I always wake up nervous the morning of a big trip. This trip was certainly not an exception. I spent December 30 – January 13 in Cebu, Philippines. My mom admitted to me when I got home that when I first mentioned my trip to her, she didn’t realize how far away it was.
The Philippines is comprised of over 7,100 islands and located in southeast Asia (east of Vietnam). I experienced a lot of personal “firsts” on this trip, like:
1. 15 hour flight
2. Time to Asia (and Manila, Cebu, Bohol, Singapore, and Tokyo)
3. Time to eat curry. Or noodles. (weird, I know)
4. Time in a glass bottom boat & snorkeling
But, let me back up. The “reason” I originally started thinking about going to the Philippines was because of my friend Sallie. I did a blog post awhile back about her – she’s a personal hero of mine. She is working for International Justice Mission, training & overseeing counselors of girls in and coming out of the sex industry.
When she decided to leave, there were a lot of “We’ll come visit you!”‘s promised, but it wasn’t until my friend Jenny (remember that video?!) said she was going whether I went or not that I hopped on board and bought my buddy pass.
Before leaving, we faced our share of nay-sayers and opposition. I was told multiple times that with my “blonde hair & blue eyes” (they’re green btw), that I would get “snatched up” in a heart beat. I was told that “they” will cut off your fingers to take your jewelry. (I don’t wear my engagement/wedding rings when I travel, anyway, for a variety of reasons.) I was told that we weren’t “prepared” and didn’t have “any business” going over there by ourselves. So, the morning of the flight, I was pretty intimidated.
But, the truth is, none of that was true. Nobody snatched me up; nobody cut off my finger to steal my fake ring (or even tried to). There were only a couple of times that I didn’t feel absolutely safe. What I found instead was a poverty stricken, over populated country with lots of wonderfully nice people. Yes, they have their problems. But it is much less of a “Taken” movie scenario and much more a situation of under-educated, under-privileged hopelessness. What Sallie and countless others are doing over there is nothing short of heroic, and it was a joy to witness it first hand.
Here are a few snapshots I took along the way. Most were taken out of cab windows riding around the city. I’m also working on a personal project called “In Transit”, so a lot of these will be included in that body of work.
On the first day, we (somewhat unknowingly) followed Sallie up to the highest point in the city to look out and to tour a Taoist temple.
Right before this next photo was taken was one of those rare moments on the trip where I didn’t feel completely safe. We had walked through some pretty busy streets and asked several people directions in order to find the market place. I think I had envisioned the market place in Charleston, SC or something more familiar, but when we got there, it was a dingy, dark place with what looked like very old, bug infested fruit. Sallie had told me not to take my camera out of my bag for safety reasons and there were several spots in the market that I wish I had had it out for. After exiting the market, I had a gut check and realized that I hadn’t flown across the world to leave my camera in a bag. So, against her advice, I took my camera out and started snapping. She told me later that she was scared that someone would rip it off my neck as they kept riding down the road on their motorcycle. Thankfully, that didn’t happen, and she has since told me that she wished I had taken it out sooner. 🙂
This last one isn’t a great technical photo, but it’s significant to me for what it is: a self-portrait.
So there’s a glimpse into my time in Cebu. Tomorrow I will be blogging the photos I did while there for My Refuge House, a safe home to young women and children rescued from sex-trafficking. I hope you’ll come back!