Celebrating 100 Days in the Philippines

The Mountain of Bongbongan

I don’t think you are aware how strenuous it is to climb a mountain. If you think you do try again climbing an unpaved mountain and going downhill in rainfall with flip flops. I prayed to get up and down the mountain healthy and unharmed and he did just that. The trek was one hour up and one hour down. Each way we had good samaritans escorting us to and from our destination. Going there we were accompanied by two men we met within the beginning of the hike. Thinking with an American lens, many alarm bells rang in my head. Who were these two strange men and why were they following two women through the woods. After running through all the scenarios, I snapped back to my reality. The people I have met genuinely want to help. Chilvery is something that is not dead in Laua-an. Just when I reached the mountain top, I was informed that we had only gone halfway and we still had to hike down into the valley to get to the destination.

Despite the physical demand of the day, we accomplished our main purpose which was a Family Development Session (FDS) for the beneficiaries of the Pantawid program. It was one of the favorite FDS sessions I have observed thus far. Even though it was a smaller group with only about 15 participants, they were attentive and receptive. The men showed also showed some sort of interest in the topic which is not common in a setting more suitable for women. All of the beneficiaries were hospitable feeding us lunch, pomelos, and coconuts the size of bowling balls. God tested my strength mentally and physically today but he made it worth it by showing me all of his awesome creations.

On the way back two women escorted us down the mountain. These women were at least 20 years my senior but they were some strong women. Shortly after our journey downhill, the rain soon followed. Venturing deeper into the downward slopes I look around and notice everyone had taken off their shoes except me. Did I mention that all the Filippinos completed this hike in flip flops? I don’t understand what type of industrial material these slippers are made of but I am convinced its embedded with titanium. One woman suggested multiple times that I remove my Teva sandals and join the barefoot crew but I could not do it for a number of reasons. I was actually close to removing them at one point because my shoes served no purpose with the steep slips I encountered. However, I knew once I started down that shoeless road there would be no turning back so I kept them on praying my Tevas could endure the rough terrain and not leave my feet helpless with a break of a strap.

 One of the ladies escorting us down this muddy mountain told us she was 60 years old but when I looked my counterpart (the same age as me) was the one holding on to this senior citizen as a safety net in case she went down. I was more self-reliant but the Filippino woman leading the way had no problem reaching out for my hand. The woman continued to watch out for me guiding me where to step, where to place my hand, and which branches to hold on to. Thinking back maybe part of the reason I kept my shoes on was to prove that I was strong enough. I did not want to be intimidated by these older women. It only took one grasp of my hand for me to realize not only was she helping me but I was assisting her as well. If she slipped I felt she trusted me to pull her up and if I slipped she was there to help me put my feet on solid ground. 


Left: Going up
Right: Coming down

Javonni McGlaurin