Spending the Night in the Slums of Antipolo
I was able to spend two days with Pastor D. (my honorary Kuya) riding on the back of his motorcycle exploring the Metro Manila area turning in propositions to government centers so that the ministry he is involved with, Tough Guys: Philippines (which is a Full Contact Karate and Mixed Martial Arts ministry), could have the ability to teach local kids in different neighborhoods self-defense, drug awareness, and many other educational things; so that they can build bridges to share the gospel with the local communities. I also taught basic Jiujitsu to his students later in the night.
During this excursion I was able to sleep over at Pastor D’s house which is in the slums of Antipolo. Spending the night in the slums was one of the most interesting experiences I have had while I was in the Philippines. The majority of Filipinos live in what Americans would consider slums. Barangay is the name for neighborhood in Tagalog (Filipino language). At the time I was staying in a big house with maids in Pasig in a gated barangay where rich class people live. Seeing how the other Filipinos live (who are the majority in the country) opened my eyes to how poverty stricken the country is. To me this is not something to look down on the country for, but to be amazed at the unique lifestyles many people have there.
When I showed up to Pastor D’s house I saw a very rundown building in a very rundown neighborhood. Every house is connected or extremely close to one another. Some of them don’t even have proper windows and there is almost no privacy as you can see right into people’s houses as you walk by. I could see people laying on a matress watching TV, sitting around, and eating food right inside their houses with no glass over the window opening. You can just talk to people as you walk by. The pastor had a dog he keeps tied up outside his entrance as he has no door, so the dog is his security against thieves. His dog is very ferocious and he had to hold the dog back to let me pass without getting bit. The entrance is a small hallway that leads to a room that is smaller than my dorm room at Biola University where I attended college. That room was the living room. The floor was made of cement which was painted red and cockroaches were crawling all over the floor. The cockroaches were huge and fast, scurrying to get under cover. There are two bedrooms smaller than the living room, and each simply had a bed, with a thin matress that takes up most of the space. Electric fans were running through the house to keep it cool from the extreme heat outside. The sink was right in the living room and there was no oven. They used a small portable stove to cook their meals. They washed their clothes in a small washing machine and then re-washed them in a tub to soak them up and rinse off soap. They then hung them up to dry right outside. The bathroom is about the size of a small closet with a small toilet where one has to squat over it in order to use it. It was only about less than a foot off the ground. To flush the toilet a person has to pour a bucket of water down it. The shower is just a pipe where water pours out of it with no spray. The room is very wet and the floor has a drain. The door is made out of tin and latches shut with a small lock that probably does not keep it closed. Everyone can hear what is going on in the bathroom from outside as well, because sound travels through the cracks in the walls and under the door easily. I felt awkward when his sister in law asked me if I wanted to shower as she had just gotten out recently and I could hear all the water pouring on the ground and splashing when she was in there. There was not a lot of privacy in there.
While I took a shower and also when I came out I was sweating and dripping liquid so I sat in front of the fan to cool off and hopefully get dry. I got as dry as I could which was still damp and put my shirt on. We ate fish heads, rice, and some kinds of bean sprouts mixed with ketchup. It was a mean that most Americans would consider really terrible. Not that fish heads are gross because I like them, but it was just really low quality compared to what we eat in the USA. Even poor people in the USA can eat better. I did not get sick as they were clean people and we drank purified water. But this meal was worth so much to me because I knew it was all they could offer me as their guest. When we drank coffee he would take a fork and scoop out small amounts of instant coffee on the prongs of the fork and carefully sprinkle the tiny amount of instant coffee into my cup. He did that two times. Then he took a large spoonful of powdered creamer and Filipino brown sugar and mixed it in my coffee. So it was like having instant coffee with my creamer, and sugar, instead of cream and sugar with my coffee (the opposite). He used slum water from the sink for the cofee, but since it boils in a boiler device it is made clean and drinkable. A person just has to boil the water for a certain amount of time to kill the bacteria. Most third world countries do this when it comes to using hot water. (I remember my friend in community college who was from Nepal telling me how her family did this as well and she was very rich). I enjoyed the coffee and believe it or not, I did not get sick! The coffee did not taste that bad either! It was actually good.
The people who live in Pastor D’s house are his wife, small boy, and young girl. His sister in law also lived in the house with her brother and then pastor Dexter’s brother as well. A lot of people live in this tiny space; it would be like making 7 people live in my dorm room. And adding me into the room, who is a large built American makes it even more ridiculous! But they happily live there with no problems. His sister is law stayed the night at a friend’s house just to let me use her bed, and I had to keep the lights on as I slept in order to keep the cockroaches away. Pastor Dexter recommended it, so I had to cover my eyes with the sheet on the bed. The fan blew on me all night and kept me cool. I was comfortable for the most part and did not worry. I could hear sounds next door as the walls are so thin, and in the room there was a hole in the wall where I could see directly into the house of the neighbors next door. Wow!
After spending this time with Pastor D. it showed me how poverty stricken Filipinos exist and made me very thankful for the small amount of things I have in the United States. I struggled through college and getting the money for this internship, yet my comfort level and wealth far exceeds these people. Their faith in God really encouraged me to stay strong in the Lord.
For the most part I actually like the slums as there is always someone outside and something going on. It is exciting to me and I would not mind living in the slums despite the low quality of housing. Metro Manila to me is like one giant party with something interesting going on everywhere, and even just around the corner one can see people cooking barbeque in the streets. I would only want to make sure that I had security; since I am white people assume I am rich and I could easily get robbed. I also do not like cockroaches on my things and would want to keep clean. But you cannot stop them even if you are clean! Some other kinds of animals in the house were a mouse running around as well as a few green lizards crawling on the walls. Pastor D. calls all of the animals his pets and friends in a joking way. Filipinos have a great sense of humor and laugh at their own circumstances and constantly make jokes about it. They do not complain or ask for more in life. They just accept it and the Christian Filipinos bless God and thank Him for what they consider blessings from God. This is something to learn from.
One funny thing about Filipinos is that they always try to figure out if they can hook me up with a girl to get married to somehow. They joke about it and suggest girls who are single. When I was getting ready to leave back to Pasig on the back of Pastor D’s motorcycle, he suggested that I be his sister-in-law’s friend and email her. He was obviously trying to see if I was interested in her. I had to politely decline and he understood. I have to be careful about the women I befriend in this country as many are quiet and do not speak English clear and I can never know their true intentions. Also, his sister in law was cute, but she was way older than me and I do not know how to handle it and I want to wait on God’s timing for me to get a wife.
The best time I had in the Philippines so far is the time I have been able to spend in the slums, and teaching Martial Arts to the youth. I also was able to lead a short bible study as well which was a rewarding experience. I love the people in the slums and squatter areas. Metro Manila is such an exciting place and I would love to live there somewhere, or at least go back for a long time, or on a regular basis.