Friday, July 31, 2009

Final Product

This is the video project I've been working on for my internship for the past 2 months, and here is the result! Does it make you want to come to the Philippines? You can also check it on Youtube...

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Dignity for the Poor

I want to start by apologizing to you. If you have read my stories of the people here and felt guilty or pity towards them, I am sorry. I am sorry for their sake that I have subjected individuals to such emotions you need not feel for the sake of feeling bad. I am learning what it is to give dignity to the poor, or rather I have learned this and have realized what this looks like. Through the communities I have visited here and in my experiences with my orphan loves in Tijuana, Mexico, the “poor” have taken faces. “They” are no longer a distant idea of nameless, big-eyed, malnourished picture used by a charity organization, “they” are my friends. As one man involved in an FH project in Uganda said,

“As long as the poor are just an idea, you don’t have to deal with them. But when the poor—this poor person—becomes your brother, then you gotta deal with it.”

They are not a category, a stereotype, a class, but they are human beings. Just as I hate being labeled and being restricted to the boundaries of the “white, middle-class American” group, people here do not deserve to be bound in the “poor Filipino” group. After all, what are these labels we apply to one another anyways? (Thanks, Rach). All they do is bring about judgment (to which I am in no way past, myself), and everyone deserves a fair chance to get to be known as the beautiful, unique, and complicated being created by God as they are. So do accept my apology for making broad generalizations and not focusing enough on the stories of my friends here. As the internship is coming to a close, I do regret not figuring this out until the end after I already pulled the guilt and pity card on my readers.

When it comes to helping my new friends, isn’t it just natural to want to help your friends whose need you can satisfy? Giving an egg to a neighbor friend is done gladly because they need an egg for cookies and you have extra, and in the end you’ll get to share in enjoying the cookies, and it’s all just lolly-dolly (yeah I just made that phrase up). Giving to our poor brothers and sisters should be the same attitude, “I’m giving you ___ because I know you need it and it will be good for you and me.” We’re (FHPH) administering classes on financial management to adults in the communities because it is good to know how to save and be educated about the matter, and to see people learn and grow in managing money is a blessing to us. We are giving money towards school supplies for CDP kids because they cannot afford them, it is good to have them, and seeing them earn an education to break their cycle of poverty is absolutely fulfilling for us. The relational aspect makes the giving and receiving reciprocal. And this is how I believe we should be giving to the poor.

Now (as the philosophy classes have taught me to be my own devil’s advocate), what happens when the results don’t come, when we are NOT blessed by giving? The adults in the financial management class chose to continue wasting their money on gambling. The children receiving school supplies chose to drop out of school. God’s command to give to the poor is still the same (found in so many verses in the Bible I don’t know which one to quote here). And yet we are all sinful and development is messy work and often does not go according to plan, as I’ve learned here. We are still called to serve, even when it’s hard and we do not see or feel results, because this is pleasing to God. And in His timing, we will be blessed. And God is still good, regardless.


Saturday, July 25, 2009


This week I went to the most beautiful ocean in the world for vacation. Well, one of the most. Boracay is a jeep, taxi, airplane, bus, and tricycle away, and I escaped here for 3 days and 2 nights to debrief and enjoy the splendor of this country’s breathtaking islands.

We (Jenn, Katie, an FHPH staffer Aileen, and I plus 3 guides and sailors) went exploring in a catamaran with snorkel gear, my camera, and tons of raw food for a fresh picnic lunch. The water is the bluest of blues and so clear that you could see the indents on the coral reefs from the moving boat. The sunrays stripped the underwater with light. I sat on the stern of the boat the whole day daydreaming of learning to sail my own boat and exploring all 7109 Philippine islands myself. The fish and shells were colorful and unique, and I thoroughly enjoyed diving to see both. I am also bringing back both; the fish in my stomach and the shells in my backpack. The views are just too beautiful to explain with my limited vocabulary, so hopefully these photos will help tell the story better:

