Today we embarked on a 2.5-hour journey from Bacolod to Cabacungan by bus, which was made less monotonous by our group singing performances. On the journey, we realised how surreal and incredible the scenery of the mountains is. We arrived at the house in which we are staying for the next 6 days and were greeted by the friendliest house owners who welcomed us with open arms. The food, of course, was one of the highlights. We then headed to IRC, a small community, a mere 5 minutes from where we are staying. The people in the community immediately accepted us and made us feel a part of them, waving and greeting us with huge smiles. We made balloon animals with the children as well as handed out stickers, books and bubbles which they were excited to receive. The boys smashed our poor excuse of a basketball team with their amazing talent, beating our 6-person team with 2 boys under 15.
Pastor Steve gave us a welcoming speech followed by Mr Taylor who responded with a speech on behalf of us with his funny American accent (an accent we put on to make ourselves more easily understood). Members of the community approached us with lengths of green string in which they tied around our necks, and we returned the gesture. The string symbolises our commitment to this mission, taking it off, under any circumstance, would represent our unwillingness in this partnership. It was overwhelming to see the joy that our presence brought to this group of people and our excitement for this trip has reached a new height.
After dinner, we walked to the Ikthus Cabacungan church for a youth night to be further introduced to the community and Pastor Ely. We played games, allowing us to learn the names of some of the members. They put on a performance for us, consisting of dancing, singing and other talents like batons.
During our debrief which followed, we ate foods unknown to us home in Australia (most in cans). Montana was unlucky enough to receive hot chilli sardines, which she tried her best to down as soon as possible. Ellie was more fortunate in opening a bag of milk covered cookies (essentially white chocolate). Our debriefs are necessary in preparing us for what is to come and how these challenges are going to assist our process of growing as people.
-Ellie and Montana.