In 1991, our two sisters, Betty Casebeer, Chuck’s sister, and Violet DePrenger, my sister, came to visit. Betty was the secretary/treasurer of our STEP mission board and also our forwarding agent. Both of these ladies had been with us in our lives from the very first since they were our older sisters. When we decided to come to the Philippines as missionaries, they supported us in prayer and every other way they could. They were coming here in order to get a better idea of what the country was like, the culture, the climate, and the things that we did here day to day. But from Chuck’s and my point of view, whenever we had visitors come to the Philippines, we took them to see the special sights that were there. What follows in this chapter is the itinerary from that 1991 visit, as taken from a round-robin letter written by Violet to our siblings, telling them of our trip.
At the time they came, we were in Manila taking care of business. It was around midnight when their plane arrived, and we met them at the Manila International Airport. That was on February 6, 1991. We had reserved rooms for all of us in the SIL (Summer Institute of Linguistics) Guest House in Manila. We had nice rooms there, delicious meals, and besides that, the girls there did our laundry each day, so that was nice.
The first night we took them to see the Los Angeles Ballet at the Cultural Center downtown in Manila, which was named after Imelda Marcos. Ironically, they flew half way around the world to see the ballet group from their own home town. The cultural center was a beautiful building with a big fountain in front and colored lights on it. Inside, the building was beautiful, too, and had huge chandeliers and a large winding staircase that led to the upper balconies. We sat in the 4th floor balcony ourselves and saw it very well. It cost us $1.35 each. Due to jet lag, the ladies were prone to dozing off for part of it, but it was a beautiful performance in every way.
The next day, we went shopping and found darling clothes for children. They couldn’t resist, and bought something for each grandchild. We also went to the Manila Cathedral where the pope was to appear a few days later. Workmen were erecting scaffolds for the TV cameras, polishing up light fixtures, etc.
We also took them to Fort Santiago, which was across the street from the cathedral. During World War II, the Japanese used part of this fort as a prison for many Filipinos, and we were able to see that. There is quite a history to consider at this location, and a small museum of memoirs and belongings of Jose Rizal, the hero of the Philippines. The Spanish held Dr. Rizal as a prisoner in this facility, (which is over 400 years old), during the Spanish-American War, bringing him to trial, and finding him guilty of sedition and stirring up people to revolt. They shot him at a place called the Luneta, where they now have a large statue of him with guards around the clock.
That night we took them to The Sulu Restaurant where we had a delicious smorgasbord dinner along with a show with young Filipinos in native costumes dancing the dances of the people in various provinces. This was an excellent performance, and we have been there at other times for special occasions, too.
The next day being Sunday, we took them to Cruzada Church of Christ in Quiapo, where we attended the Ilocano service. We sang songs in Ilocano using song sheets that were given to us, and it was a treat to let them read that language which they had never seen or heard before.
Later that day, we took them to Rizal Park at the Luneta. There was a beautiful Japanese garden with bridges and ponds and flowers. Also, in another area, there was a large pond with a relief map of the Philippine Islands, and you could go up on a platform and look down to see the islands and how they are laid out. It is about 100’ x 50’ in size. The country consists of three main parts: the large island to the north is Luzon, the central part is called the Visayan Islands, which is made up of many islands, and finally, the southern island of Mindanao.
There are about 7,100 islands total in the country, and about 175 different languages. There was also a children’s park that had statues of prehistoric and other animals created from cement—used for sliding and climbing. There were also water fountains for playing in and keeping cool on hot days.
A lovely trip to round out this day was to take a ride on a double deck bus which had a good view of Manila Bay, although much of the land that was bay before had been filled in, and huge new buildings obscured some of the view.
The next day, we visited the American Cemetery at Fort Bonifacio and saw all the crosses which mark the graves of American servicemen who died in the Philippines in battle in WWII. We noted the beautiful setting of that place. Memorial plaques were on a huge wall display, and on these walls were maps of the various stages of progression of WWII in and around the Philippines.
