That’s Filipino for “Welcome!” We all here had such an incredible, life changing time in the Philippines! So good in fact, it would be easy to write this entire blog using only exclamations points! But we won’t…well, we’ll try not to.
There are so many things to share with you all, but we think the best thing to do first is say “SALAMAT PO!” or “THANK YOU!” to all of the wonderful people who sponsored this trip! What a blessing it was to see the outpouring of your love and support! Together with the work of each cast member, we had just what we needed for the trip. So, a big heartfelt thank you to each donor! At the end of this post, there will be a special word from our Director, Teresa Skinner.
Our director and her assistant landed two weeks prior the arrival of the cast, ironing out details for performances, finding a place for the cast to stay, etc. It proved to be a bit challenging in certain areas, but there were some doors that opened up that were nothing short of a miracle. One of those miracles was the performance scheduled at the Rizal Park. The park is named after the national hero of the Philippines, José Rizal, who fought for change during the reign of the Spaniards and was executed at the location that is now known as Rizal Park. It is a place where many people were killed for fighting for the freedom of the Philippines. Our Director had wanted to do a performance at the park for the people, but didn’t know how accomplish the feat. Unbeknownst to us, an old friend of our Director works for Rizal Park, whom we met at dinner celebration one night. Before we knew what to think, we were at the National Parks Development Committee meeting with the park attorney, and several others who had heard about what we wanted to do. By the end of the meeting, we were working together with the National Parks Development Committee and it’s staff to put on a special presentation of Cazaq the Eagle. It was a nothing short of a miracle, and we were excited to tell the rest of the team.
Another thing that was a necessity was training a willing Filipino to be the part of Deter, and learn the Eagle Dance. We found one such Filipino, a brave young man by the name of Christian Ambulo. He was a fast learner and wonderful dancer. We couldn’t have asked for a better eagle! With the last of the pieces put together, we were ready for the team to come.
The team arrived on the morning of April 4th (after driving around for some time to find the place they were staying at, it was about 2:30 in the morning!), and took the next day to rest and recuperate from the very long trip. Just to give an idea of how long the trip is:
from Los Angeles to South Korea, it took the director and her assistant about 13 and half hours. After a two hour lay over in Incheon (the airport), it took another 2 hours to fly from Korea to the Philippines.
So in total, it was about a 17 hour trip. So place 17 hours on top of being lost for an additional 2 hours, and you can imagine how tired the team was. But they were such good sports about it!
So the next day was a day of rest and adjustment, but the next day was Saturday, the first all cast rehearsal for the big Cuneta Astrodome event and it the first time our Filipino cast met the American cast. That day was HOT. The kind of heat few people experience. To give some perspective: In the city of Mandaluyong (located in Manila), the high for the day (currently, it’s Monday afternoon here in the states, which makes it Tuesday morning in the Philippines) will be about 100 degrees, with a humidity of at least 65% or more. Folks, that is hot.
So on the day of this rehearsal, the sun was just blazing, a high of 92, but it felt like about 104. Faces were red and covered in sweat, but that didn’t stop any of us from practicing. Our Filipino cast were real troopers, none of them complaining at all, even down to the smallest child (there were some young children who were both baby chickens and Storm dancers), all braved the heat for the rehearsal. Afterwards, we enjoyed a delicious lunch of roasted chicken and endless rice (only in the Philippines!), and spent time with one another.
The following day was Sunday, the team split up to visit several churches. Our Mother Chicken, Mother Storm, and a few others spoke, shared testimonies and danced for the churches they were visiting at. That Monday, the whole cast (numbering almost 80) went to the astrodome for a general rehearsal.
The rehearsal went well, and everyone felt better about the performance.
Two days later, the big day came: Cuneta Astrodome.
The number of people that night were estimated at over 8,000.
The astrodome the team had seen earlier in the week didnt see very big, especially with the stage being put together, and the ground covered in equipment. Yet the day of the performance, with the lights dimmed, chairs all assembled, stage beautifully decorated, colorful stage lights flashing, giant LCD screens….the effect was overwhelming. It’s safe to say that everyone had some form or another of stage fright. But the time for panicking was slim, as there was a technical rehearsal, costumes to sort and distribute, last minute directions, questions and reminders, and asking “What was my cue again?”. Plus, much to our excitement/nervousness/surprise, Cazaq the Eagle was the opening presentation for that day.
