Leeanne G. went to Manila, Philippines, in December 2009 for a 14-month Heart’s Home mission. The following text is an extract from her last Sponsors’ letter.
One of our apostolates is at the fishport, the big complex a short walk from our home, the point of reference we use when describing where we live to other Manilians. Tahanang Puso used to visit the fishport by night, when the fish comes in off the boats and is pushed around the port in great vats by gumbooted men and women. Children used to work here late into the night, stealing thrown-away second-rate fish to sell later for the tiniest profit for their families. It was dangerous work. Since the government legislated more firmly against this child labour a few years ago, there are few children who work by night, though still many families with parents employed in the port squat here. We now visit the port by day, when the port is at its quietest, when the adults are at rest and when the small children who call the port home are unoccupied by the diversions of the port at night and welcome our distraction.
[…] We have a special friend who lives at the fishport. Kuya Nonoy is 26. His home is a deck chair under one of the many hangars, raised high on a mountain of crates for the smallest measure of privacy. He sleeps under the bright fluorescent lights of the port and takes whatever rest he can during the day, because the nights belong to the small wooden cart from which he sells small little candies and sachets of drink to the port workers. The cart is his livelihood, and the means to see his special family every few months.
Tahanang Puso met Kuya Nonoy last year. He was newly widowed; his young wife died a few months after the birth of their third child, a baby named Jerome. [...] I love deeply our visits to Kuya Nonoy. He is a gentle man. With my broken Tagalog, and his hard-learned English, we piece together simple conversations. In snatches I learn more about his life in the province, before he was lured to the big city as a teenager. [...]
In January, we visited the Fishport at night, a throwback to the old days, for good reason: it was Kuya Nonoy’s birthday. We arrived with a cake, and he was a little embarrassed. “I have nothing prepared - it’s not my birthday!” he said. And we laughed and said, of course it is. We sang and cut the cake, and, in the Filipino way, insisted he make a wish (birthday wishes are shared aloud here). His wish: A long life filled with friends like us.
In Heart’s Home, we speak often about the consolation of our presence. In this so-simple mission, I did not reckon on the consolation of the presence of our friends to we who have no answers to their suffering. Our friendship with Kuya Nonoy is beautiful and humbles me.