Bukidnon trip, continued, because look at these pictures

Reminder/backstory: We took a bus from Davao City, where we live and work volunteer, up to Malaybalay in Bukidnon province for spring vacation.  It was gorgeous.

On the bus ride going up and coming back down, there was a long stretch where there was always smoke off in the distance.  I probably took over a hundred pictures trying to catch it, but the bus was moving at a pretty quick clip,  and suddenly my view would be blocked by another shanty on the side of the road,  a stand of trees, another hillside, or a passing truck. When I did get the image I wanted in my lens, the resulting picture still would be too blurry, my finger was in the way, or we hit a bump and I got a nice closeup of the curtain or overhead rack instead.  I wasn’t sure I ever got any pictures with the plume of smoke until we got home and I started going through them, and I found two or three.

These were cropped to focus more on the mountains and the smoke, but otherwise are unedited.


Oh, look- there it is, although from here it could be a waterfall or a cloud or almost anything.  It’s a large plume of smoke, that’s what it is.

There are people who live in these mountains and hills.  Some of them are still reached best on foot, over single path foot bridges, on dirt bikes.

I was told that an organization here that translates the Bible into other languages considers their work here in the PHilippines essentially done, they have translated the Bible into all the dialects now.  But then we were told by professors at the seminary where we stayed that there is at least one large tribe in this area where their dialect has not been written down and the Bible has not been translated.   The professors told us the tribe is hostile to outside influence, but they are working on trying to build a rapport with them.

Collectively, most of the tribes of this area are called the Lumad, a name they agreed on just a few years ago.  Within the Lumad are an astonishing array of dialects, customs, and beliefs.  Mainly what they have in common is that they are indigenous and they never converted to either Islam or Christianity- and thus, Catholic Spain and Catholic Philippine government gave away much of their lands to immigrants from the northern island of Luzon in order to keep Mindanao island from becoming Muslim.  At one point the Filipino government encouraged relocation of farmers and other workers from the northern island of Luzon down to the southern island of Mindanao in order to keep political control of the Philippines as a whole and impose the government of Manila on the island. This caused a lot of bitterness, understandably.*
On the other side, I’m currently reading a history of the area written by a local scholar, and a hundred years ago at least one of these groups were still practicing human sacrifice and several of them were engaged in enslaving each other whenever they could. One tribe had a warm and kindly practice of providing a wet nurse if the mother was unable to nurse, but if the mother died in childbirth, then they buried her child with her. Another welcomed twins, but if there were triplets they killed them by stuffing the babies’ mouth with ashes because it was believed triplets would kill their parents. So… there might have been a better way to alter these cultural practices, but some of them surely did need changing.

 Here’s a basic over-view of this collection of tribes.

The Talaandig are one of the people groups living in this wider area.  I don’t know anything about them firsthand, and even second hand my information is limited to the fact that they exist, they are IPs (indigenous People) who have been left out but the government and some Filipino missionaries are trying to reach out to them  , but this missions website has some information.  There is also some information here.  They have an interesting flood story you can read here.

Somewhere in these mountains as well, there is a former mission compound where many of my current friends and colleagues once lived.  When their work there was finished, they cleaned up their houses and buildings and turned it over to the government, which used the property for a school for IP children.  Recently, a handful of the missionaries who formerly lived there had a chance to make a spontaneous visit.  They just happened to be in the area and wanted to visit for nostalgic reasons.  They found approximately a couple dozen children playing in the compound.  The buildings were dilapidated.  There were some shabby garden patches the children were supposed to tend themselves. The only adults there that day were two security guards, who informed their foreign visitors that the reason the place was in such poor condition was because that is how the former missionaries had left it and the government was trying to clean it up but it was hard.  They didn’t realize they were speaking with those same foreign missionaries who knew they had left their homes and workplaces in perfect condition.

The children live there.  There are supposed to be four teachers there for them- one is supposed to live there with them, and the other three allegedly commute in.  However, on the day that my friends were visiting, there were no teachers in sight at all and no classes were held. We don’t know if it just happened to be a vacation day for the teachers, but the impression of one of the people I spoke with, a missionary teacher of considerable experience, was that the children are not really being taught, they are left largely to themselves.  Culturally speaking there are a number of reasons this is not terribly surprising, but it is no less heartbreaking.



Attached to the side, but cut of by the conflict between the curve of the road and the bus window, is a motorcycle.  This is another form of public transportation, but also sometimes private transportation.



No kidding.  The response to road accidents or similar physical disasters here is like nothing I’ve ever seen before, and it is probably one of the most deeply jarring and disturbing contrasts between American and Philippine culture I have yet to observe.  But that’s a whole other post.

To conclude this post, let’s just practice observation.  Just look, and make a list of what you see.  Dont’ draw conclusions about it, just try to notice.


You can try to right click and save to another tab and maybe enlarge there to see more.  Or maybe some of these close ups will help:

I confess to a minor bit of conflicting feelings about some of these. I wasn’t taking pictures of people deliberately- in the larger shot here, it was that pile of Rapunzel’s hair I hoped to catch.  But people do interest me, so the closeups I made by enlarging the shot and focusing on different spots sometimes include people.

I always wonder about the people I pass in a vehicle- who are they, how do they live, what are their hopes, dreams, fears, struggles, successes…  I wonder about people who pass by me in trains and cars as well- where are they going, what are they thinking as they drive past the farmland around my house back in the U.S.?

Agatha Christie felt this, too, and said it was really the whole point of Archeology- ‘come, tell me how you live.’  That was the title of a book she wrote on it.


I often think of a little ditty I used to recite, sing song, to my oldest grandsons while playing peek-a-boo. It goes something like this:

Dwa dwa diddy

Diddy dum dum dee

I can see you but you can’t see me.

I thought of it while speeding past in my air conditioned bus.  And I wonder, do I?  Do you? Do we?  What does it mean to see them, to see each other, to really see another human being?  I think it’s probably at least half the attraction of blogging and reading blogs, isn’t it?  Tell me how you live. Show me. Let me look at you.

I’m trying to see.

Dwa dwa diddy

Diddy dum dum doo.

You can see me but I can’t see you.

To see, and to be seen, it sounds simple, but it isn’t really.

I’ll keep looking, wondering, thinking, pondering- and tentatively, cautiously, trying to see and to be seen.


*The material in this post is either my personal observation and experience or it’s simply me relaying what somebody else told me, or what I thought they told me.  It’s true to the best of my knowledge, but that doesn’t make any of it solid enough for somebody to use in a school report, so be careful out here, kids.

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