Friday, March 22, 2013

Mar 2013: Iloilo - From Night to the Dawn of Understanding

A close up of the situation of the ordinary folks

Honestly, before we came to Iloilo, we doubted that the poor in the area could be as poor as in other mission areas so it was a surprise to discover otherwise just by listening to the sounds of the night.

 Tale of a Watchman

 The last day of the medical mission was in Jaro, in the parish hall.  And since we just piled the boxes of medicines on the open stage, each of us had to keep watch at appointed hours at night.  One could hear sounds in the dark -- metal creaking, gravel crunching, footsteps, and every now and then voices high or low, hushed, or excited, or even angry.  The night was as dark as night should be, but sounds of people moving in the deep shadows kept the watch lively.
  At daybreak, no cock crowed but a man coughed loudly from the nearby bushes.
 A little later, a chorus of girlish laughter came from beyond the shrubs.
 Vendors calling people to buy fish cruised along the streets as the sun burst out in the sky.
In broad daylight, a random look outside the perimeter of the church explained the sounds of the night.
  Above is the picture of the Church, taken from across the street.
To the left of the Church, there is an alley leading to some residences.  On the sidewalk of the alley there was a boy drawing water from an open well.  No wonder we could hear regular movement from this part even in the darkness.
I asked the boy what he would like to use the water for, and he explained it was for bathing and dishwashing. I asked if he was a frequent user of the well, he affirmed.  I asked if, on his regular visits to the well, he ever had the chance to get to know somebody in the Church, and he said no.  What a pity.  He has been coming to this well for years but he has yet to discover that living water is just a few steps away from his favorite well!
A view of the same well from inside the church fence.
I hadn't seen such kind of open well being used as a source of household water in many of our mission areas. This particular neighborhood did not look poor by regular standards, and people hereabouts appeared better-groomed than most people in our other mission areas, so it was a total surprise to discover that many folks in the neighborhood still drew water from a well that was so vulnerable to various pollutants.  It was disconcerting. 
I have seen so many faces of poverty in this poor country, but I did not expect to see this in a city. 
Following some noise coming from the right side of the Church's perimeter fence, I peeped through the grills.  There is another alley there.  And across the alley, I saw another well.  This time it is covered, and has a pitcher pump attached to it.  There is a line of young people with their carts and plastic containers waiting for their turn to fetch water.
 So here is the other source of nocturnal sounds that kept the night watch interesting.
 The girls' chorus at dawn came from this side.
This well is probably the place to start a public information system.
Through the Church gate I could see a boy heading home with his water-laden cart.
A pedal trike passed by too.  It was the regular form of transportation on the byroads - another unique face of poverty not common to all mission areas.  In other mission areas, we could see motors or big animals transporting goods and people.  It is uncommon to see people being hired as work animals or environment-friendly replacements to motors.
Just across the gate is a little shack.  Guess what's inside...  
An internet and computer game station! It was an open secret...

A shack with a little green paint could be seen a few steps across the street. It is an eatery.   
 Guard duty done, we managed to slip out and take a tricyle trip to conduct a home visit.

      To deliver additional medicines to a child patient living in the outskirts of Sta. Barbara.
     And to check his progress after some days of medication.  
It was a short and pleasant visit. He was a nice boy.
He knew his basic prayers already and his mother proudly told us that he joins the daily Rosary of the family.
We then bade goodbye to Eleni Felinska, a Polish volunteer who was leaving for Manila after weeks of mission work in Iloilo.
Thank you for your outstanding patience and dedication, Eleni.  
You're wonderful! Bravissimo!
 Then we settled into night watch again
and heard the same repertoire of nocturnal sounds.
By them we could better understand the challenges of the mission in Iloilo. 

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