You may remember that when we first got to Aparri in 1974, some Itawes men came to us at different times to invite us to go to the Itawes people to do a Bible translation, as they needed it so much. One of those men, Felipe Catolos, went with us to visit some of the Itawes towns he said spoke the true Itawes. One of those was the town of Piat. As it turned out, Piat was the town whose dialect of Itawes varied most from that spoken in the other Itawes towns. However, because at the time we thought that it was the best form of Itawes to learn, we felt it would be the best place to go. It was still too hot to stay there to live, as far as I was concerned, so we chose to go to Abra.
When we could not work in Abra, we knew we should throw out a fleece to see if it was right for us to go to the Itawes people. The fleece included the provision of finding a house in the town of Piat to live in within a certain period of time. Rains and consequent slowing down of buses resulted in our reaching our destination in Piat at 3 PM on the last day we had allowed to find a house—not much time, but God seems to delight in doing the impossible. At sundown, as a result of a ‘chance’ sharing of a ride on a tricey (a motorcycle with a side car for carrying passengers), we found a house that seemed just right for us. We figured it would serve as our home for the next few months during the initial stages of language learning and until we could find a suitable place for a permanent home and get a house built on it. Our fleece had turned out positive. We were finally on our way to the place where God wanted us to work. Therefore, the next morning we went up to Aparri to tell the folks our plans. We had decided to go to the Itawes (ee TAH’ wace) people in Cagayan Valley. They are a group of about one hundred thousand people who live in the southern part of Cagayan Province in a twenty-five mile radius which includes six main towns: Amulung, Enrile, Iguig, Piat, Penablanca and Tuao.
On January 4, 1975, we still had to go back to Abra to determine what to do to get our cargo out of the mountains and on its way to Piat. When we got to Bacag, we found that half of it had been carried out by high school students from a nearby town. They agreed to carry out more the following weekend. While we were waiting for them, we went to Bangued. We knew we would need a good refrigerator, so hunted for that in the interim. The Lord led us to a good, used, eight cubic foot kerosene refrigerator, which served us well for several years. When we got back to Bitwen, we found the boys hadn’t carried any more cargo, so Chuck went to a town a few miles away on the opposite side of the main road from Bitwen where there was a church of our fellowship and got seven young men to go with him to Bacag for the rest of the stuff. He had hoped he wouldn’t have to do that, but there was no other way. While he went with them, I stayed at the Reforestation Agency.
January 18 was a day of rejoicing—the day Chuck and the men arrived in Bitwen with the last of our cargo, never to have to return to Tineg again. Right away, I noticed how emaciated he looked, like he had just been released from an internment camp. And yet, his stamina and breath control were at their zenith of his lifetime due to his constant hiking over the mountain trails. We were both in good shape to be going to the lowlands to take up our task of Bible translation for the Itawes people.
We took our things by bus and truck to Bangued where we repacked them. We divided them into two groups, taking with us by bus the things we felt were necessary for setting up housekeeping in Piat, and shipping the rest by truck to Aparri. We reached Aparri on January 23rd. only to find that our way to Piat was blocked by mud from heavy rains. We were thankful we had a place to stay for a week while the road dried out. It was a time of rest and relaxation as we enjoyed fellowship with other missionaries and our own type of food once again. Finally, on February 1st, we left Aparri on what turned out to be one of the first buses to get through. We made excellent connections and arrived in Piat at 1:30 P.M. I wondered what our life there would be like.
We were able to find a place to live, but after a week there, we had to leave again. Chuck had to be baccalaureate speaker at the Aparri Bible Seminary and the commencement speaker at the Philippine Bible Seminary in Vigan, Ilocos Norte. In between these two events, we spent four days in Manila attending to business, which included buying a typewriter, a filing cabinet, a mimeograph and numerous smaller items. We used that mimeograph machine for a long time, and it was great because it didn’t require electricity. We just turned a handle to churn out the copies we needed. When back home in Piat, we had our work cut out for us.
God led us to an intelligent, conscientious young man who was a big help to us in starting to learn Itawes. He was Alejandro Catolos, the brother of Felipe who had taken us to Piat in the first place. He was self-employed, buying vegetables from the farmers, taking them to the market, and selling them to vendors. The typhoons had destroyed the vegetables, so he had no work until the newly planted ones began to ripen. We felt bad for those who had suffered loss, but we rejoiced in God, who is able to turn all things for good to us who love Him, as He promised He would in Romans 8:28. Now Alejandro could work with us. We got word lists from him, and he was our first real language helper among the Itawes.