Sunday, August 16, 2009


When most people think of the Philippines, they think of the beaches. If only they could see the beauty of the mountains that surround me each day. They are a true gift from God.
This mountain is named "sleeping beauty." The Igorots call it that because its profile resembles that of a sleeping woman. Also, there are many waterfalls flowing from this mountains sides which the people here see as a symbol of birth and renewal of life, which is one of the most precious gifts of a woman.
The terraced sides of the mountains are planting rice, which is the staple diet of the people here. When the rice crop turns a bright yellow-green color, it is ready for harvesting.
-Melanie West Goes...Mountains.

St. James High School

In 1913, the first Anglican resident missionary in Besao started St. James High School with the help of St. Benedict’s parish. She was a British woman named Deaconess Ann Hargreaves. She devoted her life to the church and to the school, and is a hero among the people here. She is buried in the Kin-iway cemetery.
These are a few of the St. James High School girls. They are members of my Episcoposse in Kin-iway.
Mass for St. James High School students is held at St. Benedict’s every Thursday at 8am. However, only half of the students can fit at once, so they alternate each week by grade.
On St. James day each year, the students at St. James High School (ranging from age 12-16) celebrate by acting out a play reflecting the life and ministry of Saint James along with cultural dances and food. On Thursday’s I attend school mass and teach Economics, English, Christian Education and Technology and Livelihood Education (TLE) classes at this High School.
The traditional clothing of the Igorot people (people of the mountains) is worn here by the High School students during their cultural dance on St. James day. The boys wear gee-strings and play gongs, while the girls wear a skirt called a tapis.
-Melanie West Goes...St. James High School

Saturday, August 15, 2009


I want to introduce you all to some of the other parishioners of my church, St. Benedict's, in Kin-iway. This is a photo is of the senior E.C.W. (Episcopal Church Women) group. My Auntie is in the middle row on the far left-hand side. The women are wearing their traditional clothing called a tapis. These women are the most honored and well-respected members of our community.These are a few of the male parishioners of St. Benedicts. Second from the left is the Rector of St. Benedicts, Brent Quinnes. Third from the left is the Mayor of Besao, Wellingtone Pooten. Fifth from the right is the Senior Warden of St. Benedicts, Ronald Padalla. -Melanie West Goes...Parishioners.


I took a day trip with the Bishop to another Municipality called Kalinga in a village named Butbut. People here live very simple lives, with no modern housing, no indoor plumbing, and minimal electricity. They live off of the land, and occasionally engage in tribal warfare with nearby villages.
Community structure is very different in Butbut, as the people here operate as a whole community, and not as individual families. This structure is especially prevalent at meal times when the men eat separately from the women and children.Wild pigs and water buffalo roam around in the village and are only eaten on very special occasions.
This one-room house is typical of the housing style in Kalinga, and is how the people of Kin-iway lived about a hundred years ago. The woman who owns this home took me inside where she was cooking with an open fire and drying her rice above by way of the rising heat and smoke from the fire. Before the rice is dried it is called pa lay.The Anglican Church is spreading Christianity to Kalinga. While I was in Butbut, the Bishop blessed this Church as St. Luke’s and confirmed about 20 young people! Our church is alive and growing here in the mountains. -Melanie West Goes...Butbut


This is the view of my barangay (neighborhood) from St. Benedict’s Church. The name of the barangay is Kin-iway. It is the capitol of the Municipality of Besao and about 97% Anglican! Besao is located in the western part of the Mountain Province of Northern Luzon in the Philippines. There are about 300 people who live here in Kin-iway. There are no street names or house numbers here because everyone knows everyone else, where they live, and who they are related to. If you look you can see the barangay of Banguitan in the distance on the mountain side.This is the downtown area of Kin-iway which includes the municipal hall, post office, police station, hospital, shops, and elementary school. Our Market day is Sunday, so I head there after church! It is only a five minute walk from my house.
This is Besao Central Elementary School in downtown Kin-iway.
-Melanie West Goes... Kin-iway

St. Benedict's

St.Benedict’s Church was founded in 1910. There will be a centennial celebration this coming year! The Church, built in 1942, and is one of the oldest buildings in Besao, as it is one of the only buildings that survived the bombing during World War II. The Japanese made the church and its rectory their home base in the mountains during their occupation of Northern Luzon.
This is a picture of the gate to my house. As you can see, the church is very close. It takes about thirty seconds from front door to pew!
-Melanie West Goes... St. Benedict's


This is my landlady, and dearest friend in Besao. Her name is Cresencia Dongalen , but I call her Auntie. She is a retired school teacher and widow. The house that we live in belonged to her parents and is where she grew up. The house has a rich history. Many of her family members were born in that house, including her! Also, it was occupied by Japanese soldiers during World War II. Auntie was just a child, but she remembers the day that her family left in the middle of the night and climbed through the mountains to find safety and escape from the Japanese. She is a great storyteller. We laugh and tell stories while we eat dinner together on most nights. We have truly been enjoying each other's company.
-Melanie West Goes...Auntie