The flames were visible in the darkness from afar as the forest fire raged. Some Kankanaey natives have started clearing land for farming; it is a practice of the natives that unfortunately is slowly damaging Kibungan’s natural treasures.
We were on our way back to our Base Camp in Poblacion after spending three days trekking to the village of Dalipey and ministering to its people. Kolbel Acquiapat, a Climbing For Christ member who has been our friend and guide for the last four years in Kibungan, expressed the helplessness he feels to do anything to prevent the death of the mountain forests. The natives value a good harvest more than the preservation of their land. In light of the poverty that many families experience in the mountain villages, this is how some of the Kankanaey view their life — desperate and even hopeless at times.
While in Dalipey we had a program for its largest population: the youth. Dalipey has the only high school in the whole mountain range of Tacadang. Young people come from far-off villages — such as Tacadang proper, Bekes, Culiang, Badeo, and Les-eng — just to attend high school classes.
During our evangelistic program that featured fun games and activities, I wanted to know about the dreams of the Kankanaey youth. So I turned to one girl and asked her what she dreamed to be or do. She looked at me with eyes that wondered; for a moment she was unsure of what to say. Then she responded by saying, “I have no dream.” I slowly looked around and realized that if I asked most of them I would get the same answer. You could see it in their eyes.
I tried to hide my pain for them. Most of the C4C climbers who were with me could easily answer that question, for we all grew up dreaming of something. I found myself contemplating, “What would it be like to live without a dream?”
The Kankanaey youth do not see anything greater happening in their future. Most will be farmers, because their families have no resources for college. Teacher Leah, the head of the school, shared with Kolbel and me that the high school had a high drop-out rate. This was because parents are not encouraged by education. Why study when you will end up farming anyway? We did our best to show them how beautiful their future is if they draw near to Jesus. We could only pray that they understood the message.
This experience with the youth worried me, most particularly for one teen-age girl. Her name is Caroline Alacdis. We met her last year on our first expedition to Dalipey. The Lord had impressed upon us that Caroline, who wanted to become a missionary, was going to be a spark that would start a revival in the mountain churches of Kibungan. So we talked to her about being a C4C scholar and going to Bible school. But it has been a year since we had this conversation.
Arlene Bolante, a C4C member who has become close to Caroline, shared with me before we hiked to Dalipey that Caroline was receiving much discouragement from her peers about going to Bible School. Her parents, whom I’d already spoken with about Caroline’s dream, were now half-hearted regarding her leaving for Bible school. On top of that, Caroline was the No. 1 one student in her class for two terms. On the third term she dropped to fourth because she got sick for three weeks. She was obviously receiving opposition, which troubled me. I wondered if the flame of serving God was still burning after a year. I wondered if it was still burning after all the doubts and discouragement.
I had scheduled a meeting with Caroline on our second night in Dalipey. I was anxious to speak to her. I wanted to know her stand regarding Bible school, I wanted to know if the flame was still there burning. My little faith half expected Caroline to be disheartened. She came into our quarters around 7 p.m. and she had a big smile on her face. By the light of our headlamps we talked about all that she’s been through this year. Then I had to ask her, after all that she’s been through, does she still want to study and become a missionary? Without a glimpse of hesitation, and with greater faith than I had, she said: “Yes, I still want to become a missionary!”
“I believe I have a calling from Apo Dios (Father God),” Caroline said.
At this point I knew this second mission to Dalipey was now accomplished. More than the medical mission, the giving of school supplies, attending the UCCP church service, and the youth program, to know that the flame of hope that the Lord had started a year ago is still burning strong is the highlight of this climb. Because all of the other things we brought and did will run out or eventually be forgotten. But to know that the hope of God still burns in the heart of one girl in Kibungan, is a bright light to the future of Kibungan.
Ace with Caroline in Dalipey.
C4C Philippines will be sending Caroline Alacdis to Bible School in La Trinidad Benguet this June. May the Lord keep this flame burning, so that many more like Caroline will see that the greatest thing that could happen in their lives is yet to happen, and that is to know the love and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. To God be all the glory!