A Dog’s Life

Riding home from school yesterday, I looked up as the taxi slowed. A dog, paralyzed from the hips down, was slowly pulling its body across the road by its front legs. This is a very hard city in which to be a dog. Many are without owners, and they look miserable in ways that North American dogs rarely do. It is a visible reminder that Davao City, despite its bright new malls and rapid development, despite its pursuit of Western consumer culture, still has many needs that are higher priorities than the spaying and euthanizing of strays.

The two guards of our apartment complex also have a dog. He was a little puppy in January, and the many cats used to boss him around. Now he’s bigger, but still cute and friendly. He seems to have a pretty good life. But then, he would: he has owners who are employed by the rich landlord.


(Note the guard’s gleaming shoes leaning against the wall. He was wearing his tsinelas, flipflops, at the time.)

I’m about to start reading Richard Adams’ The Plague Dogs with Ezekiel. I enjoyed it greatly when I was about his age or a little older. It will be a little more vivid this time around, thanks to some of the dogs I’ve seen around the city lately.

On another topic: When I got home and exited the taxi, I saw a small boy a about twenty feet up in a coconut tree, so I had to take a picture.


In the USA, some officious busybody would have enacted a law prohibiting boys from climbing coconut trees. Clearly unsafe. OSHA and all that.

It’s hard to take pictures with gloves on

I just got back from Sunday afternoon swing shift (2-10 pm.) It seems like when I’m working with Ate Suse (one of the senior Filipina supervisors) it’s always busy! The trouble is that on a busy shift, it’s very hard to remember to take photographs because your hands are generally occupied. So words will have to suffice instead of pictures.

We started out with a patient in labor for each of the five of us on shift (three endorsed from day shift, two who walked in just after the shift began.) Mine was a cute little first-time mama in very, very early labor… I sent her home with instructions on when to come back. Two patients were transported for complications. I helped with / supervised two other births, checked in another patient in labor, did a final postpartum checkup for my sweet continuity patient and gave her the pictures from her birth of the two of us with Hosanna and Naomi, sutured two tears, helped with another birth (the patient I had checked in an hour earlier – would have been my “catch” but I was busy suturing when she started pushing), went hunting for more clean linens on the clotheslines in the laundry area because we were completely out (laundry ladies don’t work on the weekends) and signed two birth certificates.

Just before the end of shift, we heard the kind of frantic honking from the street that usually means one of two things: baby out in taxi, or baby about to be out in taxi! Much to his parents’ chagrin (to say nothing of the poor taxi driver) this baby was just in too much of a hurry to make it to the birth center before his grand entrance. We brought them both inside and I took care of the somewhat shell-shocked mama and her chubby baby boy for about twenty minutes until night shift was ready to take over. There was a patient starting to push and another woman in labor walking in when I left… looks like night shift will be busy too!


Seven week old baby Prince – isn’t he darling?

Isla Verde Outreach


Children playing on the street in Isla Verde.

The birthing center where I volunteer as a midwife has several outreaches intended to make it easier for women who would otherwise have difficulty accessing care to get regular prenatal check-ups right in their neighborhood. The one I have attended most frequently is in Isla Verde, a slum neighborhood with a large Muslim population and a Badjao settlement. The streets are narrow and crowded with people, children playing, tricycabs and bicycle taxis.


Our prenatal team today after we’d finished seeing patients. From left to right, Brittany (a second-year midwifery student), me, Charlyn (holding her daughter), Sharon (a nurse and summer intern at the birth center) and Ate Ana, one of our Filipina supervisors at the birth center.

We do our prenatal check-ups in a somewhat makeshift clinic in the covered “carport” in front of the home of Charlyn, a Filipina whose family moved to Isla Verde to minister to the people there.


Britanny and Ate Ana interviewing (medical history) first-time prenatal patients.

We come to Isla Verde every two weeks and usually have between six and twelve prenatal patients show up each time, almost always including several new patients.


Badjao grandma watching her daughter’s prenatal check-up

Most of the Badjao patients who give birth with us get their prenatal care at our Isla Verde outreach as they cannot afford to pay for public transportation to come to the birth center for checkups.


These were not our patients but they came in while we were there are and I had to take a picture.

Our prenatal clinic is only a very small part of Charlyn’s ministry; she hosts other free health care clinics and regularly organizes medical teams to visit isolated mountain villages in rural areas as well. You can see more pictures of the work she’s doing on her NGO’s Facebook page.

Isla Verde is right on the edge of the ocean. Around the corner from Charlyn’s home are shanties on stilts above the sea water, which is a mass of trash and unidentifiable sludge.


Garbage floating on shallow sea water. All the houses are on stilts.

The Badjao village is built out over the water with narrow wooden walkways from house to house.


Apparently the “Badjao bridges” have been improved considerably in recent years… they still felt quite precarious to me!

The streets are full of children and they all LOVE to have their picture taken. Pull out a camera and they’ll start posing and yelling, “Ako! Ako!” (Me! Me!)


Hamming it up for the camera.

