Tabang- This is one of our new vocabulary words as we continue to take lessons in Visaya every week. It means help. Help is something we are very grateful for this month, and something we aspire to bring to others as well.
The national languages of the Philippines are Tagalog and English (tuh-GAH-log). However, here in Davao City they speak a version of the Visaya dialect (also pronounced Bisaya or Binisaya, because the ‘v’ and ‘b’ sound are essentially the same here. So why are we learning Visaya instead of Tagalog, which might be more practical for the long term? The reason can be summed up in something our language teacher told us in one of our first lessons- language is a key to the heart. We have noticed in our stay here that about 90% of the time when somebody asks us if we speak the language, they are asking, “Do you speak Visaya?” They don’t ask if we know any Tagalog. It’s their own dialect they hold close to their hearts. Even though we will likely never be fluent, we find that merely trying to speak the local dialect is an ice-breaker (if nothing else, we can all enjoy a hearty laugh at our terrible accent and accidents of speech) It makes people more comfortable with us. They are more likely to open up some with us, and be interested in what we have to say. So we’ll keep taking those lessons as long as we can.
Katabang- another Visaya word, it means helper. In the Bible when God said it was not good for man to be alone, and He created Eve to be a helper for him, the word is usually translated katabang (ka-TAH-bahng). It is also the word for household help. We have two helpers. Flor comes on Mondays and Wednesdays. She is a single woman who lives in her church building with her dog. She works for other foreigners other days. Jean is a new helper for us. She comes on Fridays. She is a widow with two children to support. There are many reasons why a helper is almost a necessity here- not quite, but almost.
First, the cultural idea here is that hiring people, giving them work, is a social responsibility. If you can, you should. Our language teacher tells us she will even hire two people when only one would be enough because she knows they will be happier if they can ‘chika-chika’ (visit together) and she wants to give work to others. Secondly-we have to dry clothes on the line here, and it rains nearly every afternoon. Damp clothes mold and mildew quickly in this hot, humid climate. Since we are both at school every day until between 3 and 4, we needed somebody else in the home to make sure the clothes dry and don’t get left out in the rain. Thirdly, one of them does some grocery shopping for us every week at the palengke, the local open air market. She saves us the cost of her wages by doing this for us. We are very thankful that we can be of mutual support and aid to these two women, and we are thankful that your support makes this possible.
Eskwelahan- the local word for school. Obviously, it comes from the Spanish, although the ‘e’ here is pronounced more like a long e and not in the Spanish fashion. At the school Wendi supervises study hall and works in the high school library. She also tutors a struggling fifth grader in reading and vocabulary for one hour two days a week. In addition, she works with a Korean couple to help improve their English conversation skills. The couple works with a ministry that translates the Bible into other languages, and then creates audio Bibles in the various dialects and languages. They put these on MP3 players they give away. In this way, people who illiterate or who just don’t read well (we are told this is true locally) can have access to the word of God. The teams who work on this project come from all over the world and English is usually the shared language for the work, which involves not just translation, of course, but also technological expertise in the recording and production and skilled speakers of the native languages as well. In November, Wendi also was able to travel to Manila and speak to homeschoolers there. She has also been practicing her cooking skills in a small kitchen with a rather different array of available foods. She’s been making Kkakdugi, cubed radish kimchi, fresh mango, pineapple and guyabano smoothies, and she’s been tastetesting a variety of tiny snack cakes on some of the teachers at the school we have over each week. The cakes are about 4 inches big because the only oven we have is a toaster oven.
Bill has been even busier.
He is working with the administration to update the admissions procedures and policies.
He is still the admissions chair for the school and interviews all prospective new families.
He recently went to Manila to attend the Child Safety Protection Network seminar. He is now a trained child safety responder. Although it was not always easy to listen to some of the case histories, he really enjoyed the training and being equipped to be of even greater use to children in need, another indication of his calling in this field. He is currently filling in wherever needed, and working individually with children like:
See-He, a fifth grade Korean student who appears to have dyslexia. He has spent a lot of time with her and with her mother working out a plan and he tutors her 3 times a week.
Janice, a high school freshmen who needs help with remedial math and pre-algebra. They have one hour tutoring sessions every day.
Brigida, a German 4th grader who needs some extra tutoring in math once a week.
John, a charming fourth grade student who cannot slow down long enough to learn his math skills. He’s Filipino by birth. He and his twin brother were adopted by an American missionary family at birth. His brother had multiple disabilities. The family hoped to be able to bring the children to the states for treatment, but the process took too long and the twin brother died when he was a toddler.
Bill is also writing two behavior intervention plans (BIPs) for two younger students. And while here he has earned a standard educator certificate from the Association of Christian Schools International and is working towards a professional certification.
At church we have been studying Christianity and religious error. We sing hymns in English and the teaching and prayers are in Visaya. Every week we understand a little bit more, and we always read along in our Bibles in English. Sometimes it’s like doing word puzzles to figure out the message. It’s terrific exercise for the brain, although sometimes exhausting.
Salamat-Thank-you! Our Thanksgiving was very different this year. We were invited to the home of a Filipino-American family. We shared it with friends from different parts of the U.S., from Korea, from the Philippines. Some of them are musicians, some are teachers, one is a doctor. We ate some traditional foods, and many very nontraditional foods. Of course, we missed our families, but we are thankful for the chance to share our love for the Lord with so many in different circumstances- in taxi-cab rides, in the neighborhood, in the local shops, and more.
Thank-you for making this all possible. We are grateful to each of you for your prayers, interest, and / or financial support.