We didn’t have to go far to see this marvelous ocean; our hotel was right on the sand. Actually, many hotels, restaurants and shops are. There is a nice path of buildings that line the coast and are filled with treasures… bracelets, and sun hats and flip flops, oh my! We spent time getting our fair share of awesome souvenirs. But more time was devoted to swimming in the crystal sea. It was so nice to be back by the water after more than 2 months of being separated from my dear love (thank goodness USC is near the beach!). The water was also so warm and refreshing, and to be surrounded by green palmas, white sand and cyan sky just made the swimming that much better. Oh and the sunsets! The mouth dropping, “Praise the Lord,” postcard-worthy sunsets! Again, words fail to describe the beauty, and again, here are pictures to try to:

The most profound part of the trip was the coming home. Yes, “home.” I was so excited to return “home,” and said it just so. On the plane looking at the lights from above, I thought of Phoenix and became quite sad. I am going to be very sad to leave this place. It really did feel so natural to jump in a taxi and arrive in San Pedro to my “family” and sleep in “my own bed.” It feels like I’ve been here long enough to consider life here as such, even though it’s only been 2 months. I miss my real family dearly and feel sad that I vacationed without them while they are vacationing with all my real family far, far away from the tropics (I wish I was also there by the way, Indiana (and Michigan) family! Actually you could also come here hehe). Walking into my house on New Years Eve and New Years Dr. from my vacation felt so natural, I cannot imagine leaving these special people forever. I cannot imagine living without my Philippines. We are discussing our feelings about leaving and how to leave well, which is and will be very helpful with dealing with these emotions. I will just be very sad to leave my new home.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Birthday Birthday Birthday

So I’m 21 now. And I celebrated with my good friends in a semi-surprise party at the church in traditional Filipino style. This means we played games, ate special birthday noodles, and everyone gave a rose. My favorite game was when I had to hit and break this ceramic pot full of candy and confetti (just like the piñata concept). Only I couldn’t find the pot for like 5 minutes. And I didn’t know the pot would just break nicely and thought it would shatter like glass everywhere so I didn’t want to break it. Sister Edna, a leader in the FH feeding program, had to direct my swing and force me to break it. It was apparently hilarious and super fun for me after I discovered the pot does not fly dangerous shards into the air and into my skin when it falls and breaks. Also the food was abundant and delish, plus I love flowers! Also my sisters sang me a beautiful song, Jenn taught everyone Pictionary using words that describe me (music, dancing, camera, etc.), and mom made sure I had a cake with candles. It was just fantastic! And a semi-surprise because I accidentally found out that people were planning a party at the church but it was still so nice they tried to surprise me. I love my friends and family here.

Can't wait for another celebration in Phoenix!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Princessita Divita

Here is a lil' video I did of my youngest kapatid (sister) Princess, who is the funniest young thang I've ever met. Please enjoy...

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Shalom, Pt. 2

Here is the audio of the sermon I mentioned, "Doing Justice" by Dr. Tim Keller, if you are interested:


Before I came to the Philippines, the FH staff recommended listening to a sermon by Dr. Tim Keller called, “Doing Justice.” I loved it the first time I listened to it but was also packing at the same time and was a tad distracted, so I listened again today and it was just as awesome. I want to share with you my reflections and some notes I took from it.

Keller asks and answers 4 questions:
1. What is justice?
2. What is doing justice?
3. Who is supposed to do justice?
4. How can we be people who are doing justice?

He begins by saying the word justice in the Old Testament is highly related to the Hebrew word, shalom. Now this shalom is translated into peace, but the Hebrew word is far more dense than the English word of peace.

Shalom= “the webbing together of God, humans and all creation, in equity, fulfillment and light”
• Beyond peace of mind or cease-fire; universal flourishing, wholeness, delight, natural needs satisfied under the arch of God
o The way things ought to be
o God’s design, the world is intricately woven together, a fabric (not a hodge-podge)
• Physical, psychological, emotional, etc. types of shalom.
o Ex: Socially, when those who have money, power, status and they invest in the community for everyone to share, that is social shalom; no one is going hungry, everyone has opportunities for good schooling, the neighborhood is safe, etc.

