but we are all called to be a missionary in the mission field of our offices and schools. It’s time we cease making excuse and we start to seize the opportunity to reach the person we see everyday as we walk out our front porch. Nevertheless, we are also called to go out and see what God is doing in Asia. Going out will give us a better understanding of what it is that’s out there waiting to be reached by the love of Jesus. Even if only for a short exposure trip!

We know that our nation, the Philippines is called and marked to be a missions-sending nation. We hear it, speak it, rave about it, pray it, prophesy it, boast about it, but what are we doing to live it? It’s time to get freaked out dissatisfied with the old comfy pre-occupation of warming church pews. Praying is not enough, giving is not enough. The command was GO and not send. (Although yes we do need to send.)

Last August 23 during the 1040 Pilipinas screening, it dawned on us (me and my friends who attended the film preview, but hopefully it also dawned on others who were there) that our nation needs a resurgence of fire and zeal to take our response to this destiny to a higher level. We have to mobilize our nation. We have to consolidate our efforts. We have to unite the churches and organizations. This is not about missions groups, it’s about being the Filipino Church rising up to its call. FURTHER and DEEPER, God spur us on. Take us to where you want Your name to be heard.

The next JREV Asia Outreach will be on April 15 to May 14, 2011. For more info, contact John Mac at 9958795. Jesus Revolution Now! Twitter: @JesusRev