May 2005

Drama at 33,000 feet

On the plane from Manila to Vancouver a voice came from the intercom on the plane: “Is there a doctor on board? We are in need of the services of a doctor.”

A few minutes later, the same message was repeated.

I buzzed for a stewardess and told her that I was not a doctor, but I *was* a Catholic priest. Should the patient be in a serious state, or simply want someone to pray with him, I’d be happy to help.

She came back about 15 minutes later. “Father, we do need you now.”

Travel days ahead

The next few days will be travel days, so I don’t expect to be writing any posts until I’m back in Montreal. The itinerary is:

May 30: travel back to Manila
May 31: fly to Vancouver
June 1: fly to Montreal (arrive 7:15 am)

I’m hoping to be able to make it to the 8:30 am mass at the parish that morning, but we’ll see what happens with the plane (as well as how I’m feeling). Hope to see you all again soon!

Visiting Singapore

I wrote my previous post from the American Club, where I spent the morning. After lunch Ian and I headed out into the city, to do a bit of a personal walking tour. It turned out to be somewhat of a religious tour, actually, as we mainly visited houses of worship. We saw the Sultan Mosque, a Buddhist temple dedicated to the Chinese goddess Kuan Yin, and two Hindu temples (one devoted to Kali, the other to Vishnu).

Greetings from Singapore!

There was a bit of a change of plans in my trip interary recently, so I am spending my last weekend in Asia visiting my old classmate Ian, who lives in Singapore. Being so close already it seemed a logical side-trip to take!

I’m writing this from the library of the American Club, where Ian is a member. I’ll do more back-posts when we get back to his condo this evening. For now, I’m off to do a walking tour of the city. Ciao for now!

Travel day: Solano to Singapore

Today was the travel day to beat all travel days.

It started last night in Solano, where Fr. Placido and I hopped a bus at 9pm bound for Manila. Total travelling time: 6.5 hours. The driver drove like a maniac — I’m just glad it was too dark to see! We got to Manila at 3:30 am, and waiting in the rat-infested bus terminal for a lift back to Raquel’s Quezon City home. We got there a little after 4, where I just crashed onto a mattress on the floor.

The rice terraces of Banaue

Today we drove about 2 hours to get to the small town of Banaue, the location of the world-famous rice terraces. I had heard about them — they are a UNESCO World Heritage Site — but given all the driving we had had to do to get there, I really hoped they would be worth it. Indeed they were! Some have even called them the “Eight Wonder of the World”, and I’d be inclined to agree — the pictures I’ve found on the Internet just don’t do them justice.

Travel day: Tagaytay to Solano

Lots of time on the road today. From Tagaytay we headed to Quezon City, where Raquel’s family has a small house, to grab a bit of lunch. From there we drove 7-8 hours to Solano, which is northeast of Manila in the mountainous area. All told we were at least 9 hours in the car. Nothing to adventuresome to report apart from that!

Congrats to Ingemar and Raquel

Today was the wedding of Fr. Placido’s cousin Ingemar to his lovely fiancé Raquel. I was privileged to concelebrate the wedding mass, as well as to offer the blessing of the food at the following banquet. Everything was really quite lovely, and I feel honoured by how I have been welcomed and accepted by everyone. Congrats to the bride and groom!

Travel day

We were up early this morning, as Fr. Placido was invited to preside and preach at a local parish for their fiesta celebration of Trinity Sunday. We had to eat and run, though, because today we were travelling to Tagaytay. As it was we made it to our plane with only 20 minutes to spare!

Educational development in Dapa

This evening I went out for supper with a former parishioner of Fr. Placido, who is attempting to found a local library in Dapa, in the island of Siargao. He is looking for donations of books, both fiction and non-fiction, so if anyone is interested in making a donation please contact me by email and I’ll see how we could ship them to him. (NOTE: please do *NOT* start shipping stuff to me without at least contacting me first!)

A day of prayer

We were up at 4:45 am to grab a boat from Dapa back to Surigao, arriving just in time for breakfast. After writing my most recent series of posts, I headed back to the Cathedral (where we are staying) for a bit of rest — I was *pooped*.

Island hopping

Last night we changed locations, moving from Del Carmen to Dapa, to better continue our adventures. The first day in Siargao we toured the island by car — today, by boat! We headed to the shore to meet our boatman, who lives right there, and a cute moment ensued: his little girl came out, saw me, and shouted “Hi Father!”, enthusiastically coming over to ask for a blessing. Kids love to ask for a blessing from a priest here, but what touched me was that I wasn’t a stanger any more to her, but a priest — the faith really does cut across all barriers.

Congrats to Jeddi and Joey

This morning I had the honour of concelebrating a wedding mass at the parish in Del Carmen. Fr. Rocha, a friend of Fr. Placido, was the main celebrant, and I got to tag along. The church was packed, and the wedding procession was HUGE — at least three dozen people came down the aisle prior to the bride. The church was packed, and I came to a greater insight into the Philippino marriage customs which I had already encountered back home in Montreal.

Siargao Island

We hopped a boat this morning at 6 am for a bumpy 2-hour ride to Siargao Island, where Fr. Placido was pastor for 5 years (in the town of Dapa). The last bit of our ride was a trip through crocodile-infested mangroves, to finally arrive at the port of Del Carmen, where we dropped off our bags at the local parish and had some breakfast.

New appointment

The new appointments have been announced, so I can now officially say what my fate will be: I am leaving St. Thomas à Becket, to be a Chaplain at the Lakeshore General Hospital, and Assistant Pastor at St. Luke’s Parish, effective September 1. I will be replaced at Becket by Fr. Placido, my travelling companion! The parish, I believe, will be well served — Fr. Placido is a great guy. I’m looking forward to the challenges of this new ministry, but I will miss the parish. It has been an honour to serve you.

The Picture of Dorian Gray

Finished reading Oscar Wilde’s “The Picture of Dorian Gray” today. My, it was depressing. But what fantastic insights regarding the nihilism of our times! The story is about a young man, Dorian Gray, who is gradually corrupted from his purity and innocence, to become an abominable person. So, yes, depressing. But what is interesting is that his corruption is brought on, not be experiences, but by ideas.

Malimono — Fr. Placido’s home town

This morning was the town fiesta of Malimono, the place where Fr. Placido grew up. We actually headed out to the town yesterday afternoon, and Fr. Placido showed me around his old house (where some of his family still lives), his even older house (where there is a school nearby named in honour of his grandfather), and (of course) the nearby beach. I could see on his face the flood of memories — it is always that way when a place has meaning for us.

Travel days

I’m writing this post for two days (starting May 13), because of the travel involved. Read more, you’ll see why.

We left Boracay on the morning of the 13th, by boat to Caticlan, and then by propeller aircraft to Cebu City. We took a bit of a break, met up with some other priests who would be travelling with us, and then re-packed our bags for the next phase of our trip: an overnight boat to Surigao.

The Holy Spirit is in charge

Of course, you already knew that. But just to prove it once again, let me tell you about today’s lunch.

I am staying at a resort called “Jony’s Beach Resort”. How did we pick this one? We just left it up to the travel agent. We had no clue ourselves where we should stay.

Travel day: Davao to Cebu, Cebu to Caticlan, Caticlan to Boracay

It has been a while since my last update from the Philippines. Things are great here, and I’m having a most interesting time — so interesting, in fact, that I haