Journey to the Taw't Deram

As the appointed departure date drew closer, I found myself unable to sleep well as I was always thinking about what might happen when we made our epic journey to the Taw't Deram, the feared cannibals of Palawan. Not sure if I was more concerned about being AMONG the Taw't Deram or more concerned about how we were going to GET to the Taw't Deram, I was restless and prayerful. I was concerned about the route we would take: leaving directly from Kamantian and heading west over our mountains I knew held terrors I might not be able to traverse. Going in from the west I knew started out more gently so that was my choice, but we did not have consensus. Mulus, our self-appointed guide, was out trekking around for weeks, and as the time got closer and closer I wanted to finalize our plans with him, but he couldn't be tracked down until just a few days before our departure. When it came right down to it he told us two things: 1)”I can't go right now because I need to plant my uma (rice field) 2) the only route I will lead you on is going in from the Kamantian side because I have enemies the other routes.” That heightened my concern! and I kept asking God for confirmation that I was intended to go on this trip. But from the beginning I felt a determination to go - no matter what consequence to myself or my life.

So the date drew nearer and nearer and we still didn't have a guide - Mulus wasn't getting his field planted for some reason. We finally determined that for some reason he didn't really want to go. That concerned us a bit - were there other reasons he wasn't going back that would be helpful for us to know? But it seemed there was no turning back. We kept praying and it seemed we were to keep preparing and planning.

The Sabbath before our departure the following Monday morning, Kent and I took several hours alone in the afternoon, having handed over some of our ministry duties to others for the afternoon. We wanted extra prayer time and a certainty that this really was God's will and not 'adventure' driven. Also was this His timing? Was now the time to go into the Taw't Deram? After our season of prayer, we felt confident that we were to proceed with plans - the Lord was leading and the Lord would provide. But...we still didn't have a guide.

Sunday, 3-14-10

Early Sunday morning Jilin started not feeling very well and saying how she did not want to go on this trip. Later that morning our group was to get together and divide up the supplies to be carried and discuss our next move. Without a guide, we didn't have a definite route we were going to take. So as the group gathered we talked of various options while we waited for Rinal to show up. Rinal, one of our lay-pastors was just hiking back into the mountains from the lowlands where he and his wife Silin had been visiting her family. When Rinal showed up he had Antuniyu with him and he informed us that Antuniyu was interested in being our guide. I was surprised because I didn't know Antuniyu had any ties into Taw't Deram territory. But he assured us that he knew the way, knew people in the area and that he would stay with us through the whole trip - up to two weeks.

He also told us that the route in was through Sumerem and that his father and mother-in-law lived there and that we could stay at their place the first night. He said that the closest way to get to Sumerem was through Quezon. To get to Quezon meant that we had to drive to Brooke's Point and then north up to Abo-Abo and then west to Quezon and then turn south and drive, what we were led to believe, was a short distance to Sumerem.

We had a prayer session and all felt we should move ahead with Antuniyu as our guide - the Lord would open the way for us as needed. Then there was great discussion as to the route we should go as described earlier. Come to find out it wasn't just me that was concerned about going in from the Kamantian side including all the many cliffs, drop-offs, and deep river canyon walls to traverse. Once they saw the bulk of what needed to be carried, our lay-pastors told us that going in from that direction is challenging enough without a load, but with a pack much too difficult. So we agreed to drive the Quezon route and hike in from the west side. There was a unanimous sigh of relief. We finished dividing up the goods to be carried, giving each person their allotment of roasted peanuts for their sustenance on the trail and a couple small packs of gatorade crystals each, which former student missionaries had left, rice, maggi noddles (similar to Ramen) and hammocks. We agreed to be on the trail to Bingbilang enroute to Brooke's Point and on to Quezon at 5 am the following morning.

Monday, 3-15-10

Got up at 4:30 am to do last-minute packing to leave at 5 am - but got Jilin and Bubit up and found Jilin burning with fever, so gave her tylenol for the fever as she was already on malaria medication; finished packing big stuff for additional carriers hauling things out of the mountains and waited for Jilin to feel better pondering this new development and continuing to ask God if our going was still in His will.. We'd already had a contingency plan: if Jilin felt too weak to go on the trip, we'd leave her with Kiana Binford,.her high school math teacher. But with her running a high fever, I was not willing to leave her. Did this mean I wasn't to go? Was this just a tactic of the devil to try and thwart our plan? We had special prayer for her and sent word to the others that there was a delay. We thought about giving her another day at home before deciding what we would do, but about 8 am she decided she wanted to go and she'd give it a try, We left about 8:15-8:30 and arrived in Piadpi about 10 am. At that point everyone was hungry, so after driving to Brooke's Point, so we cooked at our little place there, ate, showered, and rested - while we waited for Kent to finish up stuff at the farm. We called the student missionaries holding down the fort in Kamantian and Emrang on the two-meter radio in the truck and told them we were leaving Brooke's ...It was 3:15 much for an early start....Arrived in Abo-Abo at 4:40 where we turned west and continued on towards Quezon where we finally found air for the way-too soft tires, bought vegetables and drinks and continued on our way south - supposedly to Sumerem. We went past Rizal, past Ransang continuing driving south until Bario Site. We arrived there at 8:15 pm realizing we'd been given a bum-steer: would have been way closer to have driven west from Brooke's Point through Batarasa and then turning north....It had taken us 5 hours to drive the long route. Later we would find that the other route would have taken us two hours! As it was dark and we were not going to make it to Sumerem this day, it was mandatory that we find a place to spend the night. We checked at the kagawad's (a type of local government official) place. Each bario or barangay (smaller than a county) generally has a kagawad. They agreed for all 13 of us (11 of our group +Antuniyu and his brother-in-law) to sleep at their place. The kagawad is Palawano, his wife Muslim; they are quite 'civilized' with a relatively large house, TV, generator and lights, pump for water, etc. We are glad to be off the road, and grateful for a place to cook our supper of rice and maggi and a safe place to sleep (they wouldn't let us camp in the open lot across from their house as there'd been a murder there not too long before...). That night several of us slept on the cement floor in their living room - lots of mosquitos and a bit cramped, but we were tired enough that we slept in spite of the hardships.

Tuesday, 3-16-10

Awoke early - long before dawn to the loud radio that came with the news in Tagalog. It was annoyingly loud and way too early, so I just covered my head and went back to sleep. Ended up being the last one up off the floor...

Cooked our breakfast of rice and maggi, repacked and left the kagawad's place after 8am. Drove a short distance, unloaded the truck, then Kent and Dyini drove the truck back to the kagawad's to park it while we were to be gone. Antuniu and his brother-in-law went on to Balin-Balin where they were holding a marketday to look for a carabao and a karusa (sled pulled behind a carabao) to haul our things to Sumerem. We waited quite a while there on the deeply rutted dirt road waiting for them to return.

 While we waited we had a prayer session - there was growing concern that Antuniyu may not really know the way to the Taw't Deram, but actually wanted to 'guide' us because he wanted a free ride over to the west side for himself and his brother-in-law.....

After over an hour Antuniyu and crew arrived back and slowly but surely three carabao (along with a baby carabao that wouldn't be left behind) and their karusas arrived to carry our things. (In retrospect it would have been faster to have walked the distance carrying even heavy loads - the carabao had to stop very frequently and for long periods of time in order to rest and cool down. It took us three hours to walk what, on the last day hiking out took us about an hour.). Anyway we finally got underway. The trail was wide, rutted but fairly level ground and could have been pretty fast hiking. About noon we were met on the trail by a man who introduced himself as Dyinyu, a relative of Beriya, one of our church members in Ipeyu, Malis. He was sitting under an acacia tree with another man waiting for us. He was very friendly, very concerned for our well-being and quite helpful. He told us he had just been in Malis and had talked with Beriya which was why he knew to meet us. He told us he was there to help us find guides, negotiate and get to the Taw't Deram safely. He introduced us to his mother who lives nearby and she and her husband Purung have opened up their large bamboo house to us to stay the next couple days as a small scouting group goes on first to gain entrance to the Taw't Deram. Niksun, Pidli and Dyuran Gulin, our first guide, make up the scouting group. The plan is that they'll leave tomorrow (Wed) and then come back out on Thursday; they are carrying minimal supplies so they can hike fast; then we'll hike in half-way on Friday since everyone is carrying heavy loads, and spend Sabbath on the trail and then arrive “there” (wherever that is) on Sunday probably.

Wednesday, 3-17-10

Dyilin is feeling better. These days of resting and not hiking have given her an opportunity to rejuvenate after her bout with malaria and medications.

Slept in Josh's Eagle Nest Hammock and it was way more comfortable than I thought it would be. I appreciate the loaned hammock. But it was very cold!! And we're not even to the mountains yet!! I feel sleepy and not very rested this morning.

I figured last night how much rice we will need from here on out: Figuring two cups of dry rice per person per day and with the additional people to help carry our supplies plus our guides, I figure we need to purchase 35 kilos in addition to our remaining 30 kilos before we head deeper into the mountains. Kent hiked over to a relatively close public market to purchase the rice and a few other things.

We met Dalti, penglima (leader/judge) of the Taw't Deram. He came to Purung's house as he was eager to meet us and to give us advise in entering the tribe. He doesn't actually live in the mountains with the tribe anymore, but goes in to visit often and helps them with their legal situations. He is half Taw't Deram, but his grandmother, Siyud lives in Beluwing, one of the tribal villages. He told us about where the several splinter groups of Taw't Deram are and how to get to them. They are quite spread out.

Dalti told stories about how the Taw't Deram actually did eat people, not necessarily out of anger at a person, though that happened as well, but because of hunger or lack of isda`an (main dish to go with their rice or roots) they'd even eaten their own children. He told how there had been a missionary before trying to reach the Taw't Deram for Christ, but that he eventually left because very few, if anyone, wanted to follow the new way. As with the Palawano, the ways of the ancestors are deemed good enough. He reported that there was still someone in the area that the missionary had left to try and teach the Taw't Deram.

The Taw't Deram eat much the same way that the Palawano does - preferring rice and roots, gathering what the jungle offered them for food and building materials, wearing simple clothing and many of them wearing the ba`ag or loin cloth. The Taw't Deram also often live in tree-houses, way up at the top of trees with sometimes just notches in the tree-trunk or vines woven together for ladders.

Napthali informed us that the Tagalog people (the main people group in the Philippines) were originally tree dwellers, living beside the Pasig river in what is now, Manila and wearing ba`ag (loin-cloth). The term Tagalog came from Tagay Ilog: “people living beside river”. It is interesting that now they consider people like the Taw't Deram so odd and degraded, forgetting that their roots came from the same stock....

Then Iprahim came with his wife and one remaining child. He told of how his twin children sickened and died because he couldn't afford the dextrose (IV) at the health center. Iprahim is Taw't Batu (people of the rock). He told us that the Taw't Batu are inter-marrying other tribes and so there isn't just one place that they live. He described how many of them still live in caves though during the rainy season, but that during the planting season they live in field houses like the other tribes around them. He pled with us to establish clinics and schools amongst his people. 

Niksun and Pidli went with Dyuran this morning. They've called on the radio at intervals. At 9:30 they were nearing the top of Kelang Bukid and from there about another hour to the Taw't Deram of Beluwing they said. They should be back tomorrow, perhaps with some Taw't Deram to help carry things. As for the rest of us, it has been nice to just relax, sleep and chat - no real pressure. Kent has cellulitis. I pray the medicine and charcoal poultice help soon! We each prayed for him tonite. My right big toe is getting in-grown and sore again...might slow me down on the trail...

Listening to the stories that people tell us when they drop by to visit, the recurring theme is “'so and so' was an Adventist, but now....” Or “'so and so' is an Adventist, but there isn't an Adventist church here anymore, so they don't go to church, but they don't work on Sabbath either...” They've told us about other Adventist churches in some of the other places near to here, but stated that no Palawanos go to church there....There is so much work to do here in Western Palawan!

Makes me remember the time our family went on a trip to the west side of Palawan several years ago, and one Sunday we visited a church where they actually invited us to speak. Typically these members are trained that Adventists are to be shunned, but these people, though a bit surprised to hear we were Adventist, were still eager enough for biblical/spiritual food, that they invited us to speak. They told how their missionaires had come among them and established these churches, training local men to be lay-pastors, and then leaving them. They felt like orphans. They rarely heard from 'their' missionaries, nor did they see them. They pled with us to come and teach them. Kent and I vowed again to never leave our people as orphans. 

Earlier this evening we went to the Ransang River nearby and played around in the water some, did laundry and tried to teach Dyini how to swim. There we saw some elungung (small, quickly built hut) by the river - people living there dammed up the river, and placed rambat (fishing net) to catch fish in the current flowing down, a small raft of lashed-together bamboo so they can get to their huts across the river without having to swim. As we were leaving the river and hiking back to our hosts' home, we met these people and found they'd been waiting for us there hoping we had medicine: they have a young girl with buni (ring-worm) over a large portion of her body. 

Talked with Dyinyu tonite...he says his daughter is doing better - I'd treated her for malaria yesterday. She reportedly had a shorter period of fevering today. He also told me about a constellation that the gunggurangs (ancestors) would see as a sign that it was time to have a pig feast. They call it Menepuru. We call it Orion. I find it interesting that their sign for a pig feast is like the cross of Christ on Calvary...and is also the site where Jesus will appear in the sky. Satan has truly duped these people into believing there is spiritual power in the pig, which is why they believe there is a 'god of pig'.

Thursday, 3-18-10

Woke early and went to the bush for necessary relief, then tried to sleep again - radio comes on at probably 5 am - loud... and the chickens/roosters are VERY loud right by my ear. I woke feeling tired and sleepy and slightly nauseated. Everyone noisy so hard to go back to sleep. I wouldn't ordinarily be sleeping this late in the morning, but I really don't feel well. Patient with buni over most of the body arrived and then they pointed out her sore ear - she'd been bitten by a dog 6 days ago. I removed the kagen (scab) and dressed the wound to cries of “Aya! Aya!” I gave her appropriate antibiotics for the ear and medication for the ringworm and pray that everything will heal appropriately, since I won't be here for follow-up.

Niksun called about 9:30 am from Kelang Bukid on their way back. He says his eye got poked by a stick...We'll take a look at it when he gets here. Went to the river to bathe earlier and saw three small brown bodies fishing with their goggles and their fishing gun. They were fishing for susa river snails. We gave them some of our trail mix and they were very pleased. Talked with their parents briefly who told us proudly that their oldest child - also a girl, was in school. I was impressed that even though these people are obviously poorer than poor, they still realized that their daughter would fare better with an education and they were finding a way to make it happen.

