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A Step of Faith: Travel in the Philippines November 7, 2013

Filed under: Philippines,Travel — acgheen @ 12:00 am
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Stepping into oncoming traffic is counterintuitive.  An act reserved for lunatics and the deeply depressed, it seemed an ill fit for a reasonably happy and successful human being.  Yet the voice behind me kept urging me forward.

It wasn’t that I didn’t trust our tour guide, but rather that I wasn’t sure I trusted the drivers with whom I would be sharing the busy road.  Traffic in the Philippines is not like traffic in the U.S.  My first journey into the melee had left me with an abiding sense of doom – a deep certainty that I was about to die.  This was not the sense of death expressed in a phrase like, “It’s so fluffy, I’m going to die”, but rather the sort of conviction which left one gazing heavenward, commending their spirit to the hands of a loving God.

Devoid of lights and nearly equally devoid of signs, traffic in Manila seemed to communicate primarily with horns.  My knuckles turned white as I watched two-lane roads become five-lane roads.  Motorbikes with sometimes upward of five passengers wove in and out as drivers struggled to insert their front fender into the lane, claiming a spot in the meandering flow.  It was chaos unlike anything I’d witnessed before.

It wasn’t until several days into the trip that I realized that these horns gave each driver a voice which could not be compensated for by bright red octagons or yellow “merge” signs.  I began to hear order among the cacophony.  A simple beep to indicate, “I’m in your blind spot.”  Beep Beep for “I’m passing”.  Beeeeeeep.  “Get out of my way.”  Bip.  “Thank you for getting out of my way.”  It was a polite system based more on the relationship between individuals (none of whom sought an accident) rather than upon the rigidity of law.

Still, all of that knowledge had been gained from within the fortified confines of our diplomatic van.  This was different.  Stepping into the flow unprotected by steel seemed foolhardy.  One distracted driver could spell my doom.  It could all be over in the blink of an eye.  Yet the voice behind me urged me on.

In one great gutsy moment, I took the step.  What followed was amazing.  The oncoming driver stopped.  There was no blare of the horn, no frustrated expression, just a smooth, calm cessation of motion.  And as he stopped, so did others until traffic was at a halt all the way across the road.  It was as though the sea had parted before us, granting us safe passage to the opposing shore.

In a brief moment, I wondered whether this was how Moses felt when he stepped into the Red Sea and watched the waters part before him.  Both his step and mine had been counterintuitive.  Steps of faith often are.  Yet without them we would miss so much of life: the joys which follow a walk down the aisle and the pronouncement of the words, “I do”, the sense of fulfillment which accompanies a successful business venture or the completion of a college education, the wonder of discovery and the marvel of accomplishment.  Indeed, one might even argue that life, itself, is a step of faith.  Only with courage will we succeed.


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