What a Poor Filipino Boy Taught Me

Written by Alex Applegate

It was hot. Very, very hot. And not just some dry Ohio heat. It was damp, dripping sweat, muggy, swamp Filipino heat. Playing games with 20 Filipino kids probably didn’t help.

We were playing Monster, or hamilaw in Tagalog. I would chase all 20 of them down the dirt road with my scary monster hands and scary monster face and they would run as fast as they could giggling and screaming with excitement. Once I was able to catch a few of the kids and throw them into the air, they would turn around and chase me with all their tiny, scary monster hands stretched out ready to catch me.

My team and I were in a small, swamp city called Angono right outside of Manila, Philippines. We drove there twice a week with two huge bins of lugaw — or blazing hot, nutritional stew — to spoon out to all the kids we could. After all the stew was gone, we would stick around and play with the kids, check their hair for lice, lead Bible studies with their parents, and any other need we saw there.

In The Philippines, I had the privilege of leading Bible studies with these sweet girls. Saturday afternoons with these girls were some of my favorite memories. | Photo by Kate Kelly
In The Philippines, I had the privilege of leading Bible studies with these sweet girls. Saturday afternoons with these girls were some of my favorite memories. | Photo by Kate Kelly

I loved this game and these kids, don’t get me wrong. But in this heat and with my lacking athleticism, I was very sweaty and tired. My hair was sticking to the back of my neck and my throat was aching for some water.

The game slowed down as I did and the kids started their own games. One little boy who had been playing with us noticed my fatigue. He approached me confidently and adorably and grabbed my hand. What a charmer.

Ano ang pangalan mo?” I asked what his name was with one of the few Tagalog phrases I knew.

Dagool,” he answered simply and flashed his teeth at me. He started walking, dragging me along and not giving me any options. He moved easily

Dagool and I cheesing after a grueling game of monster. He is throwing a sign that means 'handsome' in Filipino culture. I only got to see him one other time after this day. | Photo by Kate Kelly
Dagool and I cheesing after a grueling game of monster. He is throwing a sign that means ‘handsome’ in Filipino culture. I only got to see him one other time after this day. | Photo by Kate Kelly

through the small alleys and swampy streets even though he wasn’t wearing shoes on this tricky terrain. I slipped a few times in my $100 ‘best in class adventure sandals.’ He stopped at a small shack made of aluminum and wood panels.

He opened the door and led me into his one room house without letting go of my fingers. He pointed to the only chair in the room and nodded at me until I sat down. Dagool turned on the small fan sitting on the dirt floor and rotated it until he saw the air moving my hair. Light streamed through holes in the roof and illuminated the dark room.

Dagool started to run around the room and picked up all of his toys to bring them to me, gesturing widely and talking excitedly about whatever he was holding. He handed me toy after toy and I saw his eyes light up with each one. Small trucks, paper airplanes, figurines, and bottles were thrown into my lap as he spoke about each one. I wanted so badly to know what he was saying but I just smiled and nodded.

He must have seen that I was still very hot and sweaty because he opened the tiny fridge in the corner and pulled out the only bottle of Coke. Dagool poured it in a plastic cup and held it out to me until I took it. I held the cup with both hands and shook my head trying to give it back to him. I couldn’t take his only Coke- which was pretty much water here. He firmly shook his head and gestured to a poster of Jesus on the wall.  

He began to speak with passion and and love. Dagool’s eyes glowed and he pointed to the cup and pointed to his heart with the sweetest smile on his face. He talked about Jesus until I drank every drop.

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