Sunday, December 15, 2013

A 'Bethlehem' in Dumaguete, Philippines??

The highlight of my 11 days holiday at Cebu and Dumaguete recently was the stay at the home of a close friend who is a brother to me. He did warn me many times and advised me to consider my visit to his house, for his house is up on a mountain and going there would not be easy. He also told me that there are no facilities such as electricity, tap water  and to reach his house we have to hike up the mountain for about 60mins from the junction where a motorbike can last accessed.

If you had been following my blog, you would know that I love traveling (Click here to read the places I had visited), so I had decided to just press-on with the idea for I wanted to visit his family since I was at his province. The journey begin from  Dumaguete City where we took a bus going to Bayawan City. We broke our journey to leave our heavy bags at my friend's foster family. Then we continued our bus journey and stopped at a town called Bonawon. After buying some provisions, we took a motorcycle to go up the mountain named Katipon. It was a scary ride! We had to take the dirt road and since it rain hours before, you can imagine how slippery and muddy the road was!! I was silently praying in my heart while my friend was constantly checking if I was doing alright sitting behind him. This motorcycle was unique for after some adjustments made to it, the motorcycle can now accommodate 3-5 people. When we arrived at the junction, we immediately started to hike up the mountain by foot for it was already getting dark. Not even half way up the mountain, I was feeling tired and was breathing heavily, and I did not want to stop even though my friend asked me to rest for a while for it was already dark by then and we could not see anything. I had no intention of saying 'hi' to any snakes or wild animals and all I wanted to do was to get to a safer place. My friend somehow knew the way for he is familiar with the path and so I had to just move along listening to his directions. Ohh yes I did fall many times due to the slippery muddy trail, moreover I was hiking up the mountain with only a sandal on . It was painful when I removed my sandals to walk for there were many sharp rocks on the trail. I did not think of giving up even when my friend was laughing seeing me falling down and hiking up the mountain with no stamina at all. What was on my mind at that time was, snakes, dangerous valley, so the goal is the house of my friend. Though the hiking took nearly 1hour, I felt it was like 10hours!

When we finally reached the house,I was received with some rain water to wash my feet and a candle light to lead me into the house. I was officially introduced to his parents and younger sister. I was welcomed with love, yes, I was welcomed as a family member. Ohh what a nice feeling it was. We had a nice satisfying and simple dinner and later on we chatted until it was time to sleep. An uncle came over that night, he had to walk about 40mins to the house. With no guitar lesson at all, he could play so well and entertain all of us, a natural talent indeed. It was nice to see my 'new family'; my 'papa and mama' dancing and singing along some 'visayan' songs. The next morning when I got up from sleep, I made some survey around the house and I was surprised myself that I had actually made it to the house which was on a mountain in a deep forest. For drinking water, they had to walk down to a stream. Collecting water from the stream has been a daily task for the younger daughter. My heart was painful when I saw how far it was and the way she had to carry the water container on her shoulders.

Now, while reflecting on my experience and writing this during the season of advent, I just realized I had an early Christmas! I have visited the 'manger of Bethlehem' here in Dumaguete.  For the Christians 'Bethlehem' is a special place. The place where Jesus was born. As scripture says; "While they were there (Bethlehem), the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn." (Luke 2: 6-7). The manger is a Christian symbol, associated with nativity scenes where Mother Mary, forced by necessity to stay in a 'stable' (barn??) or 'cave' instead of an inn, and placed the baby Jesus in a manger. When we look at the manger of Jesus, we see humility but we also see glory, we see poverty but also richness in love, we see simplicity but we also see grandeur. We see humanity and we also see divinity. I have seen all this while staying with this family. In their humility, I have seen the 'pride' and sense of family, a sense of belonging. How they look out for each other amazes me. In their poverty, I have experienced the richness of love. I have received great hospitality that can put some rich people to shame. In their simplicity, I have seen how life is free and can be best lived; life without any attachment. I never knew that 'drumstick leaves' could be tasty as a soup. (And I've personally, tried it many times since coming back from this trip). The home had no electricity but the light of Christ through the bond of family and sharing of whatever they had to make sure I was comfortable was what lighted the house. You know friends, this family at times go on their day without anything to eat, but when I was there they made sure I had a decent meal. There were no need for air-cond or fan, for the breeze of peacefulness that surrounded the house was a cool breeze for me. I thank God for this experience, for seeing the way this human family lived, I have seen how divinity can be manifested in each and every human family. This stay has also reminded me to be grateful always for all that I have including my very own family and I ought not take them all for granted. I am now looking forward for a special Christmas this year with some of my family members who would come to the Philippines to celebrate the birthday of Jesus Christ, the King of kings who chose to be born in a poor family. Emmanuel...God with us!!.