After a 14 hour flight, i arrived in Manila at 4 am and was picked up by Deanna , Raymond and Edna who all work at the orphanage. By about 6 am we had arrived at My Father’s House in Las Pinas City in Metro Manila…
the kids were already up and had been since 4:30 am (which i am slowly realizing is the normal wake up time around here)
theytook me on a tour of the facilities which accomdates 61 children and includes a girl’s dorm (where i live) a boy’s dorm and a toddler’s room, as well as an office, two class rooms, a basketball hoop, a swimming pool and one scary life size clown.
they let me rest for a while and i sat in my bed trying to relax but my heart was beating one million times a minute, so i just sat absorbing the different scents of the home which will, comfortingly enough, become familiar to me:
Children singing, laughing, yelling, crying, dancing, running up and down the stairs were all mixed in with the smells of freshly cooked rice, onions and laundry detergent.
Outside it was already hot and humid and i was sweating before 7 am, later in the morning they took me to a welcoming party,
where they had made me a full armor of God, created from colorful construction paper of course, complete with white bath slippers with pink cardboard hearts stapled to them.
They recited scripture verses in English, sang songs and danced and danced and danced. they love dancing i think they would have continued all day dancing if they could. the littlest children are so loving and bashful, some came and hugged me, while others just came very close to me waiting for me to hug them and then they didn’t want to let go.
“Hello At-ay Jessica” (Big Sister Jessica)they kept saying already chattering non stop to me in Tagalog, touching my “yellow” hair and white skin, and pointing at my noise ring. (my tattoos were thankfully covered) “What are your Special talents At-ay Jess?“ and when I told them I didn’t know they looked at me seriously and said, “well, everyone has special talents, they just need to be revealed.” i laughed to my self at that thinking that someone has been speaking postively into their lives and it showed.
Anthony, who is the youngest at barely three years old, and the newest to the house always wants to be held. His eyes are swollen and he has bumps, bruises and scares all over his tiny little body. later i learned him and his two sisters were products of incest. their father is also their grandfather.
the older kids, especially the teenage girls were much more reserved and looked questiongly at me. i dont blame them. the lives they have lived by the time they turn 13 are more than anything i could comprehend. i am just a privileged American girl who has the ability to return to my preciously prepared save haven in the States in just a couple of months.
After a while i rode with raymond and des to drop some of the teenagers at dance practice at their schools across town, and they pointed out to me the brightly colored jeepnies, which are their extravagantly decorated van taxis, and their tri-cycles, which are motorized bikes with a flimsy side car attachment. after we dropped off the kids and headed back to My Father’s House, i sat in the back of the car looking out the window at the people selling homemade potholders,live native chickens and perfumed roses.
…they put on a Filipino Christmas Cd, and I sat listening to them hum along to “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas,” and i smiled at myself as wiped the mounting pile of sweat from my forehead and back.
somehow, i felt right at home.
it had already been the longest day i ever had, and it wasnt even noon.