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“We came, we saw, we share to you with JOY” (cf. 1 John 1:1-4)
- Pasig, Manila. Testimony from a Valencia Verbum Dei’s member (Isabel Benlloch)
First of all, we would like to thank all the missionaries and people related to the Verbum Dei’s community in Pasig for absolutely everything; their help, their welcoming, their dedication, their time...this experience wouldn’t have been possible without them.
It’s been a great and an amazing experience, and I talk on behalf of all the youth in the Spanish Verbum Dei group from Valencia. While I’m writing this article, it’s not necessary to look at my travel diary; I have my first impression of the Philippines stored in my mind. I remember how we got into the missionary’s van and we started looking out through the window all the different images as if we were spectators in a movie. In the beginning, all the skyscrapers and lights in the night. After a few minutes, all the poverty and darkness. I was shocked. There were a lot of people in the streets, even though it was late (3 am). There were kids, a lot of animals, people working in the market and even selling things on the sidewalks. You could appreciate how people was staring at you, with a lot of intensity; that touched me. The contrast between these two contrasting situations of poverty and wealth was very notable and, during the mission, we’ve experienced both of them. This was the first time I had a direct contact with poverty on a large scale (and i think I can speak for almost everyone in the group), and, as I said before, it felt as if it was not real.
During the mission trip in Pasig, we’ve done many different activities. On one hand, we’ve visited important sites in the city that are clear testimonies of the Filipino culture, like the city market or José Rizal’s museum, but the best lesson for all of us has been living as like the Filipino people. Walking through the streets trying to do it on the sidewalk, breathing in the pollution, trying not to be killed by a jeepney and doing the stop sign with the hand, feeling the hot air in your skin, bumping into a funeral and watching how it is natural to have the dead body exposed to all the people, worrying about dengue, trying to count how many cables were from electricity post to electricity post and so on.
On the other hand, we were in touched by the children and Filipino families that showed us the toughest realities of living in this country, and the lack of equality between the rich and the poor. Despite all this, and that’s one of the things that most impacted me, they don’t lose hope, they don’t stop believing, and they are little treasures which are blind for the society; and not only to the high status society in the Philippines, but to the rest of the world. They maybe have lacks in first need things, like food, education or hygiene but I admire them so much, because they don’t have lacks in faith; you clearly can see with your own eyes how, despite living in these situations, there’s no excuse for them for being sad: they feel happiness in every smile that you give them. Even if it’s just a hug, a visit to a family, or swinging the child in the air; you can see how grateful and happy they are.
As a group, we had everything but a routine. Lots of different situations and experiences, including going to the hospital (not exactly in order to visit sick people). Thanks to God, the check up from the Doctors there, and a lot of prayers it was nothing at all. The only kind of routine that we had was the guidelines in the morning and a prayer time to close the day with the Lord. The prayer time really helped us to deal with all the situations that we were living, and to share the experiences as well. We come back to Spain full of love and with many stories to tell; we can be a strong testimony for many people about the reality of the Philippines but, I think that the main thing that we take from this beautiful country is the way of living; I’ve realized how many things we have to learn about you. Maybe Spain is not as developed as we think: we really have to take example of what we’ve seen and share it as far as we can.
In conclusion, it’s been an amazing and great experience. I wish I could tell the pilot of the plane to turn around 180º. We are so grateful for everything and believe us when we say that we’ve learnt much more than you could ever imagine. We come back with our suitcases full of love, experiences and, the most important thing, faith. Hope to come back soon friends. With much love and peace.
Isabel Benlloch, Valencia Verbum Dei’s community member
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