I showed these boys the pictures on my phone screen as I took them and they delighted in making silly faces and then laughing at them.


Silly faces.

You can’t help but smile.

Busy times!

The beginning of August has been busy! We returned from the Faith Academy staff orientation on Friday afternoon. On Saturday, the Newlife class of 2013 graduated after two intense years of hard work and hundreds of births. I spent June and July teaching a review class for these students in preparation for their board exams and will be so proud of them when they are finished that last big exam!



The venue for the graduation was a place called Gap Farm Resort. Here are some of our kids under the giant caribao at the entrance:


That’s one BIG carabao!

Many of the graduates have already left Davao — I drove two of them to the airport this morning. They’ll be writing their board exams in the states in just a few weeks, then on to new adventures. And in just a few days, the class of 2015 will be arriving and there will be a whirlwind of activity welcoming the new students and getting them settled in.

Speaking of new students, school started today for our kids too:


Naomi and Hosanna on the Faith Academy campus

Hosanna is in kindergarten, Naomi is in fourth and Ezekiel in sixth grade. Isaiah (7) will be homeschooling again this year. Matt is teaching Bible and literature in the high school.

January was full of new beginnings for us this year with our arrival in Davao, but for a teacher’s family the year really begins in August!

More Photos from Eden Park

I didn’t have all of the photos from Sora’s phone when I posted earlier. Here are some more shots from our three-day retreat for the Faith Academy Mindanao faculty orientation.


A bicyclist riding the zip lines like a scene out of ET.


Hosanna and Isaiah roasting marshmallows with other FAM faculty kids.


Green and peaceful pools.


Some impressive tree roots.


More impressive tree roots.


Tree ferns can be up to 20 meters tall.


Isaiah found one of these plants already snipped off and carried it around, looking like a young Bacchus with a thyrsus.


Vines festoon the trees.


Hosanna greatly enjoyed a horseback ride.

Hearing Aids Held Hostage

I’m hoping Sora will share an uplifting birth story with a cute Filipino baby to cheer your spirits and glorify God. In the meantime, here’s another episode of “First World in the Third World Problems”, with a prayer request.

We thought we would be able to get our kids’ hearing aids repaired here in the Philippines. After striking out at three different audiologists, we found an Oticon dealer a few blocks away from our house, and they shipped the two aids — one Isaiah’s, the other Naomi’s, to their branch in Manila. No dice. The Manila office didn’t have the correct part for Isaiah’s aid, and didn’t get the other working to Naomi’s satisfaction.

So we shipped the aids to Cincinnati, Ohio, where the world’s kindest and most wonderful audiologist, Lori G. of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Audiology Dept., not only persuaded Oticon to honor a warranty that had expired while the aids were in Manila, but also threw in a loaner spare for Naomi just in case. She then sent them back… via FedEx.

They arrived in the Philippines in a speedy enough manner, but not to us. A check on the FedEx website showed, “Clearance Delay“. I went to the Bajada FedEx office to see what the problem was. They gave me a customer service number to call. We tried calling, to no avail. They have called us back a few times now, with no result. We have incredibly frustrating circular conversations in which they tell us, “There is a delay,” and we say, “Yes, we have seen that on the tracking website. We beg you, tell us what to do to get it un-delayed.” And they say, “Let us take your phone number, ma’am/sir.” We explain again and again that the package contains medical equipment that our children need, and that it is not being “imported” — we sent them out of the country for repair and they are being returned. The next time FedEx calls, they ask, “Are these for personal or business use?” We swear up and down that these are our kids’ personal hearing aids. (No, we are not posing as missionaries to hide a blackmarket hearing aid dealership! And if we were, would we be importing them three at a time, and in used condition?)

It has been suggested to us (by other missionaries who have had bad experiences) that we are just dealing with corruption, that the “clearance delay” is an excuse to charge extra processing fees and storage fees and whatever other fees can be invented to take advantage of our necessity. At this point, we would welcome the opportunity to fork over a few thousand pesos and get the aids back in our kids’ ears! But no one we’ve talked to has so much as hinted that money could solve the problem, or indeed that it can be solved at all. On Monday, it will be three weeks since the package reached the Philippines and it seems no closer to delivery now than it was then.

Now, to the prayer request. We know this is a small matter in the grand scheme of things and that our children are very blessed to have hearing aids at all. We see naked children in the streets daily. We see children crippled, blind, and malnourished. Our kids are rich. They, like their dad, are accustomed to walking around with several thousand dollars worth of electronic miracles tucked into their ears to remedy their hearing loss. And while the raison d’essence of properly functioning hearing aids is that the wearer may take them for granted, we are very thankful for our kids’ hearing aids. But we’d be even more thankful if they were out of FedEx’s hands and back in ours.

As Proverbs 21:1 saith, “A petty bureaucrat’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.” Please pray that He will turn whatever hearts need turning so that our kids can have their hearing aids back.

Below: Isaiah not having a fun time while new earmold impressions are taken last month – a process that needs to happen a couple times a year for young, growing ears.