My wife and I were on a mission trip to the Philippines from June 24-July 6, 2019. We spent the first seven days in the mountainous municipality of Barili, Province of Cebu, and the following seven days in the city of Dumaguete. They are on two different islands separated by the Tañon Strait: Cebu and Negros Oriental, respectively.
A South African missionary, Petrus Vercueil, and his Korean wife founded a banana and cattle farm in Barili decades ago. Two years ago, the couple came to my Korean church in St. Louis, sharing the need to buy a water well drilling rig for the farm, and my wife and I volunteered to cover the full cost. Upon hearing the purchase of a machine, we wanted to see it during this trip. Dumaguete, a well-known university town, is the location of Presbyterian Theological College. Founded by a Korean missionary twenty-five years ago, it offers elementary, secondary, and college education to Filipino students. In addition, the institution provides a free M.Div. degree to Filipino pastors, who take weeklong classes by staying on campus a few times each year. The College invited my wife to teach music classes and me to interpret Korean lectures into English for the students in early July, and we gladly accepted the solicitation.
The trip from St. Louis to Cebu City took a total of thirty hours. We flew from St. Louis to Chicago, to Incheon (Korea), and then to Cebu City. After spending the first night at Pastor Petrus’s house in Cebu City, the couple, my wife, and I drove to the village of Barili. After spending a week in Barili, my wife and I took a provincial bus to Liloan Port at the southern tip of Cebu Island. There, we took a ferry bound for the port of Dumaguete, where a pastor from the College picked us up.
The Philippines is 86% Roman Catholic, so it is not good soil for Protestant churches, and there is social pressure not to join a Protestant church. However, the natives respond positively to evangelical Christianity when they are approached with genuine love and care. Our interactions with Filipinos taught us that, in addition to the gospel, mission work should strive to meet the physical needs of the natives, such as food and clothing.
The country is still developing, but most people seemed to be happy and laid-back. Except for big cities, there were neither traffic lights nor traffic enforcement officers, yet, hundreds of vehicles seemed to flow well. Unlike Japan and South Korea, where the population is quickly aging, the Philippines is a young and fast-growing country. I saw countless young children — not only in big cities but also in remote mountains. The current population of the Philippines is more than 108,000,000, and the median age in the Philippines is 24.3 years.
I shall miss associating with nice, fun-loving people in the Philippines, tasting coconuts and mangoes every day, and visiting beautiful beaches and mountains. One long-lasting memory from Barili is the sound of hundreds of roosters crowing and dozens of dogs barking early in the morning. On the other hand, I shall not miss the hot and humid weather, the lack of air-conditioning in the countryside, stinging mosquitos, and the tap water that stops running for hours without warning. Overall, however, visiting the Philippines was an unforgettable experience, and my wife and I plan to visit it again next summer.
Dr. John J. Han serves as professor of English and creative writing and chair of the humanities division at Missouri Baptist University. He is also editor of Intégrité and Cantos. He specializes in twentieth-century American literature, world literature, and poetry writing.