It’s Starting to Look a Lot Like Christmas

We have been told that Christmas season in the Philippines fills every month that ends in -ber. That makes August the Advent month..

PenHaus in Victoria Plaza Mall has set out their Christmas trees for sale already.


Price? P8000 = $200 US. (We got a used one from a departing missionary already.)

Return to Eden, Quirino Ave

We just got back from the staff retreat for Faith Academy, for which we returned to Eden. (Yes, we managed to get past the angel with the flaming sword.) We had a very pleasant time and enjoyed spending time with friends. Here we are with Dan and Marlene B., whose daughter Samantha was among my students this past spring. They run a business manufacturing medical equipment bags, which enables them to minister as well. Dan will also be teaching carpentry at Faith.


The ice cream scoop is about to serve up Lemon Grass ice cream. It was very good. (Moringa flavor, by contrast, was a bit too vegetably for me.)

On the way home, I got a few more photos along Quirino Avenue that show a bit of the local color for our readers in the States.

This Jeepney has Spiderman and a very impressive dragon on the side:


I bet you didnt know that Ferrari made Tricycabs. This one presumably has a V-12, which might actually enable it to keep up with traffic:


Last, a shot of the onion dome atop a mosque off Quirino:


Saints for Sale

In the middle of the concourse at Victoria Plaza, the less ritzy of the two malls closest to us, is this shop, where you can buy whatever statues of saints you need (or don’t need, depending on your interpretation of Acts 17:16 and other verses):


We pass by it every time we go to language lessons or run other errands at the mall. It rather remains me of Dayton Church Supply back in Ohio.

Sex Sells… Tuna!

The use of sex appeal to sell products is a distinguishing feature of modern Western expressive individualist consumer culture. Sexy ads in North America are usually somewhat coy, unlike sexy ads in Europe, which are lascivious and sometimes perverted. And I have heard that advertising in Japan is positively obscene.

But part of what is so delightful about the Philippines is the way everything is over-the-top, often ridiculously so. Sora and I chuckle about some of the billboards, even while wishing that our eleven year old were not being subjected to them.

One of the stereotypically Filipino billboards is this one, located across from the nearest mall. It is an ad for tinned tuna.


A little research – which no Filipino would even need to do – reveals that 555 Tuna has as its spokesman for this ad campaign the Filipino action movie star Robin Padilla. Here, he poses in open shirt, mightily empowered by the 555 Tuna he has eaten. Actress Cristine Reyes, dressed in short shorts and a pink polka dot top, perches atop his flexed bicep, and prepares to feed him another spoonful of tuna. Is it sexy? Yes, but it’s also poking fun at its own use of sex. It doesn’t take itself seriously.

It turns out there is a TV version of the ad as well. A shirtless Mr. Padilla unloads some heavy goods from his (macho) pickup truck before using a pair of clippers to sculpt Cristine’a hedge into the shape of a heart. Then they both sit down to some yummy tuna:

The sexuality in advertising trickles down, too. At a carwash this morning I saw this sign:


Nothing could more clearly illustrate the lack of any logical connection: “Well, I was going to light up, but since the Filipina Bikini Team doesn’t want me to smoke…”

There are other advertising methods on billboards, and they are just as comically exaggerated here in the Philippines: there’s the “you need this particular brand of product in order to have a happy family” strategy, as well “your kids need this food/toy/whatever in order to be successful or healthy.” I’ll try to cover some of them in another post.

Immigration and the Mall

Today we had an appointment at Immigration at 9:00 AM. This was to be the day we finally got our I-9 visas. We brought all the kids down to the Immigration office, about a quarter mile away from our house. The NBA finals were on a TV in the waiting room. We got to see the whole thing. Unfortunately, not even Ezekiel was interested in the game (he likes to play basketball, but not to watch it). So the kids were bored:


After about an hour and a half, we were invited back and made small talk with an official who asked us what mission we were with, and identified each of our kids. He signed some papers.

And more papers. And more papers. Visas for a family of 6 means a lot of papers for everyone at Immigration:


An hour later, it was time for fingerprinting, a messy process:


At this point, we needed to go to Victoria Plaza Mall to make a bunch of photocopies of various forms and print new Visa photos of each of us. We got the photos at a tiny shop:


Hosanna decided to hide behind her mother while Sora was being photographed:


Then, after a stop at Dunkin’ Donuts, we parted ways: Sora went to get the forms copied, while I took the kids to the toy section of Victoria department store. I told the kids they could each get something, provided it was less than 100 pesos. Our kids are so stereotypical. Ezekiel and Isaiah looked at toy weapons, Lego, and remote control helicopters. Hosanna and Naomi looked at dolls:


There were some pretty amusing toys at Victoria. The kids and I had recently watched Toy Story 3, so we were amused to find Lotso among the stuffed animals. There was also a very cool plush Yoda in bodhisattva pose. Isaiah, however, was more interested in the squirrel on the same shelf, probably because of his memories of Jack-Jack, pet squirrel of our friend Erin.


There are certain benefits to being in a country that doesn’t enforce trademarks very well. One is that you can buy faux Nike basketball shoes for cheap. Another is that you can get Batman, Superman, the Incredible Hulk, and the Avengers all in the same package, without shelling out for separate DC and Marvel merchandise:


In the end, Ezekiel got some batteries for a remote control car he already owned. Isaiah and Naomi got small bags of marbles, and Hosanna opted for a silver tiara bedecked with blue jewels. It will probably break by next Monday.

