Monday, April 4, 2011

Max in the Philippines... Part 2 - Hiking Baclayan

The second part of our adventure included a trip to Coco Beach. Coco Beach has always been one of my favorite places here in the Philippines, and again it didn't disappoint. Max was ready to move there after the first five minutes.

Traveling alone with my little brother proved to be confusing for some. I can't even begin to tell you how many conversations we had that went something like this...

Coco Staff: Ohh, who is this? He's your...?

Me: He's my little brother.

Coco Staff: So, where are your parents?

Me: Umm... at home I guess? Sleeping probably, it's 2 am their time... they live in the U.S.

Coco Staff: You're here by yourself?!?!

Me: Umm... yes...

I realize I look young sometimes, but do I really look young enough to require parental supervision?

How old do they think I am? 13? That would make Max a toddler...


The best thing we did while at Coco Beach was take a hike up Mount Baclayan to visit the Mangayn settlement. Although, when we signed up for the excursion they failed to mention we would be trekking over 20 kilometers... Surprise! (Note: This is especially difficult when done in flips flops. What we thought was a short walk between villages, was in fact a four hour hike up the mountain... And, we weren't the only one's that missed the memo. Two girls from Denmark went with us on this journey, both showed up in sandals, one wearing a lemon yellow skirt, and a white top. She looked more ready for Easter Sunday than a day in the dirt, sweating up a mountain. When I told Lee about her ensemble he told me I was in no position to judge what someone wears on a hike.. Whatever. I may hike in yoga pants, but that is because I can't be bothered with pants that require fourteen pockets. But, I do know better than to wear a skirt... a bright yellow one at that. )

Visiting the indigenous people of Mindoro was quite an experience. We hiked to three different villages passing out cookies to the children and buying their local handicrafts.

The village schoolhouse.

Visiting these native people was like nothing I've ever done before, or seen for that matter. To see the way these people live, to see their homes and to imagine what life must be like on a daily basis, through the heat, and the dust, or the wind and the rain. To see the looks on their faces when they know we are there to bring them something to eat, something as simple as a cookie.

Stepping into these villages was like stepping into a National Geographic magazine. In one village we met a woman with a two day old baby. She still lay in her hut, surrounded by blankets holding her newborn. She had no hospital, she had no drugs, (the most important element in my opinion ) she had no doctor, she had no modern medical care, but she was smiling and she held what appeared to be a perfectly healthy new born baby girl. The entire village felt so blessed and were so happy to have this miracle. And I found myself in awe of that. It is a miracle. New life is always a miracle. But this miracle will grow up to be another child in this village. Another child with barely a roof over her head. Another child with half a tee shirt and no shoes. Another child with nothing to eat, and no opportunity to better her existence. And while her birth is a miracle, her life will be a struggle.

While in my mind bringing new life into an environment where one struggles to provide food and shelter is troublesome, these people didn't seem to share that fear. Perhaps it is ignorant of me to believe these people want more, perhaps the little food and shelter they have is enough. And by that I am humbled.

When you grow up in middle class USA, it's hard to believe that what we witnessed for a few hours is a daily exisitance for so many people. It's hard to believe that poverty like this exists today, in a world with so much advancement. It was an experience I will never forget, and one I hope my brother never does either.