San Juanico Bridge, Church hall, MacArthur, Lerias
Trip Start Jul 10, 2013
13Trip End Jul 22, 2013
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Tacoloban is the capital of the Leyte Island, a historic island where Douglas MacArthur walked ashore on October 20, 1944 to begin the liberation of the Philippines from Japan. The actual location is about a 10 miles south of Tacloban in a town, you guessed it, called MacArthur.
Today Mr. Raul Villacote in his new van drove us to the most "must see" locations in the area. He has just bought a new van and it comfortably seats all of us which include Earl Roemer, Roy Gilos, myself, Raul and Marita Villacote, Jose and Deodita Campos, Reuel and Meryl Campos
We first sent out to the famous San Juanico bridge which at one time was the longest bridge in Asia. It connects Leyte with the island of Samar. It is the main highway from Leyte to Manila and after you cross into Samar there is only one more ferry crossing of one hour to drive to Manila. The bridge was built by then President Ferdinand Marcos for his wife Imelda and has been dubbed the "Love Bridge." It is shaped to form to letters LS (for Leyte and Samar). The S is a serpentine end to the bridge as you arrive in Samar. We drove across the water strait. We were actually able to stop on the bridge and take photos.
From there we went into Tacloban where visited the location where church services are held each Sabbath. The location is a commercial "convention center" that rents out venues of various sizes for conferences, events and for us for Church services. The location is very pleasant and secure. There are guest rooms of various sorts to sleep from singles to family groups of eight or so. We talked about consideration for this very place for a Festival site in the Vasaya Islands. For 2014 we will need a third Filipino fall festival site in the middle Vasaya Islands area to accomodate the brethren in this area. Our site in Mindanao is bulging at the seams with more than 400 in attendance and the site in Baguio in north Luzon is a bit far and expensive
We then all had lunch at a hotel with a veranda that overlooked the strait between Leyte and Samar. It was so pleasant and we all enjoyed the time together.
We then drove to MacArthur where the Allies walked ashore and fulfilled MacArthur's promise when he fled Corregidor that "I shall return." A dramatic statue of MacArthur and staff wading ashore memorializes the location where this happened. It was awesome to me as I remember being taught this history since high school days and now being on the actual location. I love maps and looking as to where things are, but actually driving to the locations and getting the entire perspective gives a historic moment perspective and scale. When I get home I want to read more about the entire American/Filipino relationship and common experience during World War II and before
Then we went to visit the Leria's, a new family of six that has started attending the Tacloban church
For work he drives a taxicle. That, along with jeepnie (already mentioned) is a principal means of transportation in the Philippines. It is motorcycle with an outrigger attached that can seat 2 or more people (I have seen 6 people on them). They change 7 pesos per ride (43 pesos to the dollar). In a day he earns about 200 pesos. His wife Nelda had an appendicitis attack and had to be hospitalized. Money that he was going to use for re registering his taxicle was spent on medical expenses. He was fined for not having a licence. He was without the means to make even the meager living he was making.
Their daughter completed school and has been looking for work, but the school won't release her transcript needed for the job she's applying for because her last fees were not paid up,
The son Ian is skillful in welding and could get jobs, but does not have the equipment necessary to make a living.
The family is very close and lives by strong values, but is poor
I was more than happy to help them with an on the spot grant from LifeNets because I know that they will make it out of the hole that they are in and get back on their feet. The mother Nelda has been providing some income for the family by going from house to house selling laundry soap. Earl Roemer gave them some help, too. Our heart really went out to their family....yours would, too, if you would sit with them in their home and know their story.
The day is coming to an end. We had planned to have a dinner tonight altogether, but we're still full after our waterside lunch and decided to just go back to the Alejandro Hotel and rest.
I thoroughly enjoyed the time spent with the leaders of the churches here in the Visayas.
Both the Villacotes and Campos's have come to the United Church of God from the Jerusalem Church of God which essentially has the same beliefs. The Jerusalem Church is part of the Church of God (Seventh Day), yet operates quite independently. They have 500 members in this area. It was all so very interesting to me as every day on this trip is!