Sora still wasn’t quite finished, so the younger three kids got one ride on the carousel while Ezekiel stood outside the railing and mocked in the way only a superior elder brother can.


Rejoining Sora, we returned to Immigration — no small feat crossing busy four-lane JP Laurel with four kids, dodging jeepneys as though in a game of Frogger. Once across the street, we discovered that Immigration’s photo system was down for the day, so they wouldn’t be able to produce our I-cards today. So we’ll have to come back to get those. They will allow us to get drivers’ licenses and open a Filipino bank account, thus avoiding a bunch of fees every time we get money at an ATM (hitherto the only way to do it).

Upshot: we are now legal for the next year, and don’t need to file for renewal until February.

Thanks for your prayers!

Around the House

Nothing terribly exciting this week. I’ll upload photos from our trip to the nature park later today. In the meantime, here are some photos of what goes on in our apartment every day:

Flor peeling a pomelo for our girls:


Brothers of Latin students reading Calvin and Hobbes while their siblings have class with me in the kitchen:


Ezekiel, who hates to have his picture taken, was unaware that I caught him smiling while reading Howard Pyle’s King Arthur series on the iPad:




I was on day shift last week when a heavily pregnant woman walked into the birth room. This is an everyday occurrence at the clinic, of course, but I was particularly interested in this mother because her brightly colored clothing identified her as a Badjao and I had yet to care for any patients from among the “Sea Gypsies.” As I stood up and spoke a welcome the older woman who was with her grasped my hand and shook it vehemently, a huge smile on her face.

The Badjao tribal people are poor, uneducated, outcasts in Philippine society. Their ancestors were nomadic seafarers whose religion was a combination of animism and Islam. Many are now settled in the slums in Davao city and some have become Christians. The clinic where I am volunteering sends a team of midwives twice a month to do “outreach” prenatal care in Isla Verde, an area where many Badjao live. The young pregnant woman and her mother-in-law were from a different community and so she had not had any prenatal care yet. She was not in labor but knew she was near the end of her pregnancy, and she wanted to give birth at Mercy.

The young woman spoke only her tribal language, but her mother-in-law had some fluency in Bisaya. Neither could read and neither spoke any English. With some translation help (my Bisaya is still far from adequate) I took what health history I could and did a prenatal check up. She did not know her birthdate, but her mother-in-law said she was twenty years old. She had given birth to three children, all born at home with only family members present. She did not know the birth dates of any of her children. They had not come sooner for prenatal care (and would not come for another prenatal) because of the cost of transportation to the clinic – 15 pesos (less than $.40.)

After I finished the prenatal check-up, I offered to pray for her and her baby. As I began to pray in English the mother-in-law immediately and without hesitation began to pray with me. Neither of us knew the other’s language but that was no barrier to joining together in prayer for the mother and baby! Such a beautiful “this is why I’m here” moment.

A week later, I arrived for day shift just before 6 am. The Badjao woman I had met the previous week had come in two hours before and quickly pushed out her healthy baby boy! I had time to do little more than greet the family with a smile of recognition before another Badjao patient arrived in labor. She walked in at 6:15 am and pushed out her baby boy at 6:20. While the birth went quickly and smoothly this mother experienced an immediate postpartum hemorrhage. In the two minutes after the birth that it took for us to administer medications, deliver the placenta, and get her bleeding under control she had already lost a significant amount of blood, enough to cause her blood pressure to drop drastically and her pulse to race. The immediate care she received may well have been lifesaving.

Communication was definitely a challenge as I cared for this family after the birth. Like the other young Badjao mother, this one spoke almost no Bisaya and no English. Her “auntie” who was with her spoke Bisaya fairly fluently and a word or two of English, so between my faltering Bisaya and a little translation help from a Filipina staff midwife we managed. When it came time to fill out birth certificate paperwork and choose a name for the baby, the “auntie” asked me what my husband’s name was, and my sons. They apparently didn’t like the foreign-sounding names I offered, however, and settled on naming the baby “Janimal.”


Thumbprint in lieu of a signature on baby Janimal’s birth certificate.

This morning little Janimal and his mother returned to the clinic for a postpartum checkup and BCG vaccination (tuberculosis vaccine for babies which we offer every two weeks.) I was headed out for the first time with the team going on outreach to Isla Verde. We were able to give them a ride home since we were headed their way!

The Isla Verde outreach takes place every two weeks at a free clinic run by an amazing Filipina woman. Not all of the families in the neighboring area are Badjao, but there is a large Badjao community nearby. Most of the Badjao patients and many Muslim patients who come to the birth center in labor are from the Isla Verde outreach.


Praying with the Buntis (pregnant mothers.)

There were six or eight pregnant patients waiting in the makeshift clinic when we arrived but more trickled in, so that in the end we did prenatal checkups for about 15 including four who were being seen for the first time. Many did not know when they were due or their own birthdate, most could not read. I did a prenatal checkup on a sweet young mom, pregnant with her second. Her highest education completed (per her history form) is second grade, and she now makes her living selling sunglasses on a street corner. She is the same age as my oldest daughter.

Please continue to pray for our work here in Davao.