So, to answer Question #1: Justice is re-weaving shalom. Such a cool concept that I’d never thought of before. Also such a great word, shalom. Proverbs 29:7: “The righteous care about justice/shalom for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern.”

Now, to follow similarly, Question #2’s answer: Doing justice is repairing the fabric where it’s breaking apart. Here it’s all about community, where the fabric is breaking apart in the community and world. Doing justice is not individualistic. Proverbs 3:27: “Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act.” Who deserves good? Everyone.

Keller brought up such a good point:
• The western idea of justice is removing individuals from their networks so that they have the rights to do whatever they want to do.
o Forget about family commitments, forget about the tribe, etc., you have the right to do what you want
o I worked for my money/what I have, so it’s my right… Let them (the poor/others in general) work for it too
• Biblical understanding is the opposite; we owe one another what we have, we need to spread it around
• Ex: Kids in the inner city who are stuck in difficult neighborhoods with poor schooling, and as a result have few skills and bleak futures. Why are they there?
• Liberals say: systemic racism; not enough money in the schools, structural evil
• Conservatives say: family values were inadequate; families aren’t investing in them
• Both agree it’s not the kid’s fault; they didn’t ask to be born into this situation
• You work hard with what you get, but everyone has the right to the opportunity of “success” (a paying job, food on the table, roof over the head, an education, etc.). Some are born into worse situations than others.
• Thus, failure to be involved in the poor is not just a lack of compassion, it’s a lack of justice!

In Filipino culture, children do grow up with a deep respect for their parents and a profound feeling of being indebted as well. Family is highly important, much more so than the individual. In this way, the Filipino idea of the older siblings sacrificing and working to take care of the younger ones (both financially and physically), is Biblically doing justice. I, on the other hand, do not have the same feeling of indebtedness, and did not have to drop out of school to get a job to support Corrie through her schooling, and this probably would not be condoned by my family or friends (although I would for my baby sis). When Mom and Dad grow old and need some help living day by day, our culture is more apt to put our elderly loved ones into nursing homes than invite them into our own homes (not that this is a negative thing). Nursing homes are absolutely unheard of here, because no question about it, you will take in your needy parents and grandparents, no matter how much of an inconvenience it is for you. That is also doing justice. In that way, as a result of western influence in my thought process, I am more prone to think that I have the right to do what I want to do in spite of what is best for my family or community. I literally thought as a teenager that going to college would be great because I could forget about my familial responsibilities (sorry fam, this was when I was very angst-y and clueless!). I’m sure Filipinos get tired of their family responsibilities, I’m sure not all practice this servant hood, but culturally, they are much closer to the Bible than Americans in this way.

Now, Question #3: who is supposed to do justice? Quite obviously, everyone. Keller talks a lot about Bible verses that tell of righteous people serving the poor (such as the 1st quoted one, Proverbs 29:7). What is righteous? Righteous= those are willing to disadvantage themselves for the advantage of the community. [Am I righteous?]

And Question #4: we can be people that do justice by being righteous with the help and power of God behind us.
• Guilt will not motivate you; it takes too much energy, too much ingenuity, too much creativity, too much work
• God identifies with the poor
• God says: The way you treat the poor and the way you treat me, are linked (Matthew 25)
• If you have a bad relationship with God, you have a bad relationship with the poor; if you aren’t treating the poor as you ought to it’s because you are not treating God the way you ought to whether we know it or not
• Only if you look at Jesus will you know how much God identifies with the poor (Jesus was a victim of injustice, he was poor. Jesus was a victim of human injustice)
• When we look at the poor, we are looking in a mirror; we are poor in spirit, saved by grace.
• The poor are socially and economically what we were (at least) morally and spiritually

I loved this message and am motivated by his ideas! What do you think?