Later that afternoon the scouts returned: Pidli, Niksun and their guide, Dyuran. Their report:

When they arrived in Beluwing,the people just vanished into the surrounding kerikutan (jungle undergrowth) asking what they were looking for or what they needed from them. Niksun said that when they asked them who they were, they answered, “Aku!” (“Me!”), which is the usual way that Palawanos answer.) They told the people that they were interested in talking about bringing in their friends the Merikans to give them medicine and establish a school for their children. They were told they'd need to talk to the leader, Pastor Duwidi first, who, they were informed was 'pastoring' what there was of a church congregation there in Beluwing. 

They noted that there were houses at the tops of tall trees or at the top of clumps of bamboo. Some of the men have very long hair that, they said, they are often combing; many of them were wearing clothes. 

They were informed that there in Beluwing, a missionary did try for over 5 years to raise up a couple churches, but getting no followers he dismantled the churches, moved them to another spot and tried again. When he left he required the people to sign an agreement that they would allow no one else to come among them to try to reach them either. Niksun and Pidli went in and talked with Dulpi (a penglima in another village, which we later found out used to be part of the Beluwing group) who would like us to come in and help, but they are honor-bound by fear to this agreement they signed. Niksun and Pidli found that the people have already been taught that other religions may try to come in and tell them they can't eat pig and tell them other things that they can and can not do, but to not believe them or follow them. Though the original missionaries are no longer coming into these villages, they are still trying to block anyone else from coming in to help with medicines, schools or religion. Wow. I never imagined that a missionary would do such a thing!

The report is that Dulpi's group established this other village, because they do not feel that they can live with such divisive and controlling requirements. (I see here that religion has been a means of splintering this group of the Taw't Deram and weakening their infra-structure.)

Because of this, it looks like we should go on to Mengkin's village in Lanay-Lanay. Every time he's come to the clinic in Kamantian he's been asking for us to come. He lives across the Kendewaga river. Perhaps we can start a school there where perhaps some of the Taw't Deram would feel free to come to go to school or get medicine. But if we're going as far as Mengkin's village, we better not wait for after Sabbath, but leave tomorrow morning (Friday) and get as far as we can before Sabbath. Niksun is thinking he'd be happy to live in Mengkin's place and teach there. I'm glad he's flexible. 

Friday, 3-19-10

We are at Beluwing. Hard day of hiking today in order to arrive here before Sabbath. Started with getting up at 4:30 and then the carriers not showing up until 5:30ish and we wanted to be on the trail by 5. So we went on ahead and Niksun waited for carriers. He then radioed us when we'd gotten to the tetebuwan (public market) in Ugis that one carrier had backed out. So we finally found another one. We were also looking for one to relieve, or at least lighten Dyini's load - but couldn't find anyone. He is carrying a pack that is bigger and heavier than he is I think. We did some rearranging, but he'll still have to carry a load. We waited at Ugis quite a while - Kent reviewing diameter and radius of circles with our high school students, seeing a beautiful pet parrot, sneaking snacks (we'd not had breakfast yet) and waiting until our group was all together. Dyuran will be guiding us on the first part of this trip, and we met him here in Ugis. Got group pictures. Besides our core group of 11, we have 5 carriers including one guide. So we are quite a group - 16 in all. 

The trail from where we'd been staying at Purung's was relatively flat and wide, therefore fast walking. But coming up out of Ugis it became more hilly - up and down but not hard. But then we started hitting more and more mountains and on and on we hiked until we got to Ginu`u where we ate our pre-cooked breakfast: rice, with veggies and maggi, which has been our standard fare 2-3 times a day. Then the trail continued like that up and down and around with basically easier trails than getting into Kamantian except for trails going a LONG ways through slashed and burned fields with large logs over the trails and lots of brush, so it was not quick hiking. The trail got harder and harder, steeper and with bigger and bigger steps from root to root, etc. By the time we stopped for lunch about 3 pm at Bungbung near the top of Kelang Bukid I was shot and announced that this was as far as I could go that day. It was not a good camping place though and they asked if I could make it around the sides of two more hills to get to a cleared field which we could clearly see from where we were. I said if it was pelitkit (going around the side and not uphill) I could probably make it. They said there was some uphill but not too long. As it turned out Pidli made a point of staying with me and telling me about the vegetation along the trail (trying to distract me from my misery, I think!!) , which I told him I wasn't seeing, since my eyes were only on the trail. The trail was pretty bad - rocky, lots of trees down on the trail and the ever-present roots of trees, lewlew(saw-like thorns on long leggy stems) and other briars ever seeking to snag one's clothes or body. The trail seemed to go on forever, but we finally made it. It had not been easy hiking even though much of it was pelitkit - maybe it was hard because it was pelitkit! It was often hard to stay on the trail and it took careful maneuvering to keep one's feet on the trail so that the body didn't go catapulting down the mountain side, or tripping over the many roots on the trail. I had, by the way, gone on ahead of the group as they were eating because I didn't feel like eating - I was too nauseated. I just wanted to get to our destination for the Sabbath and rest!! The guide caught up with me though to lead me since it was obvious I was heading on down the trail; he and Pidli stayed right with me. 

