We were told before we arrived that learning Cebuano was optional - that learning to speak the local language was a nice thing to do but not absolutely necessary. This is because many filipinos speak English, especially those working in a commercial setting such as a store. We would be able to get by without learning the local language.
This is true, depending on how one defines "get by". For sure, we can do fine in commercial settings with only English. But where we fall short is in the community. Many filipinos do not speak English well. As puti (white) in the community, we stand out like sore thumbs. Not speaking the local language only aggravates the distance.
Therefore, as a family we have been taking language lessons each week. Above our language teacher, Bibi, is helping us learn to speak Cebuano. I have asked my filipino co-workers to speak more Cebuano with me as well. Of course, at this point, that just means that our conversations are short and painful! But my co-workers are gracious.
It will take a lot of work to learn Cebuano well enough to start breaking down the distance between us and our filipino neighbors. "Maayong Buntag" means "good morning". Getting farther along in conversation beyond the pleasantries will take some time. Please pray for us as we learn Cebuano. We want to be all that we can be to communicate Christ to those around us. While we don't have much hope in changing our skin color, we do believe that taking the time and effort to learn Cebuano will go a long way in communicating that we care about the people we are living among - and that is important.