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


So I feel very home-y here in San Pedro now. I walk to the church and to Starbucks and I see people I know along the way. It was a highlight of the week to walk down from my bahay (house) to the church on Sunday and stop and chat to a young friend, wave to some kids shouting my name, and exchange words in passing to a church member. Such a simple thing as a smile and recognizing people in the community but I feel like I have relationships now. That’s what it’s all about, right? Even at Starbucks where I go frequently to edit my photos/video, I know the baristas’ names and snippets about their lives and visa-versa. Again, quite simple and perhaps silly, but it feels great to say I have friends at Starbucks and friends in San Pedro. It’s not just me walking along feeling like a freak of nature as everyone points and stares. Even if I don’t know people by name, I see familiar faces more often now, and I think people are not quite as shocked by me anymore. It’s really nice.

I am also super comfortable with my living conditions now. My stomach has calmed down (praise the Lord), I can flush any toilet that comes my way with one bucket of water, I can get from point A to B to C back to A all by myself using 4 different modes of transportation, I can speak enough Tagalog to have mini-conversations, and I am an expert at cold bucket bathing. Of course I do not say this with cocky pride but with “wow this is great” enthusiasm.

Most of the world lives without toilet paper, potable tap water, and AC. And now I am too and I’m loving it. Yes I miss these things and am very grateful for my country that provides these luxuries, but I am happy to know I can live without them and be splendid. Not that I didn’t think I could, but now it’s reality that I see for myself. I always knew you didn’t need these material things for fulfillment, but again, it’s nice to be myself without them and still be filled. I credit that to relationships, syempre (of course); relationships with God first and foremost, and relationships with the people.

I also credit it to the fact that much of how I live and what I live in is a luxury, not a necessity, and it was good for me to learn to distinguish the two. Now again, I knew this going into this that we live in a wealthy country in the US with many nice things that I wouldn’t have going to the Philippines blah blah. But again, I wouldn’t have thought about potable, temperature-controllable bathing water or mattresses as luxuries before this per sé, mostly because I wouldn’t think about it at all. Like, we have water coming out from a faucet onto our heads that we can also drink and decide how hot or cold we want it just by turning a knob. Amazing! Like showering with Evian. Many of us have cars, and we decide where and when we want to go anywhere. We have people who come to spray our houses and businesses and stores with pesticides. We drink brewed coffee! We have washing machines and dryers, and if we don't there are laundromats filled with 'em. We might even have our very own room at home. And it’s filled with stuff, stuff stuff! Even the poor Americans have the government that will gives some help, NGO’s to offer guidance/sheleter/food/jobs, and a law that says you cannot deny anyone water to drink.

Phew… you get my point. Thank you God for the luxury items we have in the US, all of us, and especially me. I am so blessed, we are so blessed (and now I am sounding cheesy and I apologize haha).

(And that was the classic rant of a young American realizing her worldly wealth in a developing country and yelling about it. You get it).

The Office

Hey actually, on 4th of July my gift to myself to celebrate the good ol’ US of A was to watch episodes of The Office on DVD borrowed from my supervisor, Katie.

I did that after I went to Bacoor again for more pictures and video, plus I taught them some camp-style song and dance and games (“Flea fly mosquito!” and Simon Says were huge hits). It was awesome to interact with the children like that instead of just being behind a lens the whole time. In the evening of the 4th, my fellow American comrades (Jenn and Katie) and I celebrated with a BBQ… of sorts. We bought charcoal to grill chicken and corn on the cob but the charcoal was not working so Katie improvised and we toaster-oven grilled them instead. Not quite the same as the classic charred grill taste but better than nothing! We also had watermelon, chips and salsa, and lemonade to make our picnic complete. We only lacked fireworks and of course the family and friends to share them with. But hey we did what we could.