On the way from Bungbung, our guide, Dyuran had found elasen, a type of white fungus that had been growing on a dead log in our path. Elasen cooked with maggi was our delicious rice topper for Friday supper. It really was delicious.

Upon arriving in Beluwing, I was so tired, I was anxious to get my hammock hung so I could rest. The area is fairly cleared for upland rice, has a couple of vacant elungung (field houses), a couple tree houses and one family living in the middle of the field up the hill from where we're staying. These empty field houses are in major disrepair: the floors are broken up, things are dirty. There are not many people living right around here - since we're basically in a rice field. Many of the Taw't Deram are living elsewhere. We did meet Pastor Duwidi (was never able to determine his tribal origins). He's been here for about ten years living among the Taw't Deram. His children are marrying here and they blend in well with the people: they appear very poor, their children dress and smoke just like their peers. We found him to be a very humble, literate, though not schooled, man. He does seem eager for our help as long as it is not religion. He'd like a clinic and a school. We saw his Bible - it is the whole of the New Testament in Central Palawano - Quezon Palawano. Lots of 'et', 'it', uses 'o' and lots of Tagalog mixed in. Definitely uses Tagalog spelling. He gave Rinal one of his Bibles so we have that for comparing style and type for our Bible we hope to produce before too long. This Bible was copyrighted in 2005 and a Crispen, reportedly a Palawano, was one of the main translators. He still lives in Quezon and apparently these Bibles are available along with a songbook for 35 pesos. We'd like to purchase a number of sets of these for the Abo-Abo group (another story for another time!) and for Niksun's group when they are ready. 

Sabbath, 3-20-10

The helicopter came over this morning with Sublitu and they dropped several packages for us, mostly medicine. But Wendy sent food too - some bread, juice crystals, and some other things. The helicopter flying over created a lot of excitement and alerted Datu` Dulpi living in another area, that we had arrived. So we got to meet him and talk with him. It also let other people know we were in the area and pretty soon quite a few were coming for medicine. They were hesitant at first until they heard that the pastor (Duwidi) and other people living in the area had arrived for medicine without retribution from Duwidi, who had himself and family been treated by us, and that we treated people whether they were from our church or not....

Niksun and I treated close to 20 people today. Kent, Dyilin, Dyini and Kalbu did pureds (fungal infections) on scalps and bodies on several people. doesn't sound like very many people, but with all the inconveniences and training in Niksun, it was very slow going. 

We find the Taw't Deram very friendly, a bit shy, and much like 'us'. It is hard to get family information because they do not like to use people's names. We met a family that has apparently joined Duwidi's church that are actually not Taw't Deram, but Kendewagen (same as Mengkin), and have been living in the area about 5 years now.

The more we talk with Duwidi the more he seems workable. He asked again for a school amongst his group - just doesn't want a church. We know that won't work as our schools ARE mission schools. But at least if he doesn't fight us wherever we decide to establish a school, that is a real start. It sounds more workable for us to start a work near the Kendewaga River - in-between the two groups so they all benefit from medicine and schools. We're headed there tomorrow, so we'll see. Sounds like a stiff hike tomorrow...Even Palawanos say it is a long ways away...

It has been a full but good day! We're having 'bet-bat neng sepwa`' (palm hearts) for supper - mixed with maggi of course!

Worship tonite was interesting - Kent talked about honoring father and mother, showing affection, being helpful, etc. Because the way we view our relationship with our fathers is often how we view our relationship with God, I asked if they'd experienced their mother's or father's expressing love to them (I was pretty sure they hadn't from previous conversations and experiences...). There was a resounding “Kaya!” (“No!”) But rather they were slapped for various infractions; children and parents slapping each other was more the rule than the exception...I then asked them what it was that drew them to following Christ. most of them said it was either God's love or His grace mixed with love. I then challenged them to be channels for that same characteristic to draw others to Christ. It was a very good worship and we learned more about each other and re-energized our love and appreciation for Christ.

“God, tomorrow we are going further in and 'higher up”. Please give us all strength to go the distance. Give me strength and willpower to go on and on. Please prepare a place fo us to start a new work. Please prepare hearts to hear, receive and follow Your word. Please provide for the needs of this work Lord as we are going to be fairly removed from what is actually happening here amongst the Taw't Deram unless you provide a way for us to get in more quickly than hiking in...Lord give us courage and faith to attempt great things for You, with You in us and through us. Amen.”

Sunday, 3-21-10

We finally left Beluwing about 8 am. There had been several patients that showed up that needed to be tended to, including the Datu` Dulpi's son and his many pureds (fungal infections). 

