We met up with Rose, her kids: Irie, Selah and Jamen, and her mother-in-law Vicki, in Manila. We had been looking forward to seeing them ever since we found out that our paths could cross and it was so awesome to finally be able to give them hugs!
They were in the Philippines on a kind of mission, to touch base for their organization Mercy In Action.
Mercy in Action is a non-profit that works to assist women and children specifically in the Philippines, to provide quality prenatal, birth and postpartum care in area’s that it would be unavailable or unaffordable. Vicki Penwell is the founder and Ian (her son) and Rose are the field directors. For a number of years they ran clinics in different locations in the Philippines (as well as other countries and locations), the last one being in Olongapo. But two years ago they changed their model. Instead of the Penwell’s running one major birth center, they sponsored their Filipino Midwives so they could go back to their home towns and practice in their own communities. This visit was a follow up to see how things are going in the different locations, check in with the midwives and see how to best continue helping them.
We got to tag along for the first 8 days of their trip. It was fun to spend time with family, and get to see some of the places that Molly’s family lived for so many years. But it was also really cool to get to know the Philippines in a different way than we could have done on our own. Traveling with people who could share knowledge and insight into the country and culture, not to mention knowing how to get around and communicate a bit better 😉
Our first destination was Puerto Galero, on the island of Mindoro. We took a boat from Batangas, and were met by two of the Mercy in Action staff- Jen and Meddie. They gave us a ride to the first place we would stay. We put our things down, settled in and went to cool off in the ocean. It was our first swim in the ocean in the Philippines and the water was amazingly warm. We then went to see Jen and Meddie’s clinic, which a beautifully newly built building right in there village. We also made our way quickly (it had started pouring- did you know its monsoon season?!) to see Meddie’s house. After we chatted with the ladies, the rain had stopped so we walked our way back to our hotel. We made two stops on the way: first to point out the house that Rose and Ian had lived in and where Selah was born almost 10 years ago. Second, to have fruit smoothies and watch the sunset.
The next day we spent primarily in water. Swimming in the ocean, swimming in the pool… we even went on an exploratory hike to swim in a waterfall with Irie!
The waterfall hike was a fun adventure, many locals told us the path was confusing and we should take a guide. But we were set on finding it on our own… so when we got to a little river we decided to just follow it up. It should eventually reach the waterfall right? It did! On the way back we learned that it was by far the longer route, but it was a fun expedition regardless.
We had another fantastic sunset over White Beach that night.
After the lovely days spent in Orental Mindoro, we made our way back to Manila by boat and van, for Rose and Vic to meet up with two more of their Filipino staff: Cecil and Imelda. They were also able to connect with another Boise based organization- Wipe Every Tear, while we were there as well!
From Manila we headed up to Olongapo/Subic Bay Area. This is where the Mercy in Action clinic was based, (and where the Penwell family lived 8 months out of each year) from 2011-15. We got to eat in the restaurant they would go to for family outings and drive past the old clinic building. We also got to go see Mercy Land.
Mercy Land is a strategically chosen plot of land, on the outskirts of town but directly on the path to the mountain villages. Mercy in Action built waiting homes on the property, for village women to be able to stay in while waiting to have their babies. The land is now occupied by the family: Tano, Raquel and their 5 children. Their oldest is RoseAnn, a recently graduated midwife, staff for Mercy in Action. She works primarily in the villages doing prenatal and postpartum check ups while waiting to be fully certified to attend births.
Raquel fed us a delicious lunch and we walked around the land before heading up to the Mampuing village in the mountains. We were lucky to get a ride from Tano in the Mercy in Action ambulance, as the road is typically taken by foot. When we arrived we handed out children’s vitamins to moms, and Rose and RoseAnn did a spontaneous prenatal for two sisters, as well as a well baby checkup.
Afterwards we headed to the Subic Bay landfill to handout soap and more vitamins to the mothers and children that live there.
We got so lucky that day, it was raining hard in between each of our stops but cleared up long enough for us to stay dry on our walks.
The last day we had was mellow, it was also Filippino Independence Day! We went for a swim in the ocean, Rose and Vic met with another friend and former employee, we had an adventurous time in a hair & nail salon, and finished the day off with dinner at sunset. It was a relaxing way to end our time together.
The morning we split ways was my (Molly) birthday. It was so cool to be with family for a bit of my day. We took lots of pictures, (because you’ll always wish you had) and hugged see you later. The Penwell’s off to Layte to continue the purpose of their trip, and us off to get scuba certified (or so we thought….).