A million different emotions are rushing through our minds as we try and express the tremendous amount of love and heartbreak felt throughout the day. It started off like any other day with our 6:50 wake up call and a delicious breakfast ahead of us. We filled up our stomachs with pancakes, sausage, and scrambled eggs. We took our classic group picture (made sure Morgan Nale was front and center) and piled into our jeepneys. Our rides today were different than they had been- instead of screaming songs at the top of our lungs, we were telling stories and taking in the last few views of Bantayan Island. As we neared Tarong Elementary, a sense of satisfaction and admiration came over us. Hundreds of buckets of rocks, cement, and dirt had resulted in a beautifully decorated stage that would soon bring numerous families together to celebrate at the Family Fiesta. We hopped out of our jeepneys and instantly saw the smiling faces of all of our little friends. The celebration began with hearing so many thank you’s for our work even though we felt that we were the ones being served. Soon after, Chad-dad and Les did the ceremonial ribbon cutting and our stage was officially opened. We were each individually recognized and presented with a certificate of remembrance, then the entertainment kicked off. It was evident that God was present as a group of girls performed a dance to the song “10,000 Reasons”. “When my strength is failing / The end draws near and my time has come / Still my soul will sing” these lines traveled through the speakers and into our hearts as we reflected on the life change that we experienced this week. Lined along the stage were bags of groceries, backpacks, and special prizes ready to be distributed to the raffle winners. The prizes started small as children won bags of rice and chips, then it was time for the first intermission. The two cutest little first grade girls pranced on to the stage with smiles on their faces and sang a beautiful song about finally breaking through your shell. Afterwards we continued on with the raffle and a few more children won backpacks full of school supplies. It was amazing to see their genuine excitement and smiles over something so seemingly meaningless to us like a backpack and some pencils. At the next intermission we watched as a group of the fourth grade girls danced to “I Love Cebu” with their flower crowns and we loved every second of it. Suddenly we felt just a few raindrops, but that quickly turned into a downpour. Everyone huddled closely together under the tent, but the rain couldn’t stop us. The raffle continued and the grand prizes were up for grabs-a brand new bike, five thousand pesos, 50kg of rice and a live pig. Each of the winners were so over the moon excited that we couldn’t help but feel the same way. Though the raffle had ended, we still had a lot ahead of us. We listened as Mary Madden and TJ so boldly shared their faith stories and struggles. They touched many hearts among the crowd by sharing the impact that faith had on them and allowing the people of the crowd to open their minds to the possibility of a faith of their own. Then it was time to eat. For lunch we were served pansit noodles, egg rolls, pork kabobs, rice, and to top it off, lechon, a roasted pig. It was short lived because we were eager to hug all of our little friends that we had grown so close to just a few more times. The sad songs started playing and the tears started rolling as we realized that this would be goodbye. We took our last few pictures and tried to capture every last moment and memory that we had of our sweet kids. It was an unexplainable sadness. We squeezed them tightly in efforts to drown out the realization that we would soon be leaving some of the greatest moments. Every last one of us was an emotional wreck as we walked onto our jeepneys. We waved one last goodbye to the sweet kids, teachers, and families that made up Tarong Elementary. Tears streamed as we drove away, but our spirits were soon uplifted as we were reminded that in just 10 minutes we would arrive at San Augustine Elementary. When we got there, we were greeted by 600 smiling faces, eager to play with us. Some of the returners reunited and rekindled with kids that they had met the previous year, while others of us formed new relationships with the students. After about an hour and a half of dancing and singing with the children, we had to say goodbye once again. We loaded onto the jeepneys and waved out the sides as the kids chased after us in efforts to hold onto the moment for just a few seconds longer. With our hearts heavy, we prepared to head back to Anika. Once we arrived, some of us got some much needed rest, while others cooled off in the pool. After a few hours of debriefing and unwinding, we took showers and then headed to dinner. Dinner tonight was unlike any of those that we have had so far. Instead of buffet style, we were served yummy pizza and spaghetti carbonara. We filled our stomachs and headed to large group. Once again, we had fun listening to all of the sweet and thoughtful blog post comments, worshipped, and heard a devotional from Grayson. We ended off the night reflecting over the day in our small groups. Though today consisted of many heartfelt tears, we wouldn’t have wanted our experience on Bantayan to have gone any other way. Now as we head to bed, we are incredibly thankful for what we have gotten to experience and excited for what the rest of this journey will bring. We love and miss you all so much!
Illie & Taylor R