When we arrived in the Philippines, one of the first things we were told was “never judge a missionary by the things they say while driving in Manila,” and while it didn’t make any sense at the time, it didn’t take long at all to understand what they meant. There were no familiar fast flowing freeways in Manila, so going from any one place to another involved taking miles of clogged city roads. Major roads were often two lanes in each direction, but where space allowed, the road widened to three lanes. Traffic would quickly expand into the third lane in an effort to get ahead in the painfully slow congestion, but a few hundred feet ahead, a neighborhood or bridge would collapse the road down to two lanes again, forcing the traffic to merge, and creating even more congestion in the process. Continue reading “Getting around in Manila”
“Normal is an illusion. What is normal for the spider is chaos for the fly.” – Charles Addams
After the first few weeks of being in the Philippines, the realization set in that we weren’t in California anymore. It seemed that with every new task, there was a learning curve of how life would be different in this new land. Even the simplest things like buying a soda came with unexpected changes. When it was time to buy a soda from one of the sari-sari stories down the street, I selected my soda, asked how much it cost and forked over a few pesos. The lady behind the counter then popped open the soda cap on a glass bottle, poured the contents into a plastic bag, stuck a straw in the bag and handed it over to me. Holding the bag tightly, I thanked the lady and walked back to the house confused as to what had just happened. As it turns out, the Philippines had not yet switched over to using plastic bottles or metal cans, and almost all soda was sold in glass bottles. There was a bottle deposit added to your purchase so that you would return your glass bottle, which would then be picked up by the bottling company, washed, refilled with soda, and shipped out again. To save the hassle of paying for and returning bottles, many Sari-Sari stores would simply pour the contents of the glass bottle into a clear plastic bag, and not charge you the cost of the bottle deposit. As long as you held the top of the bag tight enough, the whole thing worked quite well. Continue reading “Culture Shock”
June 28, 1990
After spending the previous night in a hotel after our long flight across the Pacific Ocean, my Brother, Sister, Mom, and I prepared ourselves for the relatively short three-hour flight from Taipei, Taiwan to Manila, Philippines later that morning. Before long, we were watching the blue ocean and puffy white tropical clouds stream by under our wings. Starting our descent into Manila, banking left over Manila bay, the ocean water changed from a vibrant blue to an emerald brown as the shoreline appeared. The land was swathed with vivid green palm trees and dotting the outskirts of the city were small collections of homes built out of corrugated metal roofing with intermixed colors – shiny sliver, rusted red, and painted black matte. As the plane lowered to the ground you could start to see office buildings, neighborhood developments, and every piece of spare space filled in by shanty towns. Nearing the runway, the plane finally touched its wheels down onto our new home. The plane loudly rattled down the rough runway, like a car quickly driving over a pitted road. The plane slowed, turned off onto the taxiway, and made its way to the nearby terminal. We disembarked through a flight bridge into a bright and airy terminal lined with plants, posters of tropical island beaches, and images of blue city skylines. Continue reading “Arriving in the Philippines”
In the years that we were living in Pasadena, Mom and Dad had watched as the political climate in South Korea become increasingly nationalistic. The government started pressing Protestant mission organizations to prove that their missions work in South Korea was necessary, and that they were doing tasks that the South Koreans themselves could not. The number of visas were being restricted and several missionaries with other organizations had already had to send missionaries to other countries instead. In addition, the group our mission organization had been working with had splintered and was no longer considered by the government to be a stable sponsor. By the start of our fourth year, the writing was on the wall that the door to return to South Korea had closed, and our missions organization, the Christian & Missionary Alliance, asked my parents about changing their field of service. They were interested in having my Dad become professor at the Alliance Biblical Seminary (ABS) in Manila, Philippines. The change was a disappointment for my Dad, who really wished to return to South Korea, but he accepted the new assignment it faith. Serendipitously, the leaders of the South Korean churches we had worked with had previously approached ABS about training their South Korean missionary candidates there, so Mom and Dad were encouraged that their work with Koreans would continue even in Manila.
During this time, my parents had remained silent about the changes to us kids until they knew for sure what they would be doing and where we would be living. One seemingly normal evening after dinner, Mom and Dad called us kids around the dining table for some news. “We’re not going back to South Korea,” they solemnly said. Continue reading “Preparations and Plane Flights”