So before anyone could say “Halo-Halo!” (a deliciously filling and refreshing Filipino dessert!), it was time for everyone to be in their starting positions.
At the National Prayer Gathering, there were two indigenous Filipino tribes represented, and we had the immense pleasure and honor (and surprise, for some of us) of having them join us for the ending number of the play, the Spring Dance.
They had never practiced with us, not once. But when they danced with us, it flowed together so beautifully, and they were so graceful, it seemed like they had done it with us a hundred times. At the end of the play, there was a time of gift giving, which we had seen on the schedule and were prepared for. After our Director and Narrator gave gifts to Bishop Dan Boloais and those involved with the National Prayer Gathering, we thought we were done. However, there was a surprise waiting for us. The MC called up the represented tribes to the stage, for what we thought was a special dance number.
What it turned out to be, was glimpse of Heaven.
We were so touched by the love shown through their presentation, touched that the play had meant to so much to them. It was an emotional time for all of us, and we felt that Cazaq had changed. The reality is, Cazaq is bigger than all of us, because it speaks to the internal, and God does a change that is eternal. It’s why we do this play, it’s why we pour out our all, our best. For the people who need to see and hear the message of forgiveness.
Before we move on any further, we want to thank the photographer who took these pictures at Cuneta. He is not only a photographer, but a talented artists, blessed with an ability to not only dream , but conceptualize and bring to life what lies in his mind. We were so honored to have the artist of the book, Julian Peter V. Arias, with us during this event. It was exciting for all of us to have him there, and only he knows how it felt to see his artwork come to life (hmm…future blog post on the artist? What do you all think?) We want to say a great big Thank You! to him for being there and spending time with our cast.
The following day we had a performance at Institute for Foundational Learning in Cabuyao, Laguna, for their students, teachers, and teachers in training. The Institute for Foundational Learning is a place dedicated to relieving the pressures of poverty through education, medical relief, agricultural livelihood, malnutrition programs and training both naturally and spiritually.We had a wonderful time afterwards, praying for the children and the teachers, as they came up for forgiveness, for change, for the circumstances in their past and present that hurt them. The children and the people were so precious. One of our team reported that as they ran to change their costume, they could hear the kitchen staff singing along to the Mother Chicken Song. There were so many photos taken that day, which we will have up very soon!
One special place some of the team visited was Smokey Mountain. It’s an area where although the people live in extreme poverty, their bright smiles and genuine joy capture your heart. Mother Circumstance, played by Carrie Durren, had this to say:
…they have so little, but there heart are rich with love. They praise God in a way that will fill your heart…Being in the Philippines for ten days was an eye opener. We see they have so little with ours eyes, but their hearts are rich with the love of God. That’s what we need here in the U.S., real love for God and one another.
We handed out candy to the children, spoke and sang with them, then left. We all felt that we could have spent so much more time with the people. The sweetness of their smiles won our hearts, and we all felt that coming back to this place would be necessary! It may have been a short time, but it forever changed us, leaving a resonating impact in hearts.
After that trip, it was time for the first half of the team to depart. There was a special dinner held for the portion of the team that was leaving.
It was fun time, a bittersweet time for everyone, especially the youth of the team. They sang, played, joked, laughed and talked as much as could possibly fit in the amount of time they had. There were smiles, some tears and promises of keeping in touch as the team left.
As the first half of the team made their way to the airport, the second half made their way to the Rizal Park, for their performance. It was said we had a crowd of almost 1,000 spectators.
This performance was the first on the trip to feature both English and Tagalog. It was also the first for some of the Filipino understudies, as they stepped into their main roles. Mother Chicken was one of them, portrayed by the highly talented dancer Lyka Arcangel. Another was Mother Storm, played by another talented dancer and actress, Joanna Sales. Our Sister Chicken had agreed back in the States that she would be a part of the show, and we’re so glad she did! Gladys Reyes was our spunky, loveable Sister Chicken.
The play went smoothly, and at the end, it looked like the premiere of Hollywood movie, as the Cast made their rounds greeting the audience, and taking pictures (SO MANY pictures!) with them. It was the most fun performance. At the end of the performance, the Dancing Fountain was turned on. It was a beautiful end to an incredible evening.
