Everyone was worn out from the trip to Macau, so I didn't wake anyone until I was ready to go. Mom seemed sad I was leaving. I was glad Kim was with them. I had planned to take the subway to the airport. However, when I got to the subway station, I found a sign with "hours" posted and the subways wouldn't be running for an hour. There were a lot of bus stops nearby, so I thought I might be able to find a bus going to the airport. When I saw a guy with a suitcase, I followed him to a particular stop and asked him, "Does this bus go to the airport?" He nodded. He shook his head at the first couple of buses that came by. I'm not exactly sure how answering one question can make you responsible for another person, but I've noticed that it seems to happen that way. Maybe that's why some people refuse to talk to strangers. They don't want to end up being responsible for getting them to the airport.
Getting on the bus with all my baggage was difficult, and I nearly whacked one guy in the face putting my bag in the bin. But somehow I got to a seat. OK, actually, I couldn't find a seat so the guy who was responsible for me pointed an empty seat out to me. No, really.
I slept hard all the way to Clark Airport in Angeles City, Philippines. When the Dean and a youth minister/student showed up to pick me up, they asked, "How was the flight?" I just told them, I don't remember. Truth. I must have met the Dean before. He would have been at PBTS when I was here some 6 years ago, but I didn't remember him and he didn't remember me. Too bad, because I really like him. I guess part of the reason why is because every time I told him one of the ideas that I have suggested to my seminary, he acted like it was the most genius concept he had ever heard in his life. (I was reminded of my friend Basilio, the finest musician I have ever known, who sees a guy that can barely sing or play the guitar or something and makes them feel like they are the next Elvis Presley. Makes me laugh, but he likes seeing them get excited.)
PBTS has come a long way since I was there last time. There are several new buildings and lots of new professors. New programs cropping up one after another. The new President is doing an impressive job. I guess that is mostly why I was there. A PBTS grad is in our D.Min. program and the President was so impressed by what Noel had to say about us, he wanted to see what they could learn about re-launching their Doctor of Ministry degree. They fed me steak on the way up. There was fresh fruit waiting in my room as well as towel animals on the bed. They made me feel like I am some body. Hm. I wonder if I can convince Gateway to start treating me this way...? OK, no. Nice thought.
I only had two responsibilities. First, they had asked me to speak for their academic convocation, the first chapel of the new year. I wrestled with what to do and decided to go more academic than chapel. I pulled out the research I had done for my convocation address last year, added some Philippine specifics from the Internet, and tried to terse it up a bit. Then, I did it academic style, read it to them so as not to miss the nuances of the address. I'm not sure they appreciated it, but lots of them wanted to talk with me after it was over. So, at least I impressed the students. At the end of the address, they gave me a barong including a woven lapel from a local weaver. Pretty special. Except that I'm about a size too big. Oh well. The students gave me a tie from the same weaver. Big deal in Baguio. This was in addition to a cool plaque. And a $100 gift. Shesh. How can I get Gateway to treat me like this?
The next day, I spent several hours with the faculty going over in detail how we do our D.Min. degree and speculating with them about how something similar could work in the Phils. It was fun. And, I ended up with some ube jam and another plaque. Seriously. I left with a full suitcase.
On Saturday, I was scheduled to head to Manila. They scheduled breakfast for me with the faculty. It was on the rooftop cafe/buffet. Beautiful view. Good food. Great opportunity to chat with my new friends there. I'm hoping for opportunities to do some more fun work with PBTS. The Dean took me to Starbucks before dropping me at the bus station and we talked and dreamed about new opportunities to work together in the future.
Long bus ride, but was so great watching the mountains, then the rice fields roll past. Once we arrived in Manila, traffic was all we saw. We drove past the Waltermart that is right next to my guesthouse, but the bus didn't stop there. Sigh. Instead, I rode all the way to Cubao and had to get a taxi back to Quezon City. AGS had offered to send someone to get me, but it didn't make sense to me since the bus company could not even speculate as to what time the bus would arrive at the Cubao station.
Getting a taxi was a little more of an adventure than I had planned. Some guy came up to me and asked if I needed a taxi as soon as I got off the bus. Um, yes. So, he grabbed my bag and started pulling it toward the street. Wait! How much do you want for taking me to Quezon City? He didn't answer and I couldn't figure out why a taxi driver was walking around here anyway and the guy was kind of creeping me out, so I grabbed my bag and headed back into the bus station. Eventually, I realized this guy was trying to hail taxis for people...which seemed nice enough, except that I was pretty sure he was going to want something for it. He made two or three more efforts to help me, each ending with me getting the creeps and leaving him. When a couple of other guys started doing the same thing, I decided to cross to the other side of the street (not an easy feat) and get my own cab there. Crawling over the steps of the pedestrian overpass carrying two suitcases seemed a little much so I just went behind the bus station and tried to make a deal with a local taxi. Most of them told me no. I told one driver no when he asked for 500 pesos. Come on, it doesn't cost that much to go all the way to the airport.
Finally, a guy offered to take me for 250. Too much, I knew, but I was tired of waiting. And he seemed like a nice guy. He knew the back streets to take to avoid traffic and we made great time. The only problem with that was, I really only know my way to the guesthouse from the main road. "OK, we're in Project 7," he announced. "Where do I go now?" I looked around me for something remotely familiar. I mean, I hadn't seen any of this in 2 years and never had I arrived in this way. Um...can you drive toward SM North (the big mall across from the guesthouse). So, he did. He had to drive right up to the main street before I recognized where I was. He seemed doubtful when I suddenly announced that I knew where we were. I got him to make a U-turn, a right turn, a left turn, another right turn, and then..."I think it is just up here on the left." He still seemed doubtful when I announced, This is it! He let me out and I gave him a little more than the exorbitant $5 he had asked for.
Once again, I was at the GYMN guesthouse about to do some work at AGS.