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NASULI & Bagabag

posted Nov 21, 2010, 7:07 PM by   [ updated Nov 2, 2011, 5:16 AM by Sites Admin ]

~ Becca Van Weerdhuizen, '99

Almost two weeks prior to the Class of 2010 walking down the aisle to the sounds of Pomp and Circumstance in the Cadd Auditorium at Faith, two graduates walked down a smaller aisle in the Bagabag Meeting Hall as the final class of the SIL schools.  This year's graduation seemed to mark the end of an era for SIL missionary families in the Philippines because of the closing of Nasuli and Bagabag. 

We stand in awe at all God has done through translation projects over the years.  Indeed, much progress has been made towards spreading the gospel in the Philippines - 58 total Bible translations have been completed and 19 translations are still in progress!  There is work yet to do, still no one is denying how this transition of moving away from the bases we called "home" feels strange, unfamiliar .  Our inner-MK is mourning the loss of the places that we viewed as paradise.

More than 50 years before, in the mid-1950’s, a school had been created on SIL’s translation and support center, Nasuli, to serve the educational needs of children of missionaries serving not only in the southern Philippines but also throughout Asia.  Twenty years later, in 1972, another SIL school opened in Nueve Viscaya on the Bagabag center to keep children close to their parents for their schooling.  During those years, the schools morphed from providing just early elementary grades to a full K-8 curriculum. 
(Photo Left to Right: Beverly Churchill, David Grayden, David Thomas, Elizabeth Grayden, Barb Ohlson, Peter Kruzan, Ruth Ohlson, Robin Gray, Jenny Headland, Marty Walrod, 1979)

Faith students who never had a chance to visit, no doubt heard idyllic stories from the fiercely loyal Bagabag and Nasuli kids.  Following their Grade 8 graduations, the majority of SIL kids on the centers became Faith kids – attending and boarding at Faith Academy in Manila.  Their stories of Nasuli and Bagabag sound like selections from The Swiss Family Robinson or scenes from the popular television shows Man vs. Wild or Survivor. 

Just about every Nasuli or Bagabag kid has memories about the delicious, sweet fruit scattered around the center.  Kids had their pick of mangoes, rambutans, guavas, bananas, cashew fruit, balingbings, and mangosteens among others.  But you had to be there early.  Maddy (Barker) Hardeman ('77) reminisced about going out to search for any guavas that may have survived the first pickings by the other kids.  She wrote, “Sometimes if you climbed the tree, you got a different perspective and would find a treasure.  There were also more ‘out of the way’ trees not frequented by as many children.”  Paired with the fresh fruit (especially the sour ones) was a strange concoction loved by most of the kids and by nearly none of the adults – Hairy.  Combine one part vinegar with one part soy sauce, a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce, then add whatever assortment of spices you can find in your mom’s kitchen – salt, pepper, chili flakes, onion powder, garlic powder, cumin.  Plant yourself in the midst of a circle of friends with the hairy in the middle.  Slice or bite off a piece of your fruit, create indentations in the piece of fruit with your teeth, and then dip into the hairy, and eat.  Repeat again and again and again until your prized piece of fruit is totally consumed.  Then, for the brave, drink the rest of the hairy.

(The Deck of the Nasuli Swimming Pool, photo by Ian Macleod)

The pools at both centers hold a special place in our hearts.  At age 10, you could take the swim test.  Passing the swim test afforded you the privilege of swimming with two others who had also passed the test, giving you the freedom from adult supervision that you so coveted.  Time in the pool in Bagabag was filled with games of Fox Across the River, Hide the Matchstick, and daring diving feats from the high-dive.  At Nasuli’s spring-fed pool, days could be filled with the same games but also hours of sunning yourself on the pier in the middle of the pool, battling it out with seaweed wars, swinging from the rope swing, a very short-lived flying fox, and tubing down the river on banana tree rafts, truck tire tubes, or homemade canoes.
Perhaps the tradition that created the most indelible memories was Play-out.  Every Friday night, after family dinners were over, the dishes had been done, and the parents were settled in for the night, the kids of Nasuli and Bagabag came out in droves.  Everyone would gather on the basketball court at Nasuli or the tennis court in Bagabag and make a corporate decision about what game would be played that night.  And for the next three hours, in the dark, you would play Capture the Flag, Ezekiel, basketball, or race around the court on your roller skates or roller blades.  On school breaks, with the return of the Faith kids to bolster the numbers, an all-out game of Coast Guards and Smugglers was in order.  Teams were picked with care – often headed by the oldest Faith kids and working down to the youngest elementary kids.  String bracelets were tied to each person’s wrist.  The Coast Guards stayed on the tennis court while the Smugglers headed up to the school (or to the water tower in later years).  “Money” was distributed with varying strategies – in some cases, it was given to the littlest kids (who wouldn’t be suspected) or loaded up on the fastest Faith kids or, on the rare occasion, distributed evenly among all members of the team.  Off everyone would run, hearts racing.  The Smugglers with one goal – get as much money as possible onto the tennis court.  And the Coast Guards with another goal – rip the string bracelets off of as many Smugglers as you could catch sneaking through the bushes, running across the plazas, sidling up to rows of houses, or crawling under buildings, rendering their money obsolete.  And with a call at the end, “Alli-alli-en-come-free,” switch allegiances and begin again.

Over the last five years, many adult Nasuli and Bagabag kids have made the trek back to the Philippines to re-live some of the memories and to say goodbye.  Many reflect on the “good old days” , expressing a sense of thankfulness for the childhoods that we were able to have – the imagination and sense of creativity that we developed, the aunts and uncles who cared for us, the community that played a part in raising us, and the simple plain-old-fun we made for ourselves.

(Photo:  Steve Headland, Jason and Allen Weins)

~ A bit of a disclaimer: I’ve trusted my memory for some of the details above and memories of a childhood paradise don’t always jive perfectly with reality.