Election Season

The Philippines is in the final stretch of a general midterm election, with voting taking place on May 13th. This means two things:

First, certain jeepneys and vans rove around the streets with bullhorns strapped to their roofs, blaring music and speeches in support of candidates. I find this hilarious, but I suppose it is effective, or they wouldn’t do it.

Second, most of the concrete walls along the major streets of the city are papered with campaign advertisements. My favorite is the ad for incumbent Congressman Karlo Nograles, whose youthful, bespectacled grin is probably the most frequently encountered likeness on posters around town.

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Congressman Nograles is
winning on this wall, for
sure.

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Karlo Nograles is doing
pretty well on this wall, too.

It was a bit of a wake-up call to hear our pastor here pray that the elections will be peaceful. That is something we have always taken for granted in the States and Canada, but it is a different story here in Mindanao. Pray that the Lord will keep his hand on this beautiful nation, and that He will give them rulers who love righteousness and hate dishonest gain (Ex. 18:21).

For me, the most remarkable and refreshing thing about politics here is to hear candidates describe things as “ungodly” or “righteous”. (For instance, there was a grenade-throwing incident in late 2012, and the government posted large signs near the entrances to certain malls deploring and condemning “this godless act”. In the USA these days, not even the worst deeds can be called “godless,” lest the atheists be offended.)

There is a Christianness about political discourse that one cannot find in the States. That does not mean that such language is always appropriately used, but the very fact that it is used is a tribute to the Christian faith of the Philippines.

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Stik-O Gecko

Like every concrete structure in this city, our apartment
is a happy hunting ground for geckos. They crawl across the ceiling
and cling to the window screen of the kitchen while I’m washing
dishes. One hitched a ride home on my car’s windshield for the half
mile trip from the tennis courts. Geckos are harmless, unobtrusive,
and help keep the insect population down. Nonetheless, all
missionaries in Davao have gecko stories, from grisly (involving
toasters) to comic. Our kids have wanted to catch one, but the
little lizards are too fast. But this morning, I got lucky. One of
the kids had left an empty jar of Stik-O snacks open on the
counter. As I moved to pick up the jar and dispose of it, I noticed
a twitching movement at the bottom of it. So I clapped a lid on
instead.

20130422-170629.jpg After all the kids had seen the little fellow, we
released him onto the back porch.

Livestock

One of the things that strikes me when I’m traveling around town is the impressive number of animals in the city. And I’m not just talking about dogs and cats. (There are about 8 cats that hang out at our townhouses without belonging to anyone. The stray dogs are legion.) 20130415-101135.jpg

No, I’m talking about animals you can eat. While walking home from the grocery store last week, I saw a man with a rooster tucked under his arm. And if you walk up the road from our house to the barber shop, you will pass similar roosters, still in possession of their heads, either in cages or staked to scratch in the dirt, with a string around one leg. 20130415-100745.jpg

This probably accounts for the din of crowing that happens every morning around 4:30. I drive to Faith Academy via Circumferential Road, which is a pretty major street. Grazing along the side of it last month were a couple of sheep. To be clear: this is not someone’s yard: the right hand side of Circumferential is a five foot wide strip of vegetation bordered
by a concrete wall. But the most charming sight for me is the pair of cows that are pastured in a large yard near Faith Academy itself. It does not appear to be a dedicated cow field, and I have
never seen more than two cows in it at a time, watched over by boys with long sticks sitting on the concrete walls of the houses around the yard. 20130415-101257.jpg

There is also a fenced lot in the other side of the SIL driveway. Sometimes there’s a cow in the yard without a fence; sometimes in the fenced lot. The cows are usually tethered by a nose ring. This week, there was a calf, tethered, but on the wrong side of the fence, just sitting there in the sunshine.

20130415-072326.jpg It makes one wonder what more productive use could be made of all the grass in American suburbia.

Still learning how to get things done

I have mentioned before that having a computer malfunction is “more fun in the Philippines.” Today, we discovered that having a tire blowout is also nicer, or at least, less agony, here. Sora was on the way to pick me up from Faith, when one of the rear tires blew with a loud pop. She limped the car a few blocks to the school parking lot, where some of the school’s helpful Filipino staff had the wheel off in short order, and produced a set of socket wrenches to help with the winch holding up the spare. In 30 minutes, we were on the road again. This was the best possible place for Sora to have a blowout. We’ve had several over the last 12 years, and this was by far the least painful.

Here’s the tire in the trunk after removal:

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(The two others are front tires that we replaced last week.)

After giving a lift to our friend and fellow missionary mid-husband Josh, we headed to Continental Tire, where I told the workers that I wanted two new tires for the rear wheels. When we returned two hours later, I was astonished to be told that the fee for this work was only 80 pesos (=$2). Needless to say, the tires they had installed were certainly not new, so I guess there was a misunderstanding. Nonetheless, they look OK and I have a functional spare again, so I guess I’ll keep driving on them for a few days at least.

The whole experience was interesting to compare with the struggle with the car’s starter and battery back in late February and early March. This time, I knew where to go and didn’t have much stress about the problem. Next step: mastering enough Cebuano to communicate more successfully with the mechanics.

Larger than Life Character

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Sorry we haven’t been blogging as much lately. Partly that’s due to the loss of Sora’s iPhone, which took most of our pictures before. (Taking photos with my iPad looks pretty silly, and our Nikon DSLR is so bulky you can’t really carry it around town.)

I couldn’t resist taking a photo today, however, even though I had to do it with the iPad. I was attending a meeting for the Bible teachers at Faith Academy, which was held in the classroom belonging to Mr. Steve St. Clair, above. “Mr. Saint”, as he is known on campus, is a living institution here at Faith. Our son Ezekiel was blessed to have him as a basketball coach during the last few months. He’s a big man, and an even bigger character.

The most remarkable thing about the meeting, however, was not what was said, or where it was held. It was the fact that behind me, coiled up and sleeping, lay a Burmese python.

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This is Mr. Saint’s pet, named “Bubba”. He recalled one time when he was expecting a pair of parents for a P/T conference, and they opened the door just as Bubba was in the middle of stretching out to pass from one table to another. Their eyes got big, and they shut the door again without coming in. Apparently, they didn’t feel quite ready to deal with an 8 or 9 foot python. I know that doesn’t sound all that impressive, but snakes always look bigger when they catch you by surprise, and not not behind glass. Besides, this snake is still young. Mr. Saint tells me that it is descended from a grandmother that was 24 feet long.