It appears I left us all sitting in a bangka boat in Rio Tuba in Part 1 of this story. So, here's the conclusion of our travels from Manila to Ramos Island:
Thankfully, the bangka boat we took to Ramos Island was built for more than just a few passengers. Though the style was the same, it was bigger than most, built for tourist groups of around 20. I was thankful for two reasons: 1. We were traveling out to sea where sometimes all we could see was water, miles and miles of it that eventually touched the sky in a single, eternal, line. 2. Our children weren’t sitting near the boat’s edge, though we still had to be vigilant in knowing where they were at all times.
The warm, salty air and sometimes misty spray of ocean water was a welcome change after Rio Tuba’s assault on our senses, though at the time, I didn’t fully appreciate the sheer wonder in God’s creation. In fact, the distraction of keeping an eye on the kids pulled me away from the anticipation in the 13 years of waiting for this moment, for that’s how long it had been since the day God called me to be a missionary. So much had happened since then. Here I now was with a husband and three little ones in tow.
Four+ hours later, the boat veered its way through the breaker protecting this eastern shore from the wild ocean storms and motored slowly through the calm waters of the bay right up to the gentle shore. Ramos Island. And the Molbog people. We had arrived!
(I should clarify something here. Though this was our first visit to Ramos Island, it wasn’t our official start to our work. We were still learning Tagalog back on the main island of Luzon. This week-long visit was just a taste of what was to come.)
The men hopped out. Then they helped me and our wee ones out of the boat and into a few inches of warm tropical waters. Men introduced to men in typical Molbog fashion: with left hand cupping right elbows and right hand outstretched with a welcoming handshake. I simply nodded and smiled at these island caretakers, focusing more on what our inquisitive toddlers were doing around the boat and in the soft sand that was dotted with washed up palm fronds and coconuts. The elderly men motioned for us to follow them and so we did. The younger men climbed into the boat and retrieved our belongings. It was a mere 400 meters to what would become our home. As we followed a hardened footpath, I warned the children of coral jutting up, ready to draw blood. They were mindful.
We came to the corner of a 4-foot-high fence that surrounded what looked like a large yard. We followed it to a gate and then there, in front of us, was the 2-story nipa hut that would soon become our home while we worked with the Molbog people.
The “hut” wasn’t new. The couple we were coming to help had built it years before. The nipa thatch was weathered and faded, the steps worn and soft. But we could tell it was sturdy. Raised three feet off the ground, the support posts were thick and weighty, made from what the Molbog people called a bugbug tree (Some kind of ironwood, from what I remember), the roof covered in corrugated metal sheets. The small main living area was upstairs consisting of the kitchen, eating area and living room with two bedrooms running along the west wall, with a storage room and small classroom below.
That visit was a family adventure—an enjoyable one, from what I recall. But again, we were still visitors of the family we’d come to help. Not yet surviving on our own. Not yet participants in the culture but, for now, observers of life. We observed the Molbog people, but even more than that, we watched and learned from this other missionary family that knew the culture and the language.
We watched and learned for the future—for when we would return to call this place “home.”