We set out, twenty of us, from Metro Manila to Sibalom, Antique.
The bus in Cubao was nothing imposing. Trust me, you won't even bother taking a second look at it. The green paint looked new, with the words Dimple Star--the name of the company, I guess--sprawled on its sides. But curiosity got the better of me. I surveyed it carefully, and when I saw the sign hanging in front that said "Antique," I was taken aback. Times have changed, old people will tell us. They used to travel for weeks to hop from this to that part of the country. Now all it takes is a bus.
From Cubao, we went to Batangas City. From there, we rode a ferry to Mindoro. Then, we took another bus ride to reach the other port, from which we rode the ferry going to Caticlan. We took another bus ride to take us, finally, to Antique. All in all, travel time was 19 hours.
Not, it wasn't easy. It wasn't torturous either. At the end of the trip we all looked haggard, almost like refugees: layers of oil in our faces, our hair a fuzzy frieze, and our eyes bloodshot because of stress. But these harships were nothing compared to the joy we felt during those, uhm, trying times.
The Lord granted us opportunities to share the gospel. While other people were mindlessly watching tv or idly staring at the foaming waves of the sea during the ferry ride, we took the chance to hand out gospel tracks to them. That way, we thought, instead of doing nothing, they might find ample time to leaf through the tracks. Still, the Lord used some of us to actually talk to people and share the gospel to these people personally.
I myself talked to two women whose names, weirdly, were both Marivic. The first Marivic was nursing her child, looking at the far horizon, disturbed occasionally by her son's crying. God granted me grace to talk to her. I asked her if she was sure where she was going if she died tonight. Surprised, she said no one can really be too sure. Men are sinful, she said, and it's a long way up to heaven. I told her that the good news is that we can be sure. I said I was sure I was going to heaven. She looked interested, so I shared to her the message--that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Jesus. I praise God for Razel who occasionally translated the big English words for me.
After sharing I felt a rush of excitement, the kind that made my knees shake and my throat dry. It's been a long time since I last witnessed, I thought. What was I doing with my loud, big mouth?
I then talked to the second Marivic seated very near me. She might've overheard me because she looked as though she already knew what I was saying. I was led to witness to her anyhow. I asked if she was sure she was going to heaven; no, she said. Why? I asked. I'm sinful, she said. She interrupted me with sharp, valid questions. She wondered that if salvation is by grace, then man need not do good works, that following God's commandments will be useless. Isn't holiness demanded of us? she asked.
In my mind, I was praising God. She was really paying attention! I told her that man is not saved because of his good works, he is saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8). Good works are the result of genuine salvation. If he genuinely received and believed Christ, then it is inevitable that he will do good works, that his life will drastically change. She didn't immediately agree with me on this point, so I took the time explaining the truth to her again and again.
She later told me that she has been sinning--just how, she didn't disclose. But I comforted her with the fact that Jesus' death is sufficient to cleanse us from all sins, big or small. That's why it's the good news, I said. Her face brightened. I could tell she was digesting what I've just told her. We then prayed together.
These all happened even before we even got to Antique--certainly a prelude to yet more amazing wonders the Lord was going to perform.