Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Cody’s School Commute: How We Beat Manila Traffic Daily

Despite Cody’s school being only 1.3 kilometers from our house, it can take a good hour to do the round trip in the morning. Manila traffic is crazy- like really crazy. One study claims its the worst driving experience in the world. And for me, coming from a driving culture with polite Canadians following strict rules and everyone having their own SPACE (kind of hard in Manila with 12 million people!) I become a claustrophobic ball of stress when I drive the chaotic Manila streets. Plus it just really sucks to waste an hour of your day sitting in traffic.

So what’s our solution? Cody and I rock scooters to school. Not the motorized type, but the push-with-your-foot type, the kind that gives you a workout, especially up hills. Sooooo much better than sitting in stressful traffic every morning!

At the beginning of the school year we started walking sometimes, but Cody didn’t love the 20-minute walk and I felt like I was dragging him along, going so slow. We didn’t really save time walking and it’s not exactly a nice stroll. While part of our walk is through our gated village, a majority of it is along C5, one of Manila’s main thoroughfares with 8 lanes of trucks, jeepneys, motorcycles, buses and cars. It’s dusty, loud (I can’t hear a word Cody says to me!) and always sweaty (this is the Philippines- hot all year round).

When I suggested we try each riding a scooter, Cody was pumped…. and he still is! It takes about 12 mins each way and we get a good exercise and have fun too. Cody loves the bumpy sidewalk along C5 and is teaching me how to jump and tricks on the scooter. And we love racing down the quiet streets in our village.

We also like the footbridge over C5 because crossing that street would be a nightmare. It’s fun to stop and watch the traffic from above.

It’s also fun to make friends on our way! The older man with no shirt in the picture below is Tito Sunny. He sits in this spot every single day, without fail. And he gives Cody an “approve” every time we pass (a Filipino kids greeting…. Thumbs up, then touch, thumb to thumb).

We also see homeless people along the way, mostly sleeping on the sidewalk or benches. One time I saw a man taking a "dump" behind a tree on the sidewalk- kind of horrifying and also very sad. There was a lady this week sound asleep right in the middle of the sidewalk and Cody was hesitant how to go around her. What we see connects us to the streets- this city- and makes us even more aware of others’ realities.

The kids at school think it is cool (and unusual) that Cody scooters to school and it seems the teachers do too. One morning we were greeted by a man walking into the school who was very impressed with how we commute. We chatted about it a bit and he introduced himself as the owner of the school! I think we’ve made an impression!! I would say almost all the kids come by car, mostly with hired drivers, and some by school bus. But I don’t think there’s another kid in Manila who goes to school by scooter :)

On my way home, without Cody, I get the most stares and comments… I know people are wondering what this crazy white lady is doing on a scooter along C5. But I like how we roll and I’m glad Cody does too. And if you know Manila traffic, its a rare and satisfying treat to beat it daily!

Monday, 29 August 2016

Reg and Mel's wedding

The day we landed in Manila, just over 4 years ago now, Reg instantly became part of our family. Its like we had already known her forever- we just fit together like old friends. She has been our host, our cultural mentor, our babysitter, our advisor and our best friend since that very first day. She is such a special part of our family, and we love her so dearly. This past weekend she married a most wonderful man and we couldn't be happier for her. When we flew her to Tacloban to do relief work after Typhoon Haiyan, little did we know, she'd be finding the love of her life. We wish Reg and Mel so much joy in their marriage, as they serve God and others together. We know they will do amazing things and continue to be a huge blessing to so many!

A highlight for me was driving the beautiful bride to the wedding. Just 10 minutes before the wedding was supposed to start, Darnell got a call and was asked to go pick up the bride from the other end of the resort. He hurried out the door but I chased after and told him that I wanted to do it! How special that I had five minutes alone with my sister before show time! I prayed for her and we cried together (but tried not to wreck the make-up!). It was a moment I'll always cherish.

Here's some special pictures to share.....

Bonding the night before the wedding at dinner with Reg and Mel's families. These two are so sweet together. Just ask Makai who is best friend is and you'll know how special Reg is to him :)

Makai walked down the isle with this sign.  Cody's sign said, "Here comes the bride!" And Teyah had flower petals but was too shy to throw them on the isle. They all did so well though! 
This is the bridal party. We were sponsors with a few other couples but forgot to ask someone to take a photo of us- we'll have to wait for the professional ones. 

The kids in the bridal party! Nieces, a nephew, Mel's younger (adopted) brothers and the Barkman kids!

My dress was supposed to look like the bridesmaids dresses, and I found a close match.... except showing a little more legs :)

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Mr President, Please Stop this Bloodbath You've Started

While campaigning for president just prior to the May 9th elections, the now President of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte said, “All of you who are into drugs, you sons of bitches, I will really kill you.” Sadly, this is a promise he’s not backing down on. Since the Election Day, over 800 drug-related killings have taken place.

While most of these killings have been committed by police (who claim the victims resisted), about 40% of the victims were killed my unidentified gunmen and many were brutally salvaged. Unfortunately, this comes by no surprise, as Duterte himself, after being elected, told the public in a televised speech, “Please feel free to call us, the police, or do it yourself if you have a gun. You have my support. You can kill him. Shoot him and I’ll give you a medal.”

We at Peace Church lament, grieve and cry out for change. These extra-judicial killings of poverty-stricken drug users and dealers (wealthy drug users and dealers aren’t being killed) are tearing families apart, creating fear and distrust and not at all getting to the root of the drug problem. Politicians, the general public, and even Christian leaders are supporting Duterte’s War on Drugs. How can this be? Do we really value life that little that we can support this type of mass killing? And how can we allow anyone with a gun to decide who the criminal is? The injustice of it all just baffles me. I am still in shock that this brutal leader became President on a campaign that promised to kill.

Besides the injustice of president-sanctioned extra-judicial killings, the global War on Drugs itself, has recently been deemed ineffective. The UN is adopting a new framework on drug control, which puts people first. The Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime said, “Putting people first means balanced approaches that are based on health and human rights, and promote the safety and security of all our societies. Drug policies must most of all protect the potential of young people and foster their healthy styles of life and safe development.” 

President Duterte, you’re fighting the wrong battle and you’re creating a cylce of violence in this country that’s now spinning madly. You're putting the entire justice system in the hands of corrupt police and civilians and calling for a bloodbath. Instead of caring for your constituents by addressing health and poverty issues, you're killing your people. Please stop now, for every single life matters.