We can never go wrong with faith! So keep it burning.
In my recent travel abroad, once again, I felt God's presence and protection all throughout the trip.
Here’s one inspiring story to tell.
I was traveling with my two friends, Rowie Tagaan and Vangie Colastre. It was a little dicey trip because we’re taking an adventure to two Southeast Asian countries not frequently visited by most Filipinos, we’d no contact either and we did not book a tour guide, it was a do-it-yourself-itinerary (DIY) sort of thing. To top it all, most folks of these countries could not speak nor understand English very well and we could neither speak the countries’ languages nor understand a bit of it.
We crossed Cambodia on the third of January and during this trip, inconvenience crept in but it never affected our happy disposition, nevertheless, a little kick of worry showed up.
We had no Cambodian currency (Riel) because we planned to exchange our money the moment we arrive at Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital. We did not have any idea also how to reach the hotel and how to negotiate with transportation.
While having our stop over few miles from the border that divides Vietnam and Cambodia, we kept discussing how we could buy Cambodian currency the moment we reach Phnom Penh but none of us found an exact answer, then few steps from where we stood, we heard someone talking over her phone in a Filipino language, we exchanged curious glances and moved closer to the woman, we approached her and discovered she is a Filipina from Bulacan (Philippine province) and currently working as a performer at one of Phnom Penh’s hotel lounges.
She told us what to do the moment we reach Phnom Penh, she also shared many things about Cambodian’s customs and traditions and how to take extra precautions. She told us to buy dollar currency as locals would prefer it than Cambodian Riel. We had a nice conversation during our long trip to Phnom Penh.
My friend, Rowie Tagaan with Reychel Mendoza, the Filipina who
helped us on our way to Phnom Penh city
When we arrive at the capital it was nearing dark, almost six in the evening. She negotiated our fare with a Tuktuk driver and accompanied us during the ride, he also instructed the driver to bring us to the hotel where we booked for the night. I gave her my email address so that she can locate me in Facebook but we never heard from her since then. I could not locate her name in FB too, she must be sent by God to guide us!
After checking-in at Hotel Luxury World (we already booked our accommodation weeks before our trip) we went out to look for a money changer outlet, we just walked on foot, crossing different streets, but we could not find one because all outlets were already closed, after an hour of walking we felt our last energy had dropped.
Hunger pangs lurked in but we could not eat because we have no local currency. One man told us to just return to a nearby outlet on the following morning as it will open at 7:30. Oh God at 7:30!
Without a local currency or even US dollar, we would be facing a dangerous possibility that our planned trip to Siem Reap and Angkor Wat would not be pushed through as it would be impossible for us to book a bus ticket conveniently that night.
So we decided to just go with the reality, return to the hotel, sleep with an empty stomach, eat biscuits and drink water, and wake up early to return to the money changer outlet. But during those times, we were engrossed with our own thoughts, not sure what my two friends were thinking but I kept on asking God’s intervention to protect and help us. I have kept a picture of St. John Paul II in my wallet ever since he became a saint.
We continued with our walk, finding the street of the hotel, but after 30 minutes of walking, we knew we’re in trouble, we could not find the street of the hotel and all the bystanders we asked could not understand what we’re talking about, we’re officially lost!
We crossed another street, and another, but all efforts went into drain when we realized the street and block we’re in, looked totally different. We did not hire a tuktuk afraid we would be lost even more if the driver could not get our instruction.
We started tracing back where we got in but did not dare to go further because of fear we might end on dark corners. So we decided to stop before crossing another intersection. We chose a corner with a glaring street light so that we would not encounter bad elements, snatchers, drug addicts or worst, kidnappers. We tried to figure out where on earth we were and where we started our long walk and how we could trace back where we got in.
I told Vangie that the only reminder I could associate to the street of the hotel is the road under construction with a big backhoe but we ended up laughing because the road we currently in has no traces of disruptions and no matter how we would stretch our stares no signs of road under construction. Whoaaa! Rowie joked that what if we would just revert our shirts, just like the regional superstitious belief in the Philippines of turning back the shirt when lost, to find our way back. We laughed even more.
And just as we thought everything was very hopeless. One miracle happened, right at the area where we stood in, a symbol of light flashed in!
As I turned my back to search for some solutions to our concern, I saw this really magical line “Western Union Money Changer closing time: 9:00PM”! We checked our watch and it was….8:30PM! OMG!!! I started uttering, God is so good, you are so good! Thank you Lord!!!
We entered the Western Union like kids who saw an amusement park, big smile drew all over our faces and yes this money changer accepts Philippine peso to buy dollar currency. It was a huge miracle that I kept murmuring “God you are so good, thank you for helping and guiding us”
We left Western Union in high spirit, with so much gratefulness in our heart, with a realization that indeed, God performs a miracle every day. We started crossing the street again to take our dinner because we’re extremely hungry, we did not take our lunch. We wanted to try a local style of dining, so we chose this small food stall along the road.
With Vangie Colastre having dinner at Phnom Penh city
After dinner, we got up and continued searching the street where Hotel Luxury World is located. We stopped asking people in the street because they could not understand us. When we returned to the street where we found the Western Union, it was then that I remembered we crossed two corners on the north side of Hotel Luxury world in search of a money changer outlet. We traced those corners again and puff! I found the broken road with a big backhoe! Oh my God!!
We reached the hotel with so much laughter with this blunder. We paid the hotel receptionist for our bus tickets for Siem Reap, went upstairs to our room and retired to bed with a contented heart and praising God for all His guidance and protection.
I considered all the misses as great miracles from God, using so many instruments and circumstances to identify His graces and mantle protection.
1. He allowed Reychel Mendoza to meet us to be our guide in Phnom Penh so that we would not be put in danger.
2. He allowed us to be lost in the street to reach the Western Union outlet to exchange our money for a foreign currency. I was so surprised why the road marker near the hotel I kept putting in my mind suddenly slipped from my memory when I am very good in remembering even the slightest details of information, much more streets and landmarks. But, no doubt, it was God’s work. He allowed it to happen so that our footsteps would bring us to Western Union, had I remembered the street and saw the marker, we would never reach the street where the Western Union, the lone opened money changer outlet that evening, stood.
See, there’s no such thing as discomfort in traveling, there’s only adventure to enjoy the trip. Life itself is a great adventure and a beautiful journey to walk on. We will never learn unless we don’t go for an adventure. Discovery is a lot more exciting if we are dragged in an uncomfortable situation. As long as there’s strong faith in God, confidence and courage to wind off misses, everything would be a joyful journey.
This experience inspired me even more to visit strange places. I am no longer afraid explore the world. For as long as my faith is strong there's nothing to fear of because prayers can really move mountains and God never forsake those who trust His mantle protection.