Another day, we went to visit Manila Bible Seminary in Novaliches, founded by missionaries of the Philippine Mission Churches of Christ of Central Luzon. This school has been the training institution for men and women who have gone out from there to teach and preach at the many Churches of Christ now in existence throughout that part of Luzon, and no doubt to other places in the Philippines and the world.
One day, we took Betty and Vi to the jail where Betty and Chuck’s father had fought during the Spanish-American War in 1898. Their father had taken down the Spanish flag during that battle. He cut out the coat of arms, and it was framed and hung on the wall in the living room of their home when they were growing up in Omaha, Nebraska. Their parents later gave it to the museum in Lincoln, Nebraska. (It was later returned by the museum and now sits atop Betty’s Hammond Organ in her living room.) Back in the prison, the warden took us through the buildings and we saw some of the same buildings still being used for prisoners who haven’t had their trials yet. They were separated by gangs—one gang in each area so they don’t get into fights.
We also went to Divisoria, the huge shopping area with hundreds of different shopkeepers all selling everything imaginable for home, family and personal use. One sells wedding materials and laces and tiaras, and anything for a bride. Another sells drapery materials, another sells dress fabrics, another corduroys or denims, another children’s clothes and women’s blouses, shirts, etc., on and on, hundreds of them. Each has a space of 12’ x 12’, piled and stacked to the ceiling with goods. Tourist buses don’t go there because they would never find their way back together to the same place to find their bus. We kept our eyes on each other so we wouldn’t get lost. I bought some lovely blue material for draperies for upstairs and downstairs in our living rooms. Betty and Vi found a place to get a pedicure and manicure, and they decided to indulge. It cost about two dollars for such a luxury.
One of the really beautiful places we visited was Pagsanjan Falls, a visit which required quite a journey. The night before, we got a couple of rooms at a hotel along the river so we could get an early start. Near the hotel there was a restaurant where we had our breakfast that day, and while we ate, there were gekkos, small lizards, overhead or on the walls, and cats and dogs roamed about, too. Since this was one of the big attractions in the Philippines, there were many Japanese there as well as folks from other countries.
The falls are at the far end of Pagsanjan River Canyon. They are reached by banca (canoe), and each banca has two guides rowing, and up to two passengers, who may help with the rowing. In the process of going there, you have to go up some rapids, where men have set up special contrivances so they can take bancas up the river, no matter how high or low the water is. When the river is relatively low, they could not row through certain parts of the river, so they have put in special logs or bamboo poles at those places so that two men can pull the bancas up.
About half way to the falls is a small store where you stop for a cool drink, and then you are ready to go the rest of the way. At the end of the canyon is a large pool into which the falls flow from about 15 or 20 meters above. You can stop at some large boulders and watch the waterfall. If you want, you can go across the pool on a raft to a cave under the falls, where there is a floating dock. You can dive off the end of this platform into the water on the inside of the cave, and have a wonderful time swimming around under and behind the falls. Then it is time to return to the restaurant/hotel. On our way, we noticed that the cliffs were very high on each side of the rapids, and smaller waterfalls trailed down from both sides as smaller streams entered the river. Beautiful birds flew around in the coolness of the greenery here, and it was breathtaking to see and be a part of it all. If one is lucky, one may see monkeys along the river or water snakes swimming along in the water itself. The scenery of the river and coconut groves, ferns and rocks, etc., is so enjoyable that this is always a fantastic place to go. In fact, some scenes from the movie, Apocalypse Now, were filmed in the canyon.
That same day, we went by Hovercraft to the island of Corregidor at the entrance of Manila Bay. (A Hovercraft is a vehicle that travels across land or water just above a cushion of air provided by a downward jet from its engines and propellers.) Corregidor was bombed a few hours after Pearl Harbor in WWII. Bataan Peninsula and Corregidor were where the last battle occurred when the Japanese took over the Philippines in 1942. We went through a tunnel that had lateral tunnels on both sides, in which a hospital was set up during the bombings at the beginning of the Pacific War. Over 1,000 people were housed in this hospital. General MacArthur spent a few days in one of these tunnels before he left for Australia. Also, Philippine President Manuel L. Quezon and his family lived there for a while. We went through a war memorial museum that cost $1,400,000.00. The island was not being used except for tours at the time we were there.
