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The Substance of Life

Updated: Nov 28, 2019

Reflections and poetry by Marisa Lin, SP intern in San José, California on her internship orientation in Manila, Philippines.

The San José intern team at their orientation in Manila, Philippines.

The relaxed, ambling pace of life in Botocan was a sharp difference from living in the Bay Area! Individuals often hung out in the main square or in front of their residences, chatting with neighbors. Not that people didn’t work hard—they did; but instead of being partitioned into the micro-periods of Silicon Valley efficiency, the days consisted of broad swaths of rest and activity, the rhythms of daily life, and lingering. Accustoming myself to the tempo of life in Botocan was a lesson in the substance of life.

“Therefore, do not worry about your life,” Jesus exhorts in Matthew 6:25-34. “Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?”

Botocan Barangay — Manila, Philippines

Examining Botocan, I saw makeshift structures, animal waste, and trash in the streets. I saw rats and cockroaches scurrying along walls. A pregnant woman laboring to ascend the stairs to her apartment. There were many reasons for people to be anxious here, and no doubt they probably were.

Yet at the same time, we heard karaoke in the evenings, had more than enough food at our homestays, and slept securely in the homes of strangers. They had risen above their situations of need to care for our needs. I think what Jesus meant by his words is that our human capacity is more than our capacity for anxiety, just as life is more than food and clothes—it is the kingdom. And generosity is one way to invite ourselves and others to venture into that mysterious territory of faith.

Builders of Botocan

Deplored we were lost;

We were not.

Under the indifferent smooth

of the moon the wood banked

its heavy head against another,

each knocking like knobs nodding

knowing they would reach land.

We reached land.

It found us orphaned;

it too was an orphan.

(From what—

we don’t know.)

Under the questioning rain,

our skin softened into coconut flesh,

but darker. Water gliding

along our rotating torsos

as we arranged the salvaged boards,

each corrugated metal slice

a silver promise of shelter.

Shelter is not the absence of rain.

Nakedness does not indicate a lack

of protection.

The land bared itself to us,

and we sheltered it.

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