Batangas, Philippines- It was an exciting and fruitful experience for eight youths from Campus & Youth Ministry Melaka-Johor Diocese when they were able to join a mission trip to Batangas, Philippines. Held from 13th to 24th July 2012, this mission trip was a joint program with eleven other missionaries from Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS), America. This 12- day mission trip was under a Philippines non-profit organisation called Gawad Kalinga, whose mission is to build community-life among the poor in Philippines. To date, they have built almost 50 villages for the homeless all around Philippine.
One of the objectives of this mission trip is to expose our youths to the real situation of poverty out there and to consider their roles and responses in sharing God’s love in these kinds of situation. Since this was a first-time for most of us we converged a day earlier at Kota Kinabalu (as it turned out, we were racially very representative of 1Malaysia) for an orientation with Jeanny Lim and Sylvester Wong at Good Shepherd Likas, Sabah who prepared us for the worst possible scenarios.
On 13th July, we flew to Philippine and met up with the team from America and on the following day, we were brought to a village at Batangas called Gawad Kalinga Keppel Eco Village, 2 ½ hours away from Manila city. We were welcomed by the villagers with a tremendous celebration which lasted till tea time, after which each missionary was assigned to their respective host family. At night we were entertained and amazed by the cultural dance and Gawad Kalinga dance by the local youths.
Throughout this mission trip, we had a very remarkable daily routine which was to wake up early for daily Mass at 6.00am, followed Holy Hour at the church, and then working at the construction site with the beneficiaries (local people who still not own a house and work in order to get a house through the Gawad Kalinga programme), playing with the kids, formation and talks session, and ending the day with reflection and night prayers. Some of the works that we did was helping in building the pavilion, cementing, gardening and clearing the drain.
During our stay there, we experienced the villager’s love through the foods that were served. We ate very special foods for breakfast, lunch, dinner and even for the tea breaks. The people there never failed to serve us with the best food!
On the last night at the village, we had a cultural night with the villagers. The kindergarten kids performed a very unique Gawad Kalinga dance, followed by a dance by the Mothers Group and the Youth Group. In return, the missionaries performed a special item from America, a traditional dance from Malaysia and a joint America-Malaysia performance of the “Waka-Waka” dance. It was only a 12-day trip, but for sure the young people learnt a priceless life lesson from this mission trip. – By Emilia Robert Trawis.
The experiences I had there would never be compared to any other experiences I’ve had before. Every villager was very kind and humble, down to earth. They show so much love to us, especially the kids. They were always enjoying themselves just being able to be around us, chatting, running, joking and most of all, playing. They would not be bothered whether we were messy, dirty or sweaty. They will just be with us, playing whatever they wanted to play with us, showing something to entertain us and trying to include us in their activities. This really reflects 1 John 4:18-19: ‘There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us’. They showed no fear; maybe a bit of shyness, but still no fear in their eyes, although we were complete strangers to them. They are very innocent, pure hearted children full of love that comes from Jesus Christ. This experience is a very valuable experience worth treasuring deep down in my heart. – Frankie ak Sinas
I often pray and ask God for blessings, to give me this and that, and to grant me so many things but most of the time, I felt that my prayers were going nowhere and I doubted whether God was listening to my prayers. Here, the people showed me what blessings from God are. They showed me what it means to have a sense of appreciation, and what it means to cherish the things and people around us because everything we have or we had, are all God’s blessings. They taught me that appreciating God’s blessings alone is not enough, we have to share them to others. By looking at everything around me, either good or bad as a blessing from God, the world I’m living in seems to be a taste of heaven to me now. The people in the village might seem poor on the outside, but they are millionaires on the inside. Although they know not much about the Catholic faith in terms of knowledge, they are living the life of God. They know no boundary for love and the word ‘hopeless’ does not seem to exist in their language. Many good souls are fighting to end poverty in this world but each year, it just gets worse. Why? Maybe God put these people here for a greater reason, which is to help spiritually and internally poor people like me. – Othniel Wong
