I flew to Mindinao on Sunday morning and waited for a couple of hours for my boss, Joe and his wife Becky to arrive on a different flight from Manila. The previous Friday, Joe had invited me to come with them to their home province and see the college that he was once the president of (his twin brother Danny is now the president). With Joe and Becky was their daughter Darline, her husband Bart, and their 3 year old daughter, Brianna, who kept us amused during the drive up to Valencia, where the college is located. The drive was beautiful and mountainous, but very different from the Evergreen-clad mountains I had just visited in Northern Luzon. Mindinao has a subtropical climate so the landscape looks very different. The vast variety of environments and landscapes in the Philippines really impressed me. Mindinao and the Visayas Islands are famous for what Filipinos call "Habel-Habel" which means squeezing as many people as possible onto one motorcycle. It was very cute to see entire families on one motorbike, or even more amazing, 4 or 5 unrelated adults squeezing onto one bike. It's an economical way to get across town for very cheap. Well, Joe's brother Danny has a 4-wheel drive SUV, so we did not experience Habel Habel firsthand, but it looks like fun! The Dials were such gracious hosts to me. Danny's faculty were just starting a new semester and Joe volunteered me to give a presentation about critical thinking skills to them. I gave a similar one to the faculty at CMI in February after attending a conference in Berkeley, but it was definitely not fresh in my mind by May 31st! I had to wake my brain up out of summer-vacation hibernation, but I was flattered and glad that I could contribute something in return for their including me in their family vacation!
Mountain View College is a Seventh Day Adventist institution which has a wonderful system for offering equal access to all students. To subsidize educational expenses, the college has industries on it's campus. They have farms and livestock, a rubber plantation, a hydro-electric power plant (they are off the grid!) in which students can work to put themselves through school. Joe and Danny grew up in a very poor family, but they were able to educate themselves through the programs at Mountainview College and as a result, both have PhD degrees now and very successful careers. They have lived and worked in many countries. I came to find out that they actually lived in my hometown (Windsor California...a small place) for 6 months in the 1980s. Joe was the president of the college, but communist activists in Mindinao (a region known for it's political instability) were threatening to take him hostage, so he and Becky took their young family and moved to Windsor where some relatives were running a nursing home. What a crazy coincidence!! Had they stayed longer, Darline and I might have been elementary school friends!
The other thing I loved about spending time with the Dials was the food! Most Filipino food is filled with weird, scary meat (I tried only a small bit of meat on occasion, but usually the only vegetarian option on the menu was chop suey). However, Seventh Day Adventists are vegetarian and very health conscious, so we had a wonderful menu of scrumptious vegetarian food with lots of local veggies and fruits. Yum! Mindinao provice, and especially Valencia is really the breadbasket for the region, I thoroughly enjoyed it! Danny took us to visit a waterfall on campus, some naturaly springs with pure, fresh water squirting out from the rocks, and a picnic lunch on Lake Apo. It was such a grand time in breathtaking surroundings and good people.
From Valencia they helped me book a bus to Cagayan de Oro, on the north coast of Mindinao, from which I could take a ferry to Cebu. The Superferry was huge...with comfortable sleeping bunks. The thing that I was looking forward to most about the ferry was the peaceful night's sleep without being awakened by roosters at extremely early hours. I'm not sure why, but Filipinos seem to have an obsession with chickens. Every family has got at least 3 or 4 of them, if not more. So the result is that most mornings in the Philippines there is a rooster symphony at about 5am, even in Metro Manila! Well, I tucked into the Ferry bunk, happy to get a good, rooster-free night's sleep. But then, at 5am what did I hear? Roosters!! Evidently the ferry company allows passengers to bring their pet roosters along with them in little crates similar to the cages that people use for bringing their pets on airplanes. Of course the designated rooster storage section was right outside my room!! What the heck!?! Can the roosters not stay home alone?!? Aggghhh!! I just wanted to strangle those stupid little portable roosters!
When our ferry pulled up near Cebu harbor, we were met by families in banka boats (Filipino outriger canoes...some with engines, but most with only paddles). The people inside were sea gypsies, and their boats were colorful and quite a sight to see below our huge ship. They yelled up to us to throw down some peso coins for them to dive for. People would throw 1 and 5 peso coins down nearby the boats, and if we got it close enough, they could catch the coins with colorful banners they made of fabric stretched between two sticks. If it was not close enough to get with their homemade coin catchers, our sea gypsy friends would dive into the aquamarine water and retrieve the coins before they sank too deep. It was amazing to watch. I emptied my pockets of all the change I had and tossed it down to them. From a western perspective, it is a somewhat strange exchange between ferry passengers and sea gypsies, but to me it was a unique and beautiful experience to interact with people whose life is vastly different than mine.