Day 3 marked our earliest start yet, 6am. We woke up to the screech of a rooster and some sick beats. Finally, the volcano came into view thanks to clear skies with everyone in awe of its beauty. However, our awe was interrupted by the waft of bacon, scrambled eggs, french toast and rice. After our scrumptious breakfast we took a light stroll down to the local elementary school.
We brought with us a plethora of books to donate to the school’s MASSIVE library, that consisted of a single, outdoor desk with maybe 30 books.
Together we split into pairs and teamed up with a local church volunteer to visit the classrooms. Our audience consisted of students from years 1 to 6, and we were given the impossible task to keep them amused for the next hour. This involved teaching the kids “Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi, Oi, Oi”, the Mexican wave, ‘Duck, Duck, Goose’, ‘Heads Down Thumbs Up’, ‘Hangman’ and Australian Geography. Patrick and Peter strangely decided to have some grade 3 students solve Mathematics equations and English problems. Then we were blessed with a rendition of ‘Home Among the Gum Trees’ and a 15-minute song, of every single city in the Philippines. To top it all off, Louise and Olivia were ambushed by 50 kids, as the balloons were revealed.
As we returned home to our accommodation, we were informed that we would be assisting with the sugar cane harvesting. Most people decided to ignore Mr Peakall’s advice to wear a long-sleeved shirt and pants. We piled into a dodgy white van and an old ute to begin the so-called “relatively short” drive to the fields south of Cabacungan. This drive was meant to take 5 minutes, however, our van decided to take the scenic route. This took an extra 20 minutes and an incredibly bumpy ride. We were lost. As we travelled along the wrong path, the driver proceeded to ask every single Filipino local for directions, including a half-dead, old man, in a wheelchair, with no legs. Eventually he realised we were going the wrong way, so he decided to complete a 10-point turn on a cliff face.
After our exciting adventure, we reunited with the rest of the team, who had already been hard at work for 15 minutes. The work involved, the use of a machete to chop the sugar cane and a 150m walk, carrying 10kg of cane to the other side of the field. The heat was overwhelming for some but eventually, the work was completed. Jumping back into the dodgy vehicles, we returned to Beulah land. Upon arriving, we discovered that maybe we should have listened to Mr Peakall’s advice. Everyone’s legs were cut up and full of splinters. The removal process began.
To ease the pain, lunch was served and we tucked into fish, chicken, vegetables and more rice. It was now finally time for the anticipated first visit to the IRC (Ikthus Redeemed Community.) As we ventured up the final hill, we saw the children’s faces pressed up against the fence, bursting with excitement. We were greeted with open arms, especially those returning. Sophie, Dorinda, Tiah, Kaitlyn and Louise had multiple children hanging from both arms like monkeys, amazed to see returning faces.
Us newbies introduced ourselves to all the smiling faces, blessed with hugs and high-fives. We came loaded with gifts including a new basketball and volleyball for everyone to play with. After about half an hour we were taken aside to hear Pastor Steve share the history of the IRC. We were shocked to learn about some startling facts including how 90% of the girls prior to joining the community were victims of abuse and the majority of the kids are orphans. The group was invited to participate in a commitment ceremony, in which we were given yellow string to tie around our own wrists and a wrist of one of the IRC members. This served as a reminder that we will promise to support the community throughout the duration of our trip.
The next three hours consisted of balloon animals, singing, basketball, keepie up and learning some of Illongo, the local language. Mr Peakall decided to take a joy ride across the town, on a motorbike, on the wrong side of the road (he was used to driving on the left-hand side of the road and in the Philippines it is the opposite.) We said our goodbyes and then we went home.
Dinner was served, and we devoured it after our long day of work. There was cordon bleu, pork skewers and you guessed it… rice! Dessert was next and it was questionable. It was a white blob, filled with corn and covered in cheese. Think jelly, but hard. To finish off day 3, the group had a karaoke session. It was loud and annoying as we tried to write this blog.
P.S. Never let Kaylah, Holly and Teale sing Taylor Swift ever again.
Olivia and Ethan.