It did remind me of the other time I spent the 4th out of country in Poland the summer of 2007, when I taught English with a Highlands youth team. While lighting fireworks in a rustic Polish side street, our head pastor burned two Polish students with a malfunctioning firecracker. Ouch. But no worries everyone was OK and we really showed them what American 4th of July spirit is all about! Hehe

I have spent the past 2 days in the FH Philippines office in Manila. It’s actually in Chinatown, which is fun, but like many a Chinatown is not the most upscale part of the city. However, I love it down there. It’s right by the Quiapo church where the Black Nazarene is held and all around are signs in Chinese and traditional Chinese dragon, slopped-roofed entryways thingies. I take 1 jeepney from my neighborhood, 1 bus to the city, and 1 train to the area and then walk about 4 blocks to get the office, and yesterday and today I did that all my self. Yay me. I’m really feeling so much more comfortable in this place especially when commuting and I have a solid confidence in knowing where I am (which is unusual because I have a infamously terrible sense of direction).

I LOVE the office. All the people that work here are wonderful people of passion. There are not that many and they all have lots of responsibility and work but they are great at what they do. It’s encouraging that they, all Filipinos themselves, have hope for their people and dedicate themselves to the cause. Although Tuesday is the only day every staff member will be in the office (many work in their specific field community most of the week), there is a deep sense of community all the time. The office itself is filled with inspirational posters and pictures of what FHPH (Food for the Hungry Philippines) is doing, and worship music is usually playing in the background. It’s just simply a great environment and I love being a part of it (oh and they have wi-fi… yes!).

A benefit of being in Chinatown is the food! Yesterday I had delicious meal at a local restaurant with an amazing green tea shake for only P40, or less than $1.00 (Rach, Lee and Anj—almost as good as an Urth green tea latte!). This morning for breakfast I had Taho which is this soy, tapioca, and sugar syrup concoction that is warm and in a cup. Delish Mcgish!

"Si la Photo est Bonne"

Updates of some of my pictures from my internship thus far of some of the communities I've visited to shoot (take pictures of, not with a gun) for FH. Enjoy!


Trash on either side of the walkway in the water


2x4" walkway between houses


A CDP family

A boy scavenging in his home-made boat

CDP kids

CDP kids

CDP kids


CDP boys after a fun little game with lipstick on their faces

Cute lil' thang


Houses on the water with bamboo walkways

Big sister feeding her little brother

The elementary school which is flooded (and has fish in the stagnant nasty water. hm...)

A main resource of Bacoor-oysters!

During a game

This boy is walking in the water under his house to catch tiny fish to sell

The whole silly group of kids!


During a song... he is excited about singing!

This girl's family Sari Sari store (it's like a Mexican abarrote, or mini convenience store)

Bucket bath





Praying kids

Silly boys

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

It’s July?

Last Saturday I went for the first time to Bacoor. This is another FH community I’m working with here but this one is unique because they are in the process of fading out. FH works in communities only as long as they are being productive; as soon as the community is self-sufficient or FH feels the people are becoming negatively dependent on FH aid, they slowly move out and allow the local partner church to be the help.

Actually, through this internship so far I have learned more about the role of the local church than NGO’s (like I expected). The Church (capital C) as a whole is called to care for its poor and serve its neighborhood. The local church is actually/should/can be the answer to sustainable development. There is only so much a non-profit can do, yet the church can do it all. Through FH partnering with churches in the communities they work in, they can come in and help for a time, but their ministry can only do so much. NGO’s come and go, their success rates rise and fall, but the Church, the bride of Jesus, is a more reliable foundation. Without FH’s partnerships with local churches, sustainability is shallow. It is the Church’s duty to keep its people fed both spiritually and physically until the end of the time, and the churches I’ve seen in Bacoor and San Pedro are doing this.

Yes, the Church is just a body of believers and so is FH, but the difference is the Church’s organization has been laid out by God in the Bible, and it has been alive for 2,000 years. Of course churches are still run by us sinners and still are corrupt in many ways, but when you see a church that looks similar to the first church as described in Acts, it is convicting and awesome. “No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had… There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales at the apostles’ feet and it was distributed to anyone who had need” (Acts 4:32-35).