The trail was pretty difficult: lots of steep uphill and steep downhills, lots of steep cliffs with narrow, precarious trails traversing them, rotten logs to cross over or more dangerous, walk along.... Lots of roots and vines to trip over. Beautiful tropical forest replete with the types of house plants I loved in our first home in California. Several flowering trees with fragrant flowers. One particular one was usew - wonderful smell. I didn't see the tree or the flower, as my eyes were on the trail, but I've seen the fruit before.

As we left Beluwing we passed a number of other tree-houses of the Taw't Deram which we took pictures of: scary looking ladders leading to some of them, others you just shinny up a tree.

About 11 am we could hear the sound 'of many waters' and it spurred us on knowing we'd finally reach lots of cold water. (I hadn't had a proper bath with shampooing hair since we left over a week ago.)

We finally arrived at the river about 11:30. Beautiful. This is the simpang (where two rivers meet)of the Tebud and the Kendewaga rivers. The Tebud flows into the Kendewaga. We will be hiking up the Kendewaga quite a ways it sounds like, but we're resting here, swimming, bathing, washing clothes while we cook our food: rice in two pots and then sepwa` (palm hearts) fresh from the jungle and elasen fresh off the trail mixed with the ever-present maggi. (Sure a good thing Bubit thought to buy a whole case of maggi just before we left - it is what gives us energy.) I opted to not swim yet not wanting to have to hike in wet heavy clothes. But I believed that we would be camping along the Kendewaga and would get that longed-for bath and swim before nightfall.

We have 6 carriers again this time around; the rest broke their agreement and left on Sabbath - they will not get full pay when we get back to their locations on our return trip.

We still have Dyuran, our original guide carrying but now Datu` Dulpi is our guide. Dulpi appears to be very kind and gentle - but he and the other carriers keep eyeing our girls, Bubit and Jilin. They've already made it known they are looking for more wives. Amongst the Taw't Batu and the Taw't Deram it is not at all uncommon to have more than two wives. Sometimes they get rid of them (divorce them) and get another wife...sometimes they just add more wives. They marry them pretty young here too. This is similar to our Palawano group, but seems more rampant and accepted here.

This hiking is very hard work, but I feel so privileged to be with these people, to be in this beauty, living very simply and knowing you're in God's will. We still don't know how things will turn out - where we'll start a school, but God is leading, God is providing. One of the things He's provided us with is not too much direct sunshine but rather cloud-cover from mid-morning to afternon, not much rain to speak of - and He's provided places with water for us to stay. I've gotten to sleep out under the stars hanging in a hammock. I feel very contented.

Monday, 3-22-10

After I wrote yesterday at the crossroads of the Tebud and Kendewaga rivers, we ate and repacked and waited for Pidli and Niksun who, with Dyuran, had scouted out the trail ahead. They didn't come back for a long time so we decided to leave them a note in case we missed them on the trail and went on ahead. Rinal, I think it was, came to me and told me that the hike ahead was mostly in the river and rocks. People were concerned for me, as they know my fears of rocks and rivers (see previous article addressing this.....), but there was nothing else to do but change footgear to my Teva-type sandals, pray and concentrate on the walking. As it turned out, it started raining just before we left our lunch area - so that made the rocks even more slippery. It was very scary in places where I just had to move ahead, not looking down, not thinking about what could happen, just praying and grasping the proffered hands. In many places it was so slippery that I just crawled on all fours - where's my pride? It is gone!! I couldn't think about what I looked like, or how ungraceful I appeared. The goal was to GET there. I kept thinking how wonderful it would be to camp by the river and get truly clean and laundry done...I hadn't swam at the crossroads because I as hiking in heavy-weight jean skirt/capris that would have made hiking harder if wet, as it was, it started raining as we prepared to leave our lunch area and so we got drenched anyway. With just an elastic waistband it was pretty annoying to keep pulling them up!

So the river had some treacherous areas, scary to say the least, but then we left the river and hiked up and up and up. I realized I wasn't going to get my swim after-all...We hiked quite a long while and finally reached this huge burned out field. I was very tired but thrilled that I'd made it and it wasn't even dark yet. This was Mengkin's family field and it had several elungun on it so I thought we must be sleeping here. But the fields were VERY steep, and water was hard to come by so the plan was to hike 'just half an hour' further up and get to Mengkin's main house. He said water was much easier to find there.

Hiking up thru the field was terrifying!! It was so steep you had to literally pull yourself from one tued (sharp cut-off stump) to another, making sure that the tued you were pulling yourself up on was firmly planted. If you fell you would fall a long ways, being impaled on all those tueds. They said half-an-hour, so I thought that even tho this was very hard I could manage another hour (you always at least double the times given), in order to reach our resting place for the next several days.

That 'half-hour' stretched out to 2 1/2 hours+ of hiking up and up and up. It was utterly exhausting and soon my legs were like spaghetti - they just didn't have the strength to keep hiking up and up and up. But there was nothing else to do but continue on. Easily out of breath, I stopped often. We'd occasionally pass other huts and I'd think maybe I'd just spend the night there - but all my things were with a carrier ahead of me, so I had no dry clothes and no blanket. I knew I'd freeze. Kalbu stayed with Kent and I the whole way from the river, staying right behind us. He said he'd not been loving to have always gone on ahead of us before, so he now refused to go ahead, offering help wherever he could.

