Mace, Walter, and I stand on the curb of the airport at 6 am on Sunday morning in Cebu, Philippines.
Walter has arranged for us to stay overnight with one of his family friends, and in the meantime, we are to find Preston and secure transportation to the destroyed island of Leyte. Walter's friends arrive and gather our bags to transport back to their home. The father stays with us. His name is Apollo, and he agrees to be our guide for the day.
We begin walking up the road to accomplish our goals for the day, as each day we decide to begin with a new plan. Mace has purchased a cheap cell phone, and he attempts calling the local Mission President office to see if there's any word from Preston. Nothing. We try several internet shops, before finding one where Mace can email Preston to tell him we've arrived and the number he can reach us at. In that short time it makes Mace to send an email, I've already fallen asleep behind him in a spare chair. Mace puts his hand on my shoulder, and I wake up, immediately ready to get back to work.
Mace, Walter, Apollo, and I hop on a jeepney, deciding to use our donation money to load up on food staples and build as many care packages as our funds will allow. We travel from grocery story to grocery store, determining how much rice is in stock to accommodate hundreds of care packages. Mace does an exceptional job negotiating prices for bulk quantities of water, crackers, sardines, and rice, especially given the dialect barrier between what he knows of Tagalog and their language of Cebuano.
We spend hours traveling between stores and negotiating for supplies, and my energy is growing weak. I find a spot on a bag of rice and just observe Mace talk with store owners. Finally around 2 pm, our purchases are secure, and Mace has arranged delivery to a church building near Apollo's home. Mace notes my weakening energy and comes to my side. He suggests we retire to Apollo's home for lunch and take a quick rest before deciding on our next move. We've still had no word from Preston.
We head back across town to Apollo's home, passing all the bustling people in the streets. I see a child squatting over a pile of trash, digging for leftover food. My stomach feels queasy as I remember my time in India and many similar impoverished sights.
After riding for awhile on a jeepney and then walking through a little village, we arrive at Apollo's humble concrete home, stacked amongst other concrete structures, some of which have clearly been burned down. Later, one of the sons tells me about a fire that took his family's home just across the alleyway a few months ago.
As we enter Apollo's home, our bags are just inside the door. While Apollo prepares lunch for us, he invites us to rest on his little bed. Mace and I lay down, observing a little mouse and gecko running away from each other on the top of the wall. Though even with our exhaustion, we are unable to sleep, as a rooster outside has a broken biological clock and won't stop squawking, and Mace and I would rather quietly talk and continue processing what we're experiencing.
After awhile, Walter comes in to grab us for lunch, and we all sit down for Apollo's generous meal. Afterwards, we decide to head to the local church where Apollo's son is bishop and where we scheduled delivery of our goods. Apollo's son had asked his ward members to stay after church and help us divide and package the food for families on Leyte.
We arrive, and everyone is still in their Sunday dress, quickly forming a large assembly line in the chapel. We proceed to bundle all the food and talk with each other until well into the evening. Everyone was so friendly, and after we were done, I sat down with some of the girls my age to talk and share our lives. Later, Mace sits down beside me and asks, "So just how many friends did you make today?"
Well after dark and after everyone has gone home, Mace and I run over to an internet shop across the street. Still no word from Preston.
Mace, Walter, Apollo, and I jump on a jeepney and ride into town. I love the bustling city at night, cruising through town with all the lights and smells, talking to all the people getting on and off the jeepney. This is one of my happiest nights. Mace notes how excited I am, and I continue to tell him how much I love this city.
We arrive at a large shopping center where we gather some food that we will ration out for our journey to the island, as we expect no other food to be available. Then we head back to Apollo's home.
After riding the jeepney through town, and walking through the village for awhile, Mace, Walter, and I stop to try a chicken helmet. Just a fried chicken head - beak, brain, and all. With the first bite, I feel the head collapse. Second bite, the beak crunches. Third bite, the eyeball pops. And at that point, I spew it out. I look at Walter and he hasn't even gotten the helmet in his mouth yet. Then Mace throws his up too. I am laughing so hard that I trip over a stepping stone, and get clotheslined from a literal clothesline. We pause our walk to let out all our laughter.
We finally arrive at Apollo's house just after 10 pm, and we are so tired that we can barely keep our eyes open. Mace and I sit down on one of the little benches in Apollo's front room, and before Apollo even steps into the kitchen to begin dinner, we are fast asleep. Walter wakes us up to eat, and though my fatigue overtakes my hunger, Mace encourages me to eat just a little before I head upstairs to crash.
Apollo's wife has prepared a small spare room for us to sleep. The room is big enough to hold a mattress and small couch. After dinner, I stumble around the side of the house, and up the stairs to the detached bedroom. I lay down on the mattress, nearly instantly asleep. Mace and Walter join me at some point in the night. Still no word from Preston.
We will find our next step. We always do.
Upward and onward,
Heading out into the city of Cebu, just after leaving the airport. The true essence of backpacking through a country.
Passing a cock fight as we walked. Can't say I'd ever witnessed one before. So much squawking.
Falling asleep after 10 seconds in an internet shop.
First experience with Taho. Soy curd, sugary sauce, and jelly ball things. It was pretty good.
While traveling around the city, we came across this lady and gave her some of the crackers we took from the plane. She started snickering and chattering to herself. It was cute - I couldn't stop laughing. Also, pretty sure she's mangling that dog.
Driving through Cebu with my head out of the jeepney. I LOVED riding in those things.
Drinking pigs brains, blood, and guts. Yep, super gross.
Mace negotiating. I was so impressed.
Riding home in a trike. LOVED riding in them.
Apollo's home on the left.
The chicken helmets we tried.