When we first arrived in the Philippines, my means of transport looked like the following: I would walk to the gate of our “subdivision”, greet the guards in their snazzy navy and white attire, wave at some guys waiting under a tree in their yellow and blue vests, and get my 20 pesos ready as one of them comes scooting my way. I’d jump on the back of this random oke’s motorbike and ask him to take me to either SM (our Super Mall…), Rika’s Drug Store (located in the same building as Stoffel’s office), or Hillsborough Pointe (where James and his family used to live). Those guys on their motorbikes got to know us first and it’s still a jolly “honk honk” here and a “honk honk” there whenever we pass them on our Vespa.
The guards I mentioned are the best unofficial language teachers around. Because of them, we can now say good morning, good afternoon and good evening in Cebuano without any hesitation. The guards rotate between the different subdivisions, which explained the random shouts of “Mr Bornman!!!” we would hear as we drive around town.
When we walk around the block of our subdivision (their name for what we would probably call a security complex) we mostly talk to the inquisitive kids who call us American or English people, and really have no clue when we mention we’re South African. (By the way, there is so much confusion about South Africa being a country and not just a part in Africa, and, of course, the white skin thing).
I thought the staring would be settling by now, but when I walked out of our flat the other day, the boys passing by on motorbikes literally stared for at least 10 seconds while driving… I understand, we look different and they probably really don’t expect us around, but we’re not the only foreigners here…surely they must have noticed the older western folk sitting at “Coffee dream” EVERY day…
We love our ‘hood. Some days we feel a bit isolated, but I think the people are starting to get used to us. They greet us, we greet them. Sometimes we attempt conversation, sometimes they attempt conversation. Walking around the subdivision the other day, a random man asked us if we enjoyed our run that morning. Huh? Oh! He probably drove past us on his bicycle. Yay! Community! Sort of, slowly…
And then we met the Mayor’s son the other night (yes, we have high rolling neighbors…) and he told us about the Rafthon event they will be having in August during the Cagayan de Oro Fiesta. He didn’t even have to ask if we will join! Rafting and running? In a team? YES! We’re in. New friends.
Then we met a young American couple who lives just a few kilometers from us through our wonderful Filipino friend, who has dinner with us almost every week. Then we met a couple who is running an orphanage and lives in the subdivision right across from ours. Then we met Aunt Jenny from England who teaches music to the kids at that orphanage and also lives in the same subdivision, and we realize that slowly but surely our community of friends (and foreigners;) is growing.
This morning while our nurse friends shared what they are thankful for during our bible study with them, my heart just jumped with appreciation for the fact that we can get to know these people, and share –even just a small bit- in the journeys they are on at the moment.
How good it is to be part of this ‘hood.