At dusk last night, I walked through the slums of Cebu City, Philippines.
The invitation to walk through the slums at nightfall came after our delegation spent the afternoon at Pasil Elementary, where Feed The Children is highly revered. Last year the elementary got a new wing of state of the art classrooms with funding facilitated by FTC. Upon hearing of our visit as a delegation from the US, a program of celebration was planned. Songs, dances and opportunities to interact became a delightful stop for our group. The kids who got FTC scholarships to attend school sang to us in the program: “Thank you, thank you. We hope we make you proud. May you remember to pray for us and that the Spirit connects us all.” I sat on the stage and cried.
I thought the emotion of the day couldn’t be any more intense. But then there was . . . the slums . . . the place where the school kids live.
Though no slums virgin, the shock came over me quickly with the first step. It would be a sensory assault from the start.
Stepping through the maze of “houses” in order to get to the dock by the sea, several roosters running free nearly tackled me, pecking my feet. I saw a man going for the kill with a chicken– I guess for his families’ night’s dinner. Passing by public toilets where the entire community showers, uses the toilet and gets their running water (after paying a fee of two pesos), the potency of the odor marked the spot. Next door to the “sanitation” center was a dwelling that burnt down in 1988 (we learned) that still housed a family even among the ashes and lopsided walls. I saw a mother chopping potatoes by candlelight there.
Further in, child after child was running free without supervision with tattered shirts, dirty faces, and shoeless. They stared with wide eyes as to why I would be there. Makeshift market stands selling shrimp and crab caught by fishermen slum dwellers earlier in the day, filled the concrete pavement. And no, there was no refrigeration to keep the seafood up to health code relegations. I wondered who would eat the shrimp and whether or not it would make them sick. I wondered who would treat the ills of these folks if they got sick. Anyone?
Yet, afterwards, Kevin said, “Now that was a scene out of a nightmare, wasn’t it?” Funny thing was I was thinking the exact same thing.
Before all the mother worrying types out there get too concerned, let me tell you that Kevin and I weren’t alone. Thank goodness, we had a guide, the local town council member for we surely would have gotten lost or had something stolen off our bodies if this woman’s presence hadn’t said “They’re with me. I will take care of them.” Our group stayed close to her and felt as safe as one can feel in a slum.
This is the part of this blog post where you might expect me to make meaning of what I saw and experienced. But I can’t.
I am a wealthy white woman from the United States. But there are some members of my human family who live in the slums.