When we finally got to Mengkin's place, it was well past dark. The houses - two of them are very run down and dirty. There is a third one that looks in a bit better condition, but very small. There is no water nearby...At least 20-30 minute stiff hike uphill....

Oh, by the way, Dulpi decided he couldn't carry as far as Mengkin's main house and said he was turning around there at the burned out field, and said he was going home to his wife's place because she had no companion for the night. (Some of the stories we've heard would make one to believe it was a good idea to stay with one's wife. It used to not be an unheard of thing for men to steal women away and take them for their wives -already married or not!) After the last part of the hike we'd done - we see now why he didn't want to continue!! Everyone was exhausted - too exhausted to cook or to eat even our meager fare. We later found that Dulpi has enemies in this area, so another reason he didn't want to continue on with us.

It took quite a while getting everyone settled because there was not one whole floor in any of the huts. These are literally huts waiting to fall down. But we finally did find some place for everyone to sleep and then we passed out the last of the popped-rice snacks - one small one each and collapsed into our hammocks for a much-too-short night.

Come to find out we are in Keluwi, a very long ways from Lanay-Lanay. Now Mengkin is saying that he'd like us to establish a clinic and school in Keluwi. But water is hard to come by here...It was interesting to ask them about how to get to Kamantian from here. They said there were several routes, one was to go on a shorter, quite dangerous route where one had to walk along a waterfall that was very steep and slippery. I thought to myself, I surely would NOT want to go that route.

We finally got breakfast mid-morning after which we saw lots of patients. Then everyone went off to get water, do laundry, bathe, while Kent, Niksun and I talked with Mengkin and others. They really want a school here and are excited about children and adults learning, having access to medicine and having a store (commercial goods are VERY difficult for them to get here, and much of the year they are dependent on commercial rice). They have lots of plans for the PAMAS (Philippine Adventist Medical Aviation Services) helicopter to fly all sorts of things in but we've explained the cost and the purpose of using the helicopter and that it wasn't ours anyway.

Kent explained that we wanted to raise the level of their thinking from miskin to meyamen (from poor to rich) and explained why (and it doesn't have anything to do with economics...).. I told them about the kinds of things we taught in the school and the high value we place on teaching God's words. They seemed pleased with our philosophy and said they don't want anyone else to come in and do things here - only us.

Tuesday, 3-23-10

Slept horrible last night - very cold and nauseated. It was rainy and windy and I had only one sock, couldn't find the other one. Miserable cold night and too little sleep. People started arriving for medicine before I was ready to get up. When I did, I felt pretty poorly, and couldn't eat more than just the small amount of isda`an (anything that goes with rice) I received. Later in the morning, I made some juice from the crystals Wendy had sent and that helped. After worship and special prayer for guidance on how to get back to Ransang and then on to Abo-Abo before Sabbath, we were finally able to get a message through to Nislid via Kiana about her son Nusi coming to stay with Niksun and help him for a time, also a list of needed things. Dwayne flew in with Andrey (PAMAS second pilot). After looking things over and making suggestions for making the landing area safer, he left Andrey here while he went to get Nusi and the supplies in Kamantian. All the flights were blessed interruptions to caring for patients. We had to sit in very awkward positions because there was no adequate facility, or even a decent floor to sit on. The going was also slow because of I was training Niksun, who wasn't feeling well himself either. He saw patients for a while, then felt so poorly that he quit until I realized we had so many patients backed up including tooth patients, that I asked him to come back in and help me or we'd be working into the night. Besides everyone was very hungry, and we didn't have enough food to feed all these people, so we couldn't cook and eat until most of them had gone. It turned out that we rarely had a meal that we didn't have one or more 'hangers-out' and 'waiters-for-food'....

When Niksun isn't feeling good he is definitely not as thorough. He complains loudly about having to give medicines, and commanding me to supply him with a nurse as he does NOT like being a nurse!!

I pulled a bunch of teeth in Mengkin and his wife Nuraya. They'll need to come to Kamantian to have the rest pulled. There were a number of other people whose teeth I pulled as well. I tried to train others to help, but most are disgusted at working in the mouth.

There are quite a few people that have been sick a long time here - several probable TB cases. Not sure how we'll manage those as it is too far away to manage them on TB medications....I put them on antibiotics in the meantime and then we'll see.

We went hungry most the day again - so many people here all day. We were finally able to eat about six in the evening afterwhich most went off to work felling trees for the landing area during the remaining daylight time.

I am still feeling nauseous and weak.

Wednesday 3-24-10:

More patients to be seen, packing up and separating out the medicine I would leave for Niksun's use: the ones he knows how to use. Packing up and preparing to get out to the lowlands so we can hike in to the Abo-Abo group for Friday, Sabbath, Sunday.

