The past few days have easily been the busiest (in terms of my actual work) I have had since I arrived in the Philippines. The first reports of the SCA groups have just begun to come in and I have had the task of making sure its all organized and getting all the financials inputted correctly into the database. Its really not too complicated a task, but its been more difficult than it sounds because its a brand new program and this is the first go around for everyone involved; for me, my bosses, and the facilitators sending us the reports. Certain rules have to be established about what exactly is expected from these reports and how they are to be filled out, which is very difficult considering most of these facilitators are in the southern part of the country, hundreds of miles away from Manila. However... this increase in work did not keep me from having quite the Filipino adventure this weekend... on to the good stuff!
Saturday was a fairly typical Saturday. Me and Charlie (other American) woke up bright and early and went to one of the nearby branches and played in the worship band again. For any of you wondering if I have lost any of my "sick" drumming skills, fear not, I have not lost a thing! Okay, so that last sentence was a stretch to say the least, but I'm still having a blast rekindling a past love of mine. After worship and breakfast with the staff, we headed over to Mall of Asia to catch the new Transformers movie. Following the movie we went over to check out an NBA 3 on 3 tournament that we had heard about. Rumor had it that a famous former NBA player was there for the tournament and to help promote the NBA in the Philippines (despite the fact that the league is currently in a lockout and in all likelihood will not have a season next year, thank you greedy owners!!!).
We walked out of the movie theater and followed the sound of extremely loud music and we found ourselves at the back of the mall with a half of a basketball court laid out with a few thousand people surrounding it.
Next thing we know an MC comes out and tries to get the crowd all fired up (he failed horribly, it was pretty hilarious to watch). Then the New York Knicks dancing team comes out and dance for like a min and then they announce the famous former NBA who was none other than fellow Clemson Tiger Horace Grant!!!! I did not have a Clemson shirt on or I am sure he would have picked me out of the crowd, invited me to hang out with him the rest of the day, grab dinner with him, give me his cell number, and invite me to go with him to every Clemson sporting event for the rest of his life... Unfortunately, none of those things happened, so we just enjoyed the day and watched the slam dunk contest and dancing contest. All in all it was incredibly entertaining and it was great knowing that me and Horace had something in common that none of the other 5,000 people did.
That night, we walked over to the nearby mall to grab some dinner and walked by the Philippines National Sports complex (right next to our apartments) and heard some music and a small crowd gathering around the gates. We had heard earlier that week that the Filipino soccer team (know as the "Azkals" in the Philippines) was playing against Sri Lanka sometime that weekend, but we figured it was being played somewhere not close to us. We go check what the crowd is doing and we see the team getting on the bus. We figured the match had been earlier that day, but when we asked some of the people around us they told that the game was the next day! We were pumped.
The next afternoon we walked the entire 1 block from our apartment complex to the Filipino National Stadium (only seats around 20,000 people) to check out the ticket situation. Well it turns out that Filipinos like soccer more than they let on because the game was sold out! However, using my expert ticket scalping skills (learned from my father) I was able to get us a couple tickets for just over face value (still only like $10). Although I'm pretty sure I still way overpaid, but I didn't speak the same language as the scalper, so can you blame me? We then went into the stadium and grabbed our seats behind one of the goals. It was a beautiful day outside and (fresh in my brand new Azkals t-shirt) we were ready for some Filipino football!!!
Of course a huge rain storm came literally 10 seconds after kickoff. It POURED rain for a solid 25 minutes. There was literally not one piece of clothing that was dry on any person in the entire stadium. But trust me, that didn't stop the rabid Filipino fans from going crazy!!! The stadium was packed and was the loudest small and spread out stadium I had ever heard! Every single person screamed their lungs out around us anytime anything remotely exciting happened. The girls sitting next to us may have permanently damaged my left ear drum as a result. The first goal was scored by the Philippines around the 20 min mark and the place went absolutely nuts!!! What made it even more exciting was the fact that it was still POURING down rain so I think the fans felt more connected to each other for being out there together for their... I mean, OUR team (Yes I now consider myself an official Filipino soccer fan).
I found out through the Azkals program book about how this was the first World Cup Qualifying match ever held in the Philippines. So we essentially attended the biggest game in Filipino soccer history! The Philippines has been truly awful at soccer for a long time and have just recently attempted to build a somewhat respectable team. Another interesting article in the program informed me about the two star players, two brothers named James and Phil Younghusband (yes that is in fact their real last name). They are only half Filipino and don't even look Filipino. Evidently they were born and raised in England (their dad is English) and played with the English Club Chelsea until just recently. Then their parents split up and the Filipino national team asked them to play for them. They agreed and have lived in the Philippines ever since.
The Philippines scored a second goal just before halftime which prompted another crazy celebration. The second half was more of the same, with the Philippines prevailing in the end 4-0. Poor Sri Lanka was just terrible. The players then took a victory lap around the stadium to thank all the fans and thus ended my first Filipino futbol experience. I'm not going to lie, I have never been a huge soccer fan. But this game made me practically fall in love with international soccer. If I ever get another chance to go to another international game, anywhere, I'm going. Seeing a game like that in person makes soccer so much more exciting and intense.
Well, that's all for the weekend adventures! Me and Charlie went and celebrated July 4th by finding the biggest cheeseburger we could. We found it at a TGI Fridays not far from the CCT office. And let me just say, it was delicious!!!
On a more serious note, I have had a lot of quiet and still time since things have settled down here. I tend to be a more extroverted person, so being here has really pushed me into more of an introverted state that I don't think I knew existed. I find myself at night, often just sitting and thinking for hours on end (I never thought I would be able to sit still for so long!). Letting my thoughts pour over life, Jesus, relationships, and God's word has been a powerful experience. Sitting still and being still before the Lord is something I am so bad at, but being forced to do it has led to so much fruit and revelation through the Holy Spirit.
I want to encourage all of you to get out a bible and read over these two passages at some point this week and just be still before the Lord for a bit. Put things down for a few minutes (although I would suggest at least an hour if you can) and just sit before your creator and think. Let the Holy Spirit guide your thoughts wherever he wants them to go. And if you find yourself getting way off on something stressful or something you have to do tomorrow, try and read these verses again and think about what Jesus did for you. If you have never done this before, its going to be difficult, but I think it could also become one of the most restful and filling things any of us can do.
Exodus 14 (all of it). "...Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only be still..."
Pslam 46 (all of it) "...Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in all the earth..."
My the grace of God be with you this week,