10 days in the Philippines and 3 days to recover.
This was an insane trip for the simple reason that everything that was planned, aside from one event, was completely re-arranged. Inexplicably and at the last possible second.
This was a case of Mat Salleh permanently Keliru. I entered a whole new state of being. Like a saint, nothing can disturb the internal peace I have created in order to survive the chaos swirling around me.
Here is my favourite example:
On Saturday morning we (friends x7) were supposed to go up to some remote mountain villages, but changed our plans after a Category 2 Typhoon hit the city, killing 8 people in the immediate area and causing a landslide on the road we would have used. If we had gone up, I'd probably still be stuck on a mountainside somewhere, crying about how much I smell and don't want to eat anymore dog.
[where are we..?]
But as I say, we changed our plans. So at a loose end on Sunday morning our new friend, Pastor Joel, invited us to church. The arrangement was to get a ride with him, so meet at the basketball court, 9am.
In the morning, whilst we're all still in bed, there's a phone call. Group leader goes to the hallway phone…muffled conversation…comes back.
Leader: That was Ps. Joel, there's been a change of plan. We're meeting at the house at 7.30am.
Friend: What time is it now?
Other friend: [checks watch] 7.15am
Having previously been warned that Filippinos are not time-conscious, but event-conscious and that we must be "flexible", we interpreted this as a unreasonable but very plausible change of plans.
No shower then.
We managed to pull ourselves together in 15 minutes and go to the new venue, at the new time. Ps. Joel is nowhere in sight…but I guess we're meeting him there, so we climb aboard the mini-bus and off we go.
We arrive at a church and wait for him to arrive.
9am comes around. No sign.
Another Pastor appears.
Other Pastor: So you are ready?
Other Pastor: Yes, I pick you up for church.
Leader: Oh, Ps. Joel sent you?
Other Pastor: No, Ps. Denys.
This coincides with a message from Ps. Joel:
"Where are you? I am waiting at the basketball court."
Until this point I have also neglected to mention that these Pastors are not simply inviting us to join their church…but to run the whole service. So now we are hugely confused about what is going on and slightly concerned that we're meant to be running 2 church services at the same time.
Us: "Are you sure it was Ps. Joel who called?"
Leader: "Yes, it was. Very sure. He said, 'this is Pastor Joel' "
It is also now that we establish the only possible explanation: the Ps. Joel on the phone was an impostor!!
Someone called up, claiming to be Ps. Joel, and diverted us to another church! We've been kidnapped!
…by a jealous missionary? …to run a church service? But…that doesn't...really make sense…does it..?
A wild theory.
Which turned out to be semi-true.
In fact it was another well-wishing person, concerned for our cancelled trip and oblivious to our new plans, who made arrangements for us (and considered it unnecessary to inform us more than 15 minutes in advance…?). Then the middleman, responsible for the early morning phone call, was in fact not Filippino Ps. Joel, but Taiwanese Ps. Joe.
[the real Pastor Joel, using a phone]
The next time we made arrangements with Ps. Joel, he left us with these words…
"Remember, if someone will call you, that is not me!!"