We would like to thank Attorney Jeremiah Belgica, Ma’am Gie Arnold and the staff of National Parks Development Committee for helping us make this night possible. It was a joy and a blessing!
After we were all packed up from our Rizal Park performance, we all hoped in the van (or in the back of the car) and head back to the Institute for Foundational Learning, for a performance during their Sunday morning church service. We arrived rather late, and awoke rather early, but everyone did well, and enjoyed themselves!
One last performance was held in the city of Tagaytay, at a rehabilitation center for men. This performance was so much, and the men really enjoyed the performance, especially when Cazaq came out. One of the great things about this particular performance was the fun we had going out and shaking hands with the men, singing not just at them, but with them, and seeing the joy on their faces. At the end of the performance, Cazaq himself gave us all a surprise (the drop-your-jaw-in-shock kind of surprise) when he stepped up to sing a beautiful Kiowa hymn. Joey Bread, the face of Cazaq, stepped beyond his zone, imparting a special gift to the men that day, one we’re sure they won’t forget for some time. After the performance, the staff of the rehabilitation center served us a delicious meal (fresh mangoes, curried chicken…it was masarap or very delicious!) which we thoroughly enjoyed amidst laughter and some special quality time, thus wrapping up our Philippines tour.
The remainder of the team returned back home, not with a good bye get together. It was difficult to watch the youth say good bye to one another, and understandably, some tears were shed. But there were also smiles, promises of keeping in touch on Facebook and Skype (the promise has been kept, many times over since then!), and prayers for another trip back to the Philippines.
The youth of Windows of Blessing in Christ Ministries, one of the two Churches whose youth and people worked with the play, decided to perform the play themselves for their 25th anniversary celebration. They did an amazing job, especially considering the short amount of time they had to prepare. They even had to make their own costumes (some of the eagles and Mr. Raven anyway). It was the first time Cazaq has been done completely in another language. The assistant to the Director had the privilege of being a part of that performance.
The trip changed lives, the lives of our team, and the lives of those we worked with and performed for. We thank God for having the opportunity to go and spread this message with the precious people of the Philippines.There are so many people to mention and thank. If anyone was missed, please let us know! We want to thank Pastor Lisa Reyes and Pastor Efren Reyes as well as their churches and youth groups, for coming on board and supporting us in this adventure. We could not have done it with out you all!
Although that trip may be over, Cazaq continues here in the States! We are scheduled to perform May 16 at a local high school three times that day! We will also be performing with our dear friends of the Soboba Indian Reservation. Be sure to check the Cazaq the Eagle Website and Facebook for details on the time and location for these events.
We love you all so much. We can’t thank you all enough for going with us on this journey, standing alongside us wherever this road takes us. We thank God for every open door we’ve had, and the ones He will open in the future. It’s through Him, and your love, support and prayers, that we’re able to continue this work of spreading Hope, Forgiveness, Determination, Compassion and Wisdom to the people.
As promised, here is a special letter from our Director, Teresa Skinner:
We would like to take this wonderful opportunity to thank everyone who joined together to make this Cazaq the Eagle production possible in the Philippines. Where did all those funds come from for flights, lodging, transportation and costume expenses?
God knows it came from ALL of You! It took a small army to make something like this happen. Without everyone’s generous input we could have never afforded the trip. Some gave Donations, others sold Shea Butter, Tamales, Fruit Cups, Easter Baskets, Cupcakes, Bake Sales… you name it the team worked very hard to come up with the fare and lodging.
Thank you to those in the Philippines who generously gave the use of your vans, cars, drivers, assistance, laundry helpers, escorts, translators, those who cooked, cleaned, motivated and encouraged. Some may have come to you expecting to minister but in His Grace, You O Philippines ministered to many of us.
That’s how it goes isn’t it? Because it is God that uses ALL of His People to minister to one another!
Thank you to the Army of Intercessors who Stormed Heaven that all would be safe, return healthy and give the best God has given us to give. Your prayers were felt and needed. Thank you!
Most of all, we thank the Lord for giving us a safe trip to the Philippines and back, for taking care of each one of us, for His provision, compassion and love poured out for His work in the Philippines through ALL of us. Thank you, we appreciate ALL of you. Thank you! And on behalf of the Philippines we also thank you!
So what are we doing next year?
Director of Cazaq the Eagle
Until next time, with much love,
The Cazaq The Eagle Team