信仰生活

菲律賓的窄路[中英對照版]

在疫情下,我去了菲律賓。因機緣巧合,我到了某所兒童院舍住了幾天,體驗義工的生活。

這是我第一次到菲律賓,也是第一次接觸兒童院舍。一進門,便立即被一大班小女孩熱情的圍著。她們用簡單的英文跟你打招呼,問你的名字,幾多歲,從哪裏來⋯⋯她們似乎不怕生,十分單純的友善地對陌生人。

那裏的女孩子來自不同背景,有的父母不在,或被遺棄,或父母因種種原因(例如患病、坐牢、或作妓女)而不適合照顧她們。

這些女孩子若果不是來到院舍,她們很大機會會終日流落街頭,沒辦法上學、或步父母後塵走上歪路、又或者十二、三歲已做了媽媽,帶著小孩在街上行乞。

那所兒童院舍是修會開辦的,經費全靠捐助。那裏有五位修女,及三至四位職員或義工,照顧三十多位大概六至十八歲的女童。

她們的院舍都是當地善長捐獻出來的,接收後只作了非常簡單的改動,即使裝修過都還是看來很簡陋,有很多地方甚至沒有再翻新,處處保持著七八十年代的痕跡:破舊的牆磚、凹陷的地板、殘破的木櫃。那裏唯一我發現有冷氣的地方,就是地下的小聖堂,面積大約二百多呎,有聖體櫃,每日修女都會在那裏早晚禱及明供聖體,而女童們早晚也需要一起擠在那小小的聖堂中,唸玫瑰經、慈悲串經、三鐘經。

她們早禱後便出去飯廳,修女帶領她們唸飯前禱文後,她們便吃早餐——就是麵包,可以抹點花生醬、果占或沙律醬。這是有善長捐贈麵包的日子。

早餐後是工作的時間,她們會被分配不同的清潔工作,或洗碗,或執枱,或掃地⋯⋯那個六七歲的女童,拿著一支高過她一大截的地拖,熟練地揮舞,小小的手掌竟能扭乾地拖頭,看得我目定口呆。

那時正是暑假,早上只有一節英語課,由海外義工擔任老師。學生們十分主動地擦乾淨白板,調較風扇位置,及為老師「試筆」:那盒白板筆,大部分都是無色的,但她們又不會輕易掉棄,女童搖兩搖,又有墨起來⋯⋯

三鐘經後便吃午飯,這幾天的飯餸都不錯,有豆,有肉。因為剛剛收到一箱海外寄來的物資,裏面全是罐頭食物,豆,麥皮等乾糧。修女們說,她們早前收到一大堆辣椒,由於一時間吃不了那麼多,又不能久存,所以造了一批辣椒醬,賣給訪客幫補經費,一樽才賣100披索(大約港幣15元)。

暑假的下午沒有課堂,那是她們的自由時間,她們會在下午梳洗休息,好靜的可以看書,好動的會在天井旁玩「發泡膠」球,就是我們在文具店買來做手工的白色發泡膠球,她們甚為珍惜,當排球一樣玩,玩得又髒又凹,都樂此不疲。還有一些女童會圍在一起彈琴玩小結他。她們沒有樂譜,單靠記憶,由大的教小的,一個教一個。她們彈的是chord, 似模似樣,還自彈自唱。鋼琴也是這樣無譜憑記憶用雙手彈的。可能菲律賓人天生音樂感強,對我們來說不可能的,她們都能。還有她們一起唱的晚安歌,悅耳響亮,比什麼乜乜兒童合唱團唱得還好:夠齊,音準,節拍準,轉假音也自然舒服,最緊要是毫不嬌揉做作,充滿純真可愛,令人聽得感動。

修女們也親自的照顧她們:教書,講授教理,安排每日時間表,跟她們玩球,帶她們去附近聖堂彌撒,我還幾次見過修女幫女童捉頭虱⋯⋯那頭虱跳上來怎辦?幸好修女有頭巾包住。我終於知道為什麼修女要披上頭巾,那是為了方便她們落手落腳地服務貧窮的人而披的,而不是為了顯示自己比別人「聖」。

