At last, tomorrow we’re going to Manila – or at least I, Sophia and Dan are, and possibly Nat, who wasn’t feeling too well today. We’ve got bogged down in some business matters that have necessitated us travelling up to San Fernando and/or Angeles City on an almost daily basis, and which will still occupy Mary Ann tomorrow. The extra time in Pampanga has, however, given us an opportunity to visit some of the cousins who live hereabouts.
Yesterday we crossed over the Pampanga River to Cansinala Barangay to visit cousin Jenny, who was Mary Ann’s classmate at Cansinala Barangay High School. While we were there we took the opportunity to call into Mary Ann’s old school. In Mary Ann’s day the site was divided between the elementary school and high school, but the population has grown so much over the intervening years that a new high school has been built on an adjoining site and the old high school class rooms are used by the elementary school. Although some of the buildings have changed, much remains and we stood on the playground where Mary Ann and the other pupils lined up each day for the flag ceremony and where her graduation took place. (We peeked through the window of one of the classrooms and it looked like the old wooden desks were probably the same ones that Mary Ann sat behind some 30 years ago.)
We then headed out for Conception, the furthest barangay in the municipality of San Simon, on a perfectly straight road across several miles of rice fields. Behind us the setting sun was reflected in the still waters of the rice paddies. As we approached Conception a bend in the road brought the sun from behind to the side – such a beautiful sight that I asked Milan, our driver, to pull over by the side of the road and snapped a few pictures out of the window.
The reason for going to Conception was to visit Jenny’s sister Jasmine, which following the unwritten rules of Filipino hospitality meant that we ended up eating there. By the time we left it was pitch black outside and an eerie journey back to Cansinala. With the only light the light of the van headlights and the road raised above the surrounding rice fields, it felt almost like driving on a long causeway across dark waters.
If yesterday was enjoyable, today’s trip to Angeles City was followed by a rather sadder visit, as we heard that one of our nieces, 2 year old Jaylee, had been admitted to hospital with leukaemia. We called into the public hospital in San Fernando on the way back.
Walking through the children’s wards was a moving experience. Not so long ago Alfie, who we were then fostering, was admitted to the children’s ward of the Royal Free Hospital for a few days. There were televisions for the children to watch, a room full of games they could borrow, a classroom, and facilities for parents staying overnight such as a kitchen with microwave and fridge. The ward in San Fernando was absolutely packed with cast iron beds, other beds were lined up in the corridors and paint was peeling off the walls. There wasn’t a spare bed in the place. We stayed for a while to chat to Jaylee’s mum and grandma who were there and then I was asked to say prayers for Jaylee and the four other children who shared the same small room. And I would ask you to do the same, in your own prayers.