That night, we went to a revolving restaurant at the top of a tall building in Manila and got two fish dinners for the four of us. They gave us each a bowl of delicious soup and some rice and rolls, and we divided the fish since none of us was very hungry—and we were running short of cash. We stayed that night at SIL, and the next day we left for Baguio.
In Baguio, a city that is a mile high and a few hours north of Manila, we stayed in the Baptist guest house for a very reasonable fee— less than four dollars a day each. We bought papaya, pineapple, bananas and cinnamon rolls and fixed our own meals there. We went to an American air base, Camp John Hay. It was a lovely place, with a golf course, several nice restaurants, a bowling alley, and other R & R facilities for military personnel. We also went to a weaving school and saw people making cloth and bookmarks—very interesting. Also we went to the silver school and saw the intricate work they do. It was fascinating to see the tiny little scrolls they make for rings, etc. We bought earrings, pendants and rings—all solid silver. We also went to a basket place and bought various kinds of baskets.
The next day we went on to Banaue, still up in the mountains, and spent a night at a hostel, about four dollars and a half each. We went to a nearby hotel for dinner and a show put on by local dance artists—very good! Our room overlooked the famous rice terraces. The next day, we took a jeep trip to the viewpoint, and it was breathtaking.
At first, there was a mist over the terraces, but when it cleared, it was beautiful. The local people wore their native dress and were there so one could get pictures of them. (At that time, they were getting only a peso for each person in the picture, but the price has gone way up now.) The Ifugao people are very small people with snaggle-teeth from chewing betel nut. Some of the people carve water buffalos and other things, and we bought some nice carved things. The children were sanding and the wives were tending the shops, and putting liquid shoe polish and then furniture polish on the carvings.
Next, we went to Bagabag (buh GAH bahg), a couple of hours north, where SIL has its northern base for their missionaries who work in allocations in the northern part of Luzon. It is like a little USA there with the housing being quite a bit like we see in the States, and with the green grass and flowers around the homes, the little roads that run through it, and everything being very clean. At this base, SIL has their plane and a helicopter that takes translators to their allocations (stations) when they live too far away to go by local transportation.
They also have their center for translators so they can have workshops and come there to live in their own homes or the guest house to do work on their translation projects when they need to get away from their allocations. There is a library well stocked with translation- type materials, Bible helps of all kinds, and Christian novels, children’s books, etc. At one end of the center is an elementary school, and in the middle, right by the business offices, is a pre-school for the little ones. They also have a swimming pool and tennis court right there. Since their main thing is to work on Bible translations, they also have a printing building and computer building combination so they can do their own printing jobs. They leave printing of finished New Testaments, though, for printers in Manila who have access to Bible paper and do more professional work. Since some of the translators have to teach reading, they prepare and produce reading materials for their particular language groups at Bagabag.
By now, it was time to go to Enrile to show them our own home and town. We stayed overnight there, and the very next day we were off again to go to Aparri. Since this was the home of the mission that sponsored us into the country, we felt it was important for them to see it and get acquainted with some of the missionaries we were in contact with from time to time. We took them to Aparri Bible Seminary and the home of Charles and Roberta Selby, the missionaries who started this mission, Philippine Mission Churches of Christ of Northern Luzon, Inc. We took them to the beach, just a few blocks from the school and mission base. We were just in time to get in on a banquet that night. Since we hadn’t known about this ahead of time, the missionaries loaned us nice clothes and shoes for the occasion. Violet and I even got to sing a duet at the banquet.
