I met my coworkers in the hotel lobby at 5:00 the next morning (oh joy). As the sun rose, we headed to the airport and then flew to Iloilo! After a big lunch where Dave Sutherland told us more about ICM’s vision and work, we we were off to visit a community!
Our first stop was a barangay (district) community center to take part in a savings group meeting. We were greeted by lots of smiles and “hellos” as we climbed the stairs into the community center. Different savings group members shared about what they had learned in the Transform program and how their savings group was doing. The whole room rocked with laughter when one woman told us that she was a widow and we were welcome to set her up with a handsome man.
When the laughter had subsided and the presentations were over, we went to visit the homes of two of the participants. One lady, the widow, wanted to show us her garden. Not only did she grow vegetables but was also cultivating and selling flowers. Some of her bigger, pinkish-green plants could sell for 400-500PHP each! The next house we visited had open walls and doors but a nice, sturdy tin roof. In her Transform class, our hostess learned how to make different kinds of snacks. By selling the snacks and saving up the profits, she was able to buy the roof. It would keep her dry the next time a rainstorm hit.
When it was time to go again, we picked our way down the path and through the many colorful roosters to get back to the vans. A short drive took us to a gray church building where we met some Thrive network pastors. I sat around a table with a few other staff members and four pastors. They told us about how long they’ve been pastors, the Transform programs they’ve hosted, and the emergency response system they have worked out to help in times of disaster. While we talked, the sun sank, leaving us to say goodbye and head back to the vans in the dark. After a long day of meeting new people, we were all ready to sleep.
The next morning was Sunday, so we attended church with in ICM network pastor, Pastor Gerardo. They meet in a nondescript white building in the middle of a city slum. We could hear singing as we entered. A few girls were dancing and waving beribboned tambourines at the front. Two pews had been reserved for us visitors. Although the language barrier kept us from talking to many of the church members, all the smiles, handshaking, and picture-taking after the service made us feel at home.
After lunch, it was time to leave Iloilo. This time we opted to take a ferry instead of flying. We packed up our bags and went to the ferry terminal (which conveniently had a shop that sold Filipino snacks). Our next stop: Bacolod, the birthplace of ICM.