When we all left, Niksun and Nusi felt very lonesome and forlorn. They were in a new area, no other people around (they were living in their field houses) and with no clear directive to start building in this area, they didn't know what to do with themselves. Besides Niksun was sick with malaria and on quinine. I hated to leave him, but knew he had a cell phone that he could call for help if he needed to.

In the ensuing days they got organized, treated the illnesses they could and talked with people. When Niksun was strong enough they started looking at other more appropriate areas to establish a mission post. One area that they went to was Megbawing. It is a big mountain that has a lot of Taw't Deram living there, but not under the influence of Pastor Duwidi. They found an area that would be flat enough, but then no water and/or no cell phone signal. The next day when they went to another area, they were asked if they went to Megbawing and when they said they had, they were warned that it would be very dangerous to establish there because there were four known killers and thieves in that area and that if they thought you had anything of value they'd kill you for it. We're grateful our whole group didn't hike through there!! We were carrying alot of stuff in order to keep ourselves fed and watered, minimal school supplies and also medicines and clinic supplies. We looked like a relatively wealthy group. 

After several weeks Dulpi and Pastor Duwidi came over to visit Niksun. They told him that the whole of the Beluwing group wanted him to come and establish a clinic and a school, but Niksun knew that we were looking for an area centrally located that not only the Taw't Deram could get to easily, but also the people of the Kendewaga river area. When he asked them if there was an appropriate place in between Beluwing and the Kendewaga, they suggested Kebgen: Dulpi's village. So Niksun hiked the several hours over to Dulpi's village and there found an area flat enough to build a school and home or two on, water reasonably close and clear cell phone signal, and within easy access of a lot of people. He felt that this was a good location. He told me later that when he arrived there and saw the place, his chest relaxed and he could breath easier. He felt that he'd arrived at the right location. The people there told him that they'd build him a house and then they'd build him a school. They said they'd get him a house built in three days. (Niksun wondered what kind of house that would be!!) They told him they'd send him a smoke signal in Keluwi when the house was ready. So Niksun returned to Keluwi and Nusi and waited for the signal. Within a couple days, he saw the signal in the early morning. He thought it couldn't possibly be the signal for the house to be ready already, and if it was, the house wouldn't be anything useful. So he waited. The next morning he saw the signal again. Again he was concerned that the house would not be sturdy. But his more pressing concern was how to get all their gear over to this new area. The people in Keluwi were not motivated to carry for him and he knew that between he and Nusi it'd take them six to seven hours round trip and he couldn't risk leaving things at the house in Keluwi without someone watching it or it'd be stolen....So we were all praying about his need and pretty soon I got a text from him that a group from Dulpi's village had arrived: 3 men and 2 women. They asked why he hadn't come yet and that they'd come to see if there was a problem. He explained that he didn't know how to get his things over to Kebgen and they said they'd carry it for him - no problem. So they hoisted the already packed bags on their backs and the top of their heads and headed off down the trail.

When they eventually arrived in the village known as Kebgen, they found a sturdily framed-in structure without roof or walls. They'd done this in a VERY short time. Typically to get a house to this stage takes weeks of off and on work. So they were happy to have a place to set their things and to sleep. Later that day several women arrived with the woven pieces for the roof and they realized that everyone was still working hard to prepare a place for them to live. These people are VERY eager to have Niksun there and are very helpful. I was amazed. In the other areas we've established work, people want you there, but they are not willing to help make it happen. Here in Kebgen the people are very helpful.

Kebgen gets its name from a large tree, the erisurang that had it's heart burned out some years ago and now bats live in it. These bats are known locally as kabeg. Through the grammatical convulusions of the Palawano language the place is nown as Kebgen - the place of the kabeg.

Niksun tells me that the people in Kebgen are surprised at the lack of prohibitions in Duwidi's group. They say that even their ancestors told them things they should and should not do, so they doubted that the message that Duwidi brought to them was the truth. When they came to know that Niksun didn't espouse eating pig, they said that they didn't really either. They told him that they only ate the wild pigs that got into their gardens to spite them, but that they didn't raise pig just to eat because that was gross. This particular group of the Taw't Deram at least, don't participate in siburans - the rice wine festival to the god of rice. There are a number of areas that Niksun feels encouraged that these people are just needing to hear the gospel and the way will be cleared for them to accept it.

Please keep these people in your prayers. Pray that Niksun will have wisdom as he raises up a new work in this area. Remember that Niksun is 19 years old. He is planning on marrying this coming October and it will be the first Christian wedding as the first two already-baptized bride and groom are married. Pray that there will be a nurse that wants to join this work and work in this very remote area among people very needy, yet hungry to know the truth about God. Pray that the hearts of the Taw't Deram will be opened to the gospel and that there they will find life and meaning that will be passed down through the generations just as the teachings of the ancestors was in the past.

Thank you Lord for a safe trip and for building our faith in Your dealings and providence with us.