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Palawan: A Picture of Creation

by: Pastor Ma. Beate Mantilla-Hernandez

Our trip to Palawan created a huge wave of life changing experience in our lives as a family, as a minister of the Gospel and as a woman. It took me several months to prepare my children for this week-long mission journey and has overwhelmed my entire family during Christmas when I announced that I and Ronell will be in Palawan come January 2010. There were doubts and fears, lots of things to prepare and I always hang on to God’s unchanging grace, and His covering protection to all of us. Not later soon, God gave me so much reason to pursue the mission. It was through the household of God (UCCP Sabang) who manifested God’s provision and caring spirit to my family and most importantly to my children.

I see it as a humbling experience, when I got the opportunity to be with our friends, the Palawan Associate Conference. I got close andpersonal experience a minister would always linger as source of encouragement,lessons of which I am so thankful to the Lord. Lessons not read from the pages of books but learned from people who were there living and yearning. It was an opportune time to ask myself about the real meaning of ministry, laying down of yourself, things and comfort for myself to allow God’s work and purpose happen. I fervently say that Philippines is blessed with such a beauty, likened to a mother’s womb, that a new life is about to happen.  The advent to richness and splendour of our land has ended and we have approached the rising of God’s triumph in our land.  It seemed to me a goodpicture of a land that is guarded and protected by a good habitation. Well it could be and will happen if we understand and partake of our responsibilities as citizens. Palawan is a picture of creation.

But this is far from the point of view of missionary work. If the forest declares its splendour, the Underground River pronounces its wonder of nature, the vineyard of the Lord is waiting for workers and harvest is yet to come. Palawan Associate Conference may not be approved to become a full fledged Conference this coming General Assembly, for they have not reach the required 30-45 number of local churches, and at least 10  ordained ministers to carry the cross of ministry and mission. I chanced upon the documentation that therewere only 6 ordained ministers at PAC. Not really enough though to continue and plant the good news, but workers are positive.  This truth made us, LCSMC workers, and SCCD Church Workers for that matter embrace God’s challenge and inspiration. PAC will have to wait, and I believe waiting is still God’s design. In waiting, the household  learns to depend on God and trust God.

Church workers of PAC (ordained, unordained, laity and deaconesses) work for mission and are ministering various churches around Palawan. Pastor Elen is pastoring 8 churches from Puerto Princesa to Sicud then Panitian to Quezon. Various churches don’t have music workers, many of our churches are led by lay workers, Pastors come and visit during Communion Sunday. While it is true that beginnings are precious, Church structures in Palawan came from humble beginnings, most of them are made of woods, kawayan and amakan. Each and many of our Pastors in Palawan receive P50-150 as love gift, it may not really be enough to sustain but it really happens to them. Our work camp at Basaio, a small town 4 kms from Quezon Town Proper brushed a color of hope and tied close our relationship as workers of God’s vineyard.

The congregation composed of 4 tribes describe without words the reason of their coming together – they wanted to declare that they belong to a place of community, and they have been tested during times of hunger, typhoon, and scarcity. The palm of God’s hand had been their comfort, not the caves, not even the mountains. It was God’s amazing grace. I learned from Arlene Cabrera, 31 years old from Tribong Kuyunin, a third generation katutubong Palawan, that each tribe from Palawan many years ago would gather together each year to plant in the mountains in response to God’s unwavering protection to townspeople of Palaw’an. This rituals started by the Taong Bato, the first dwellers of Tabon Cave. Arlene confirms that there are still cave  dwellers today including her family. I met Arlene Cabrera at tiangge center, playing the music instrument and singing their native song.

Sea folks and Church members primarily depend on nature’s abundant grace. 500 to 700 guests come to visit Palawan tourist destinations a day making them earn for daily needs and augment their family expenditures. Children seldom finish higher education, some would make it up until grade 4, kids age 6-12 need to wake up early to catch up class, they will need to walk 3km (river and mountain ridge) a day to arrive at school and study with hungry stomach, 3 to 4 barangays use and share common water pump (bumba). Caves surrounding Palawan shed water for their daily consumption when pumps run out of water. People of Quezon Palawan own vast of lands, but they need education and finances to start anew, according to Ms. Bing Gonda a social worker at Iwahig, Palawan is a place for beginning. It is a place of hard work, labor and a good reminder of God’s giving and man’s giving back what is for God. Indeed a life changing experience and a humbling expression of serving God because we are made for God.