晚禱後是晚餐的時間,她們你一言我一語,弄得整個飯堂都十分嘈吵,聲浪媲美香港80年代的大茶樓。但修女們並沒有介意,她們喜歡這樣的共融時間,在飯桌上談天說地。飯後更有團聚時間,各自三五成群的玩棋。我跟小朋友玩的那副棋,又要計數,又考轉數,但她們也實在精靈,三兩下手勢,便鋪好棋局,她們一點也不蠢,倒是十分聰明伶俐的。

院舍的修女們甚得女童喜愛,她們會跟修女玩棋,打球,閒時又會走上前來撒撒嬌,上街的時候,她們會拖著修女的手,圍在修女旁。這幾天,我完全沒有見過修女板起面孔對她們,更沒有責備她們。修女說,大的女孩們會看管小的,她們也十分自律。我看得出她們是在愛的環境中成長,天主也祝福她們,難怪她們對陌生的訪客那麼熱情友善。也令我想起早前香港那所虐兒的院舍,沒愛的地方就是地獄。

一個香港人若打算到菲律賓當義工,首先要適應的是那簡陋殘破的廁所(可能會有充滿剌鼻的渠味、旁邊有兩隻死曱甴、沒厠板、沒厠所水),不是經常有水的水喉(中午會無水的,若樓下用水,二樓也會無水的),及要每天自己用水桶裝滿水,然後「畢」凍水來沖涼(水壓不足,有花灑也沒有用),再用那桶水自己手洗衣服⋯⋯然而,只有貧窮的地方,才看得到主耶穌,修女們做的,正是主耶穌會做的事情。

原來窄路,就是這樣。

鵪鶉蛋

〔聖神修院神哲學院「神學普及/文憑課程」學生會供稿〕

The Narrow Path in Philippines

During epidemic, I went to the Philippines.  

I was accomodated in a children’s home for girls for a few days to experience the life of volunteer, which was an ad hoc arrangement.

This is my first time travelling to the Philippines and my first visit to children’s home.  When I entered into the children’s home, I was immediately surrounded by a crowd of girls. They greeted me in simple English, ‘What is your name?’ ‘How old are you?’ ‘Where are you coming from?’ They welcomed me by singing a song in Tagalog and English with sincere smile on their faces.  I was quite surprising that the children welcomed visitors with such a great passion and did not seem to be afraid of stranger.

The girls in the children’s home had different backgrounds, some of them were abandoned children, while some of their parents were passed away, some parents were unable to take care of them due to various reasons, such as illness, poverty, in prison, or participating in illegal activities…etc.

If these girls were not brought into the children’s home, they would probably lingering on the street all day, receiving no education, following the footsteps of their parents, or getting pregnant in the age of 12 or 13 and then begging on the street together with their little children.

The children’s home was run by a Catholic religious order, and their operation expenditure was entirely funded by donations.  There are five religious sisters and three to four staff in the children home, who are responsible to take care of over 30 girls between the age of six and eighteen.

The house of children’s home were donated by local donors.  The old fashioned interior design could be seen in various part of the building, implying that the house had only undergone minimum renovation.  Some furniture and decoration looked old and shabby, with design of the 1970s or early 1980s : dilapidated wall tiles, sunken floors, broken wooden cabinets. The only air-conditioned room was a chapel on the ground floor.  It is a room of around 200 sq. ft with Blessed Sacrament inside the tabernacle.  Religious sister would go there for morning and evening prayer, as well as adoration everyday.  The girls would also squeeze into the small chapel every morning and evening for reciting the Rosary, the Divine Mercy Caplet and the Angelus before having their meals.

There was a dining room outside the Caplet.  The religious sister would lead the girls to pray before and after meal.  The breakfasts on these days were the same: bread with some peanut butter, jam or salad dressing, as they had recently received some breads from donors.

It was working time after breakfast.  Each girl would be assigned to do a household work, such as washing the dishes, or wiping the table, or sweeping the floor.   In the middle of the dining room, a girl of six or seven years old holding a mop which was much more taller than her was skilfully moping the floor.  Her small hands could be able to wring a mop head which was bigger than her head.  She was really awesome.

