Truthfully, the people from the IRC community in Purok Bangkal are the most welcoming, heart-warming people I’ve ever met.
Waking up from the sun this morning and not Ryan’s soft and motherly, “Alright guys it’s time to get up.” I stared into my empty bag. Yep, pyjama shorts it is.
We were treated like kings at a local restaurant. Pancakes, coffee, hot chocolates, and the world’s juiciest mango. The head chef, a girl I met two years ago who had a dream of owning her own restaurant. She was so humble; Elegantly setting the tables for us at breakfast and dinner, alongside servings of nachos, rice noodles, pork, chocolate cake, and of course, rice.
Arriving in Purok Bangkal, the kids chased down and greeted us from the bus as usual. Smiles and hellos left right and centre.
I don’t know if it’s been mentioned in any of the other blogs, but when I arrived in 2017, the community’s main road was knee deep mud and sludge. The kids had to walk through a kilometre of it just to reach the school bus. Since the opening of Donnison Drive (the cobblestone road we made) the government felt embarrassed and transformed it into a proper concrete road; Extending all the way to the bamboo dock.
So yes, being back, so much has changed. Not only can the school bus drive into the village, transport trucks and trikes can too. Meaning their economy and connection to the world has raised their living standards. Almost a quarter are newly built houses, alongside the thatch roofs that were patched up with food wrappers are now tin.
Speaking with Brother Bert he told two of us how not only is the road a physical gain, but it has also boosted the community’s motivations, affected their way of thinking, and ultimately, given them hope.
As seen in the pictures, we collected rocks from the plantations so it’s easier to plough through. Sweated some sunscreen into my eyes and mouth (yeah thanks eyebrows). Then finally got to spend time with the people. Even the smallest thing of remembering their name when talking to them, shows that we care, gives them hope, and a sense of purpose.
While everything is sunny on the surface, we have to remember the true stories of these people. I had personal chats with some of the IRC students, touching base on their situations. The gambling, the alcoholism, the drugs, the abuse, etc. Yes, this history runs through the community to its core. That’s why I support Bert’s mission to fundamentally change and bless the people. We touch them as much as they touch us.
The time came, we had to leave (again). Kids that held my hand and carried my bag down a cobble road were now taller and had little siblings of their own. This broke me once before.
A grown man was brought to tears again.
Holding my own I rode out the ‘long’ bus ride back. Once at the hotel, and after condolences from another, I sat outside around the side, and broke, again. Filipinos wandered past, leant on walls and sat on utes, silently watching something hauntingly beautiful. A passing driver stopped and beeped his horn to see if all was good. A silent nod of our chins and he continued past. Even in moments like this, they showed a sense of care. Something I doubt Filipinos closer to the city would do.
Anyway, today was a solid ten for me.
These people are beautiful.
We are all human;
And I can’t wait to read my copy of Bert’s Autobiography.
See you soon,