I entered the Christmas season a bit off kilter, sort of and unexplainable out of sync mode. It just maybe that one cannot keep being as happy as I have been for so long without some bumps. I had no reason especially but I was certainly not running in greased grooves. As the week passed the feeling changed once again to joy, not a smooth slide but more a series of jumps and hard landings.
Such is how I began the most eclectic and amazing Christmas ever. The week started with a shopping spree guided by my young lady friend and her two sidekicks, two flamboyant ladyboys. I was on a quest for custom made t-shirts for the crew and they took me about finding the shirts then the printer at their stilted home. We had a rollicking good time in our hired tricycle, as the song goes, laughing all the way.
The beautiful young girl I have gotten to know is a typical Philippino story; twenty years old, mother of a five and three year old who live with her mother as she works to support them all. Looking at the oh so cute pictures of her kids I wanted to make sure they had some Christmas joy too, so we went toy shopping. So fun to shop for kids, knowing they will be thrilled to get the small gifts. I assure you I got as much joy as they did from this simple act.
On the same day, I was taking a break enjoying a mango shake at the “Food Trip” near the market. I see two lads in white shirts and ties with the distinctive little black name badge over the shirt pocket, Mormon missionaries! I hailed the lads and had them join me. I have always been fascinated by the LDS church both for its stellar organization and good deeds and its interesting, sometimes dubious history. The boys sat down and two more showed up, yanks from Idaho. They looked so familiar with their clean cut look, shirts and ties and so so out of place. We chatted a while, about polygamy, Joseph Smith and the good things the church did during the recent typhoon reminiscent of the amazing response the LDS group did during Katrina. I have an old high school friend who converted back in the 60’s when the rest of us where heading in a far different direction. Kathy is still a devout member of the church and has led a rewarding and happy life by the faith. I sent her a picture of me and the boys from which she got a big hoot.
Next on my bizarre holiday agenda was a new tattoo. I met the local tattoo artist who is also a student of the old Philippino script. I have wanted to have my motto, ‘Make Your Dream Your Story’ tattooed and he was able to convert it into the old Philippino letters. So now my left leg is a testament to my motto and my travels.
Christmas eve is the big day here, festivities all day and all night. I found a flower shop and bought them out of fresh flowers. I went to the bar where my friend works and gave flower to all the working girls/ladyboys. The girls where all practicing their karaoke singing and were thrilled to get the flowers and of course pose with them. Again a simple act gave me great joy, really great joy.
That night we were invited to a church service by Petrina’s friends. There are a wide variety of churches here so I had no idea what denomination we were visiting. April, the young girl from the bar and the three Furthur girls and I again crowded into a tricycle and off we went. Turns out it was an Evangelistic church similar to the more modern ones all over America. We were welcomed with open arms and great smiles. We sang the songs and prayed with this very exuberant congregation.
We have been pondering how to help the typhoon victims since before we left Borneo. We brought big bags of rice and clothing along. The relief has been somewhat politically hampered. All the relief went to the major cities none to the rural areas. Relief food and supplies are warehoused here but not distributed very fast. So we were not sure what to do but wanted to do something.
Sam kind of disappeared a few days, not uncommon but curious. As with any Christmas there were secrets swirling about but I had no idea the depth of her antics. Sam found a local lady who directed her to a family, seven kids and one on the way, who had lost their home in the typhoon, flattened. She arranged for us all to go there on Christmas day to help with the rebuild and give food and gifts. This was her gift to us and I could not think of a better one.
We loaded food, clothing, tools and materials into a crowded tricycle and headed out into the rural area where the family lived. The Dad had begun framing a simple silt platform and roof, the twelve foot square house would be their new home. He and I worked on the stick framing while the girls helped with the kids and wove palm leaves into wall material. We played with the kids, made balloons, fed them a great lunch and had a blast. It was a day of hard work in a beating sun, great laughs, and total joy. Sam’s gift was a true miracle.
The house was being made of salvaged material from the wreckage and I could see it would not be enough. I talked with the nice lady who organized this with Sam. Today we are going to the hardware store to buy roofing material and have it delivered.
So passes this Christmas with memories that will carry on forever. The connection with such a wonderful group of God’s children; working girls, ladyboys, Mormon missionaries, a tattoo artist, Evangelistic Christians and a family impoverished in material things and yet so rich in love. So did this bizarre cast of character just randomly appear or was this some sort of Christmas miracle to get me back in touch with how wonderful my life is and how much love you can find in people, all people. I am going with the Christmas miracle