• April 15, 2010

Leeanne, volunteer in Philippines - “The Fishport”

Meery Chris, Alessandra and Nining in the Looban - Manilla, 2010

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.

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