Don’t get me wrong, NGO’s are still effective and desperately needed. I truly believe God has and is using these organizations, both Christian and secular, to do great things. But as I/we become dry and dead without consistent and close interaction with God and fellow believers, so communities tire and lose hope without the safety, fellowship and encouragement a church can provide. An example is Malabon, where FH is struggling. The partner church is very far away yet the closest one to the community, and FH feels they are not seeing much spiritual or emotional growth there. It has already been 3 years (they re-evaluate for potential faze out from 5-7 years, so potentially it’s ½ way done already). I think the problem is the lack of a church presence, because it cannot be there for the people too far away who are too poor to commute to it. If faith is keeping these people alive in heart, and the only hope being brought to them is from a source that will soon be gone, the development will not fulfill it’s entire purpose or reach full potential.

ANYWAYS, back to Bacoor
This is the first province where I’ve seen the most physically disadvantaged children. Lots of rashes, a few mentally challenged, one who lost all the hair on his body, and plenty of missing/corroded teeth (not just baby teeth). Of course you could not tell if these ailments were setting them back because they laughed and played like perfectly healthy kids. Although I did not visit the area this time, many families live in conditions similar to Malabon—in houses on the water upheld by bamboo stilts. Others live in houses seemingly meant for 2 with 6 other families. Just very poor and absolutely no AC or plumbing to be found! They get their water from various wells throughout the village, laundry is done hand (actually very few people own washing machines and almost none own dryers), and cooking is done usually on a coal and fire makeshift stove.

I spent the morning with the kids in a local church (although not the official partner church but mostly just a convenient venue). They were celebrating that church’s anniversary and having their weekly Saturday activity that FH facilitates. We played games, sung songs and danced. Lunch was provided (and was actually pretty darn good!), and then I toured the community. These children were so eager to have their photo taken! Always flashing hand gestures (peace signs or ones they have no idea what they mean) and posing, the kids were definitely hams. It made shooting really fun yet a tad difficult to catch them in action. I will be returning to Bacoor the next 2 Saturdays and am really happy I can form some relationships there that last more than a morning.

Friday night before Bacoor was my night of luxury (*nod, Jill Lyon), because I got to spend the evening with some friends from Highlands in a nice hotel. It was my first night in a hotel room all to myself and boy did I live it up! It was so weird returning to AC, flushing toilet, toilet seats and toilet paper and running water. It was a super nice escape, and we ate delicious European food and for dessert, the best chocolate in the world (no literally! It’s so pure you have to keep it cold in a fridge bag for 5 hours before actually refrigerating it, and then it’s only good for 30 days!). What was more amazing was the conversations on adjusting to Filipino life (they also spend a lot of time in the Philippines), and poverty. It was such a blessing to be able to process my journey with some friends who understand and can challenge. I also got to see downtown at night, which was so beautiful. The clouds here are so big and fluffy and the sunsets so stunning (even to an Arizonian), and I felt practically immersed in them in the high rise. Glorious. If I were to cite the dear bridal paradigm (you who love Captivating know who you are), it was God’s way of romancing me and filling my cup again.

Prayer requests:
• I have been getting sick since the 3rd day I arrived in San Pedro from who knows what (I have Co syndrome!). I don’t think my stomach is used to all the carbs, fried food, and sugar I give it (yesterday I couldn’t even go into the office because I didn’t think I could handle the 2-3 hour commute away from the bathroom). Pray that this annoying thing stops!
• Pray that God would continue growing my relationships with Katie, my supervisor, and Jenn, the other intern here (the only other 2 Americans I interact with).
• Pray for my safety as I am now traveling alone to and from the city frequently (don’t worry it’s safe, but it’s always good to have prayer about these things).
• Pray that God would keep using the Filipinos to teach me about Him and that I would be open to seeing my weaknesses (they do say after all that when you get out of your cultural, geographic and relational comfort zone, your worst form of you is revealed).

Also, as soon as I get a better internet connection, I will upload more photos from Malabon and Bacoor. Right now I'm in an internet cafe where every other person in here is a young boy playing an online game, and every other second all I hear is "Fire in the hole! Fire! Fire!"