Today is Sunday. For the first time in three weeks (for inhabitants of Baguio)/since we arrived, the sun is out. Perhaps because of this, attitudes seem much more festive today.
I preached this AM and will preach again this PM. Later in the evening, Janie and I will meet with a young American girl (28). She came to the Philippines about eight years ago with a summer mission team out of a Church of Christ in Amarillo. She very foolishly fell into a whirlwind romance with a Philippino man (non-Christian) and married him - in two weeks!!!! She had two children with him before she realized the magnitude of her MISTAKE. Now she cannot return to the US because the law here requires that the Philippine parent (her
husband) sign-off on taking the kids with her. What a mess.
Several have responded to my first report with questions like "What are the Philippines like?" I do not presume to be an expert. I'll answer as best I can.
The Philippines are the Philippine Islands, a very long chain of very many islands extending northwest toward Taiwan and southeast toward Australia. We are an "Australia" away from Australia. Taiwan is a fairly short flight away. Baguio, where we are, is located in a very mountainous region in north-central Luzon, the largest island. The Philippines are the northwestern portion of a gigantic island area that includes Indonesia. To the north is a fairly large unlanded section of the Pacific. The Philippines are located just north of the equator.
The islands, circumstances and peoples of the Philippines vary greatly. The ancient genetic stock is a mix of Aboriginal and Chinese with a touch of Pacific Islander. In the last 500 years, the Spanish left LOTS of genetics and last names (alomst as many Hispanic last names as in San Antonio). In the last 100 years, the American military left a definite genetic mark, as did the Japanese during their WWII occupation. There is no "typical" Philippino. This is truly a multicultural, multi-ethnic and multi-genetic society.
Several dialectics are spoken regionally. "Tagulog" is a nation-wide conglomerate language (those of you who knew me as a Tarkington ISD counselor might remember when I bravely attempted to register two special-needs Tagulog-speaking girls). English is spoken (very well) everywhere.
Since we live in the US (affluent) and our only other extensive overseas experience is in Nepal (bottom of the world), the Philippines seem middle of the pack. The general, nation-wide dreariness and destitution of Nepal is simply not present. Most people work. The Church of Christ here consists of many school teachers and small business owners. Their circumstances are very tolerable (as compared with the US) or extreamly comfortable (as compared with Nepal). There is K-12 education, stable, American-style laws, and a version of Obamacare called PhilCare (Phil = Philippines). The streets are as safe as downtown Liberty (here in Baguio). The governmental atmosphere is liberal and democratic.
Catholicism dominates at 90%, and traditional Catholic morality totally dominates the national conscience. There is an indigenous Protestant group, alleged to be cult-like - the Iglesia ni Christo - that is attracting many. There is a small Muslim minority that is much stronger in the sountern islands where they are aggitating toward Jihad.
Major cities like Manila and Cebu are urban monsters with millions packed into filthy, congested conditions. There are several lesser urban centers that are quite nice. Baguio, for instance, is an administrative and higher-education hub located at elevation that creates a very mild climate (except now when the monsoon is here).
The rest of the islands are fairly open, with entire islands relatively unoccupied and one or two large entire islands designated as world biological preserves. The central plain of northern Luzon is one of the world's vast rice-growing areas. Most of the Philippines are low and experience much rain and high temps.
In terms of quality of life and technological achievement, the Philippines are a mixed bag. EVERY kid has a smartphone, but very few homes have vacume cleaners. The mall has a "very nice" department store (Bealls-like), but the mall is not air conditioned. There are 7-11s, right next door to open-air meat markets swarming with flies.
Rice production is accomplished just as it is in Nepal - by human labor, but the rice is shipped off to world markets on huge 18-wheelers traveling on the world-class NLEX (North Luzon Express Way).
It is as if a large cargo plane few over and dropped random boxes if modernity - and left off several pages of instructions. The impact is powerfully generational - the teens occupy very different cultural space than their parents, who occupy still different space from their parents.
The 40-somethings are very similar to Janie and I. We find them to be very much like us in outlook and values. The older generation is very traditional, but very beholding to the US. The teenagers are just goofy kids. EVERYONE wants to come to the US, but...the US is not respected for its cultural/moral disintegration.
Our overseas experiences have bleached us of our tendency to romanticize "other" places and peoples. We now enjoy the simple pleasure of meeting Christian people on level ground. From that perspective, it is really nice here.