My encounter with them has opened my eyes to help the marginalized as well as the poorest among poor. I am really inspired by the work of Mother Teresa in serving the poor; she once said, “The more you have, the more you are occupied, the less you give. But the less you have the more free you are. Poverty for us is a freedom. It is not mortification, a penance. It is a joyful freedom. There is no television here, no this, no that. But we are perfectly happy.” Living with the residents here have taught me the meaning of true life. People choose to live in complexity nowadays, the earthly desires of humans have caused their relationship with God and one another to become distant. We have so many things to accomplish in life thus we forget to love one another. Even in our own family how often we spend time together? I learned the meaning of happiness and to be contented after the mission trip. The kids have a very pure heart; even their smile can lighten your heart, even though they are the poor people and life is very limited, but they are rich with happiness and love. – Walton Wider
Before I went to the Philippines, what I thought was to give, give and give to the peoples who were in need. But the fact was that I received a lot from them. Firstly, the villagers in Gawad Kalinga were all friendly. Even though we strangers we got to know each other easily by starting with a simple word: “Hi”. After that, conversations and the learning about each other just start, which is totally different in Malaysia. Secondly, the kids there were so cute. We were not only welcomed by the elders but by the kids as well, through their natural and spontaneous smiles. At that moment, I felt their warmth. Lastly, but also most importantly, my host family, the Anec family gave me a lot of love and care. Even though they had nothing but they gave me everything they had. From their characteristics and actions, I learned how to love and care for people especially my own family and friends more and more.
Although I spent just around 9 days with them, they really treated me as their own family member. In those 9 days, almost every night I chatted with them and we shared everything even “top secrets”. We laughed and teased each other without worrying about others’ views being regarded as weird. At that moment, I hoped time could stop forever since we were very happy. This was undeniably the “sweet” in my heart, and I will bear it in mind forever and ever. – Andrew Heng
The greatest experience I had during the mission trip was attending morning Mass daily followed by one hour of Holy Hour. Having never attended a Holy Hour, it renewed my interest in the Eucharist and helped me reconcile with my faith. Spending quiet time with the Lord is now a part of my daily life, 15-20 minutes every day for a start. Slowly, I can see myself changing for the better. I do not want to be a Catholic in name. Hence, I have started learning up on the teachings of the Catholic Church. Now, going for Mass is more meaningful and I look forward to it. – Chiara Petrus
The greatest thing I experienced in this mission trip is the love from the people here. I was given the chance to live with the Londob family. There are 6 people in this family living in a small house but they all live happily together and always grateful of the things they have now. In our community, everyone living in a big house but never satisfied with the things they have and did not care about their own family members. My host mother worked hard for 6 months to be able to live in this house and she was very grateful that she can give her family a comfortable place to live in. Although, they live in poverty but they are not poverty of love and gratefulness. All the people in the village took good care of all of us by taking care of all of our meals, always told us not to work too hard when we help out with the construction and make sure we have enough rest. The love the people give us is hard to be express in words. They give us more than we can give back to them. Through this trip, my faith grows stronger by the sharing and talking from the American missionaries and during the Holy hour I spent after mass daily. Before this mission trip, I was a person who doubts about everything and always not satisfied of what I have. I always complaint that why everything does not happen as what I wish for but through this mission trip I learned to be satisfied with what I have now and always have faith on our God that He have a better plan for me when things does not come out as what I wish for. Spend silent and personal moment with God everyday help me to listen to God’s word wholeheartedly. – Adeline Chin
This mission trip taught me to appreciate the things I had, no matter how small it is. The extraordinary love that I experienced from the people there, my host family, the elderly, the youth and even the kids opened my heart to God’s pure love. My 24th birthday fell during the trip, and I am deeply touched in how they tried to make my birthday celebration this year a memorable one even in the simplest way. They kids came with a bunch of flowers and a necklace with my name written on it, hugging me and saying “Ate Emily, Happy Birthday”. Their kindergarten’s teacher granted my wish to be a teacher by giving me opportunity to teach his students on my birthday. The American friends kept singing “Happy Birthday” song to me the whole day and the people there kept serving me with special birthday cake and foods. This is the first time in life I felt deeply loved by others who are not my family members and not even my close friends. But, even living for only one day with them is enough to make me feel like they are a part of my family. The people here may be poor in material things, but they are rich in the heart; their heart is filled with abundant loves. – Emilia Robert Trawis