The next day, we went to Cagayan Valley Christian Children’s Home, about ten miles south of Aparri. There were almost a hundred children—one only four pounds, a month old—a tiny Negrito named Angel. We had lunch there. The scenery there was beautiful, as it was on a hill which overlooked the Cagayan River, and there were lots of trees on the hills around it.
Then we met a missionary to the Negritos, Roy Mayfield, who took us to visit his allocation. He took us by jeep to his home, which was a thatched house that was up high on stilts. His wife, Georgialee, met us at their home. She had just made some cookies. They had built a cute thatched one room place for their son and his wife to sleep in, and they all ate together. They were teaching the Negrito people there, and translating the New Testament for them. Their area could be a dangerous place to live because of the New People’s Army (NPA) that was against the government and was trying to bring in Communism. They sometimes killed people who wouldn’t cooperate.
After we had the cookies, he took us back to the bus line and we went to an open market in Tuguegarao. We bought meat and put it into two glass jars we had brought. We put 19 eggs into two tins, and rice; also in a tin, vegetables and fruit. From there, we went home to Enrile. The next day we went to church in Alibago (ah lee BAH go), one of the barrios to the south of the Centro of Enrile. We took Tia, Felipe and some children along with us in the jeepney. The church was held in a thatched home. Chuck gave a talk in Itawes and we had communion for the believers.
Then we went to a home and saw how they made the bamboo walls and floors. The kitchen there was separate because they burned wood in their cooking stove that smoked up the kitchen, making everything black. Many of the big cooking utensils were tucked into where the bamboo poles were tied together with vines. This was how the walls were made. The house was quite bare, with benches and a chair. The mats to sleep on were stacked neatly with the quilts in a corner. Their clothes were piled in a basket. They said the mother and the girls sleep in one room, and the father and boys in another.
When we got back to Enrile, we took a ride around the town in a calesa, a two-wheeled cart pulled by a horse. We went to see the cemetery, schools and the town hall. The mayor, principal and teachers came out to greet us.
One day we went to Piat. We stayed overnight with the Purisima family, Jose and Leona. This was the couple that we had stayed with for over a year when we first went to the Itawes people. Leona put on a huge meal for us with cake and custard for dessert. She had rice, duck, meat loaf and lots of other things—all very good. We went all around Piat the next day. We went down by the river first, and then back up the hill to the school, to the market, and I don’t remember where all else.
We also took them to help distribute rice to folks who had been in a huge flood and lost their rice crop recently. In Amulung, we took a banca across the Cagayan River and went into a village nearby. We were met by children who took our hand and put it to their forehead. They did that as a way of getting a special blessing. The women there served a big dinner to us, and Chuck measured out rice for each member of each family. We saw the homes that had been flooded, and some destroyed.
Back in Enrile that evening, Betty, Violet and I put on our long dresses that we had bought in Manila. We created quite a sensation as we walked down the street to visit people. The children followed us right into the first house. The back door was open and little chicks came in. The next home was Mrs. Acorda’s, the former Mayora. She lived in a lovely, big home, beautifully furnished with a modern kitchen—what I called a Manila home. Then we went to the home of Mrs. Afed for dinner. Mrs. Afed was one of our best friends in Enrile. She served a wonderful meal with tiny noodles and pork with egg and vegetables in it, as well as chicken, rice, cabbage and pork, potato salad, and custard for dessert.
The next morning, we had to go back to Manila because it would soon be time for Betty and Violet to get their plane. We stayed at SIL again, and they were on their way the next day to go to Taipei, the next leg of their trip overseas. The weather cooperated nicely, and they left the Philippines on February 27th.
If Vi had had time in writing the round robin letter, she might have told about our traveling on public transportation all over—jeepneys, triceys, buses—and it might have been fun to tell you about the pig in the jeepney, and the babies we held, and the piling in with the first person sitting on the seat nearest to the entrance, and how everyone else had to go around them, each one sitting as close as he could to the entrance and the others just piling in over all of them to get to the furthest back part of the seat. But our three weeks together were so packed with activities that she just couldn’t tell everything that happened.