Cooked White Rice

Rice. Since I’ve been in the Philippines, I’ve only had a few meals that weren’t rice-based. I’m always glad to have a break from dishes with tons of white rice, but the kids love it so much that they even want rice in their spaghetti. At every meal, they pile huge amounts on their plates. I like the taste of rice, but something has been making my teeth feel gritty, and I think it might be all the starch.

The orphanage goes through two of these 120 lb rice bags every week.

It makes sense that rice would be a food staple in the Philippines. Despite the lack of variety, I haven’t felt overly hungry; it’s really filling. Furthermore, rice is cheap. The orphanage eats through almost two 50 kilo (120 lb) bags of rice a week, and all of that rice only costs them $240 a month. Because it’s so inexpensive, they are able to feed 30 people (the kids who live here, Matthew, Lee, me, and sometimes some of a pastor’s kids) three times a day. The other ingredients that the orphanage needs, such as vegetables, cost them about $160 a week. Therefore, they spend somewhere around $900 every month to feed 30 people three meals a day.

Judy Ann Eating Lunch

However, they’re just barely able to feed everyone. The American church that was supporting the orphanage is going through a financial crisis, and for months, the orphanage didn’t receive any funds, and they were just taking it day by day, believing that God would provide. They have been given a couple thousand dollar gifts since then, but their budget is still extremely tight. We eat rice and gravy for dinner almost every night, and though that’s a major step up for some of the kids, it’s still not as much as they should be getting.

Boys Eating Dinner

Lunch is more nutritious (and delicious). We always eat vegetables and usually some meat like hamburger or hot dog mixed into the rice.   Sometimes Matthew adds fake soy meat that soaks up the real meat’s flavor because it’s cheaper than meat but includes protein. Matthew used to be a cook in the Navy, and he went to baking school, so though the food is simple, it tastes really good. He knows how to make food very flavorful with inexpensive spices. I especially like the squash dishes.  On a normal day, we begin preparing lunch at 10:30 to have it finished by 12 when the kids come home on a lunch break from school.  (There’s a lot of vegetable chopping.)   However, the last few days, Matthew has gotten up early to prepare lunch and breakfast at the same time so that they can bring lunch to school and he can get stuff done here at the orphanage during the hours they would usually come home.

Chopped Vegetables

Vegetable and Hamburger Rice (a typical lunch)

For breakfast we eat oatmeal, another cereal-type-thing, or fried rice, which is the kids’ favorite.

Fried Rice (the kids' favorite breakfast)

We also ate spaghetti once and egg salad sandwiches twice. Sometimes we’ll have popcorn made on the stove or bananas the kids pick off the trees. There’s also another really good fruit that grows outside (but that we usually buy from the store) called pamelo which is like grapefruit but sweeter.


The only stove is outside on the porch, and there is no oven or microwave.


After church last Sunday, Matthew bought sugary bread sticks from a woman selling them on the street, and we also bought the same kind of sweet bread in roll form for breakfast one day.

Jessibel and Analiza Eating Sugary Bread Sticks

The day I arrived Matthew and Lee took me to Chowking, a Filipino fast food restaurant, and I’ve gone one other time since then.  Filipinos call napkins “tissues,” and all of the restaurants use actual dishes rather than plastic.

Filipino Fast Food

1st Chowking Meal

2nd Chowking Meal

The little ball with seeds on it tasted so good, like it had maple syrup in it.  The breaded pork was really good, too.  And, Lee said she thinks the chips are fish chips, i.e. cooked in fish oil.  I always like chips.  The meal was delicious but it still had a lot of starch.

Halo Halo

Top of Halo Halo

Halo halo is a really unusual dessert.  It contains many different textures and kinds of sweet tastes.  The top is made up of a kind of ice cream and hard jello.  The middle has icy ice cream, and the bottom has sweet beans.  I know there are other things mixed in, too, but I’m not sure what they are.  It all is just strangely sweet, and I definitely can see how people would like it, but I stopped eating it when I got about half-way down.  It wasn’t really my favorite. One thing that I did really like was ground meat stuffed in a doughy sweet bread pocket.  Lee bought it when we were in a mall in Cebu City to get the computer fixed.

Meat-Stuffed Roll

Lee Buying Meat Roll

The malls and grocery stores are huge and modern.  The malls have many American food chains and brand name stores.  You can buy many of the same things here that you can buy in the United States.

Grocery Store

I thought it was interesting they had senior citizen check-out lanes.

However, every store, even a small Dunkin Donuts has a security guard at the door to check your bag when you go in and out. Matthew and Lee told me that if you look like a beggar, they won’t let you into the store and sometimes poor people put on their nicest clothes to be let into the air conditioning for a while. The first time I went into a grocery store, I was actually surprised because the shelves were stocked with all kinds of food.  I thought, Well, I guess, why wouldn’t they be able to import this kind of food, too? It’s just that I wasn’t expecting to see so much variety because I kept seeing beggars and hearing stories of people starving on the street.  And, we ourselves were mostly eating rice.

The Philippines is a country where you can definitely understand the difference between well-off and poor.  The guards hardly even glance in my bag before I go into a store because I obviously have money and am not a terrorist, but they would never let the beggar at the door into the mall.  Although I didn’t ask to be born rich any more than she asked to be poor and I have convinced myself that I shouldn’t feel overly guilty, I do have the ability and desire to help.  And though I can’t help everyone, I pray God uses me to make at least a little bit of a difference.

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.  And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.  If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?  Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth,” 1 John 3: 16-18.

Written by

I am a college student studying English and Communications, and since I was very young I have felt that God may be calling me to take hold of the education my loving family has provided for me, the truths God has shown me, and the freedoms America has given me to craft them into something that will bring tangible relief to the world’s many impoverished citizens and tell them about Christ.

I met Matthew and Lee Dwinells while volunteering with my church at Rancho 3M in Mexico and have followed their journey to the Philippines while praying that I might find some way to help them. After a few failed attempts to obtain grants, my friends and family were very generous and donated money so that I could go serve at the orphanage. I received encouragement and help from various professors, and Dr. G very kindly created this website for me to update while I am there.

I am excited to see how God blesses the faith and support of the many people who have helped launch my trip. I pray that even just a few people will gain a better understanding of life in the Philippines and that through this endeavor the children at the orphanage will grow physically and spiritually. My upcoming adventure is a great unknown to me, but I’m sure God will use it for good.

“For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing,”
Deuteronomy 10: 17-18.