It was summer holiday and there was only one English class in the morning, taught by an overseas volunteer.  The students were busy in preparing everything for the teachers: cleaning the whiteboard, adjusting the fan position, testing the white board markers.  Those markers had already run out of ink, but they would not throw them away right away.  The girls shook it well and then doodled on the whiteboard.  ‘Look!’ The ink came out again!

After reciting the Angelus, we had lunch together.  The dishes these days were pretty good.  We had beans and meats.  The religious sister said the children’s home had just received a box of food from overseas donors.  There were canned food, beans, Oatmeal and different kinds of dry foods inside.  They had also received a large bag of chili peppers earlier.  Since they couldn’t eat them all at once, they used them to made chili paste and sold them to visitors to support their living.  Each bottle of chili paste sold only 100 pesos (about HKD$15).

There was a free time in the afternoon.  The girls would take a bath and rest.  Some of them would read books while some would play ball games together.  The ball they played was actually a white polyform ball which was designed for handcraft making.  Although the ball was dirty and rough in surface, the girls cherished it very much and played it like a volleyball.  At the other side of the dining room, some girls were sitting together and playing piano and Ukulele.  They had no music book, but they were able to play a song by memory.  The girls said that the elder girls taught them how and they would teach each other.  It seems that Filipinos do have talent on music.  The girls could master the piano in both hands and Ukulele with different chords and rhythms.  What is impossible for us, they can.  What’s more impressive is that the good night song they sang every night was so sweet and loud, much better than renowned children’s choir: it’s in perfect harmony, perfect pitch, perfect rhythm.  The turning of tune was smooth and comfortable.  Everything was natural, not affected.  Their innocence voices could really touch your heart.

The religious sister took care of the children in all aspects: teaching catechism, arranging daily activities, playing games with them, bringing them to mass in a nearby church.  Several times, I saw a religious sister picking head lice for girls.  When I was wondering if the head lice would jump into the head of religious sister, I found the veils of her habit protecting her, then I realised that the purpose of wearing veils for a religious sister is to tidy up herself to serve the poor, it is not a costume showing how “holy” she is.

It was Dinner time after evening prayer.  The small dining room filled with chatters and laughers, the noise was so loud comparable to the Chinese restaurant in the old days.  The noise did not seem to bother the religious sister at all, instead, they liked this communion time very much.  They would even playing board games with children after the dinner.  I had once joined them playing a board game which was quite complicated, involving lots of calculation and logical thinking.  The girls were really smart and brilliant.  No matter won or lost, they had shown good planning and decision making during the playing of games.

The girls loves the religious sisters very much.  Sometimes the little girls would lean on the arms of sisters, whisper to them, while the teenage girls would walk with religious sisters arm in arm on the street.  During these days, I have never seen long faces from the religious sisters, not to mention a scold.    The sisters humbly explained that the elder girls would look after the little ones, and they were very disciplined.  As a visitor, I found the girls were living in a place with lots of love and blessings from God, no wonder they were so friendly to new visitors.   In contrast, a children home in Hong Kong which was recently reported with a series of child abuse cases was totally a different world.  Where there is no love, there is hell.

“Do you think you can be a volunteer there ?”  Well… as a Hong Konger, the first thing I have to overcome is the shabby toilet which has strong smell coming from the drainage, two dead cockroaches next to the toilet bowl, no toilet seat and no flushing water.  Secondly, the intermittent water supply.  Sometimes there is no water supply in the afternoon, and on the 2nd floor when someone using water downstairs.  I have to fill up a bucket of water for shower (actually there is no shower but a ladle and a bucket of cold water) and washing clothes (hand wash).  Notwithstanding, we can only find Jesus Christ from the poor.  What the religious sisters did is exactly what Jesus Christ would do.

It is Narrow Path.

Um Chun Daan

[by a Student of Diploma programme on Theology from the Holy Spirit Seminary College of Theology and Philosophy in Hong Kong]

Photo by McCabe Coats on Unsplash

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