The picture above shows the guys that my team member, Aaron, and I stayed with during the summer. Marvin (second from the bottom left) is the center leader and is second in command to the Jo-An (third from the top right). Jo-An is the Tatay, meaning father in tagalog, and is the main one in charge of the center. I’ll write about some of the guys in a future post.
As I’ve stated in a previous post, our team was split up throughout the big metropolitan city of Manila. Aaron and I stayed in a little town called Payatas in north Quezon City of Manila. Payatas is a village that was initially founded as a garbage village as villagers would rummage through trash trying to find anything to recycle for money. Since it’s an established town now (albeit adjacent to a garbage dump), a lot of people also make a living owning stores in the market area, or they commute elsewhere for a means of income.
Living in a garbage town seemed extremely daunting at first. I remember the first two days we were there, it hit me that I was gonna be there for a whole month. The first four days in the slums felt like two months. But there was so much grace in that God helped us to look past the living conditions. It’s funny–when it was hot, we would enjoy a summer breeze, but that breeze was followed by a stench from the garbage. And then when it was hot, we’d hope for it to rain, but when it does rain, all the flies come out, and there were literally about 50 flies around our kitchen table every time we ate. We even called them kaibigans (friends).
Here’s some pics of our house in Payatas:
Looking back, I’m still so amazed that God enabled us to look past the living conditions, and to see everything and everyone for what and who they really are. Though we got bit by mosquitos everyday; though it was difficult using the bathroom; though it was hard not having any comfort from the U.S., I’m so thankful that through that one month, the hardships didn’t plague me. Even though I loved living there, yes, there was some relief in going back to the “comforts” of home. At the same time though, people still have to live there. Even thought I get to leave, it’s crazy to think some people will live in that town the rest of their lives. It’s even crazier to think that our house was pretty luxurious compared to other people’s houses in that town.
As I started the post with this picture, I’ll end with this picture:
I couldn’t have lived a whole month in the slum community without these guys–the people whom I lived with. What I learned from them was so much more than anything I can ever give them. These guys–whom were former street kids, gang members, drug addicts (perhaps simultaneously)–taught me so many lessons about life, and taught me so much about the transformation and sovereignty of God in a person. They embraced us with so much love, and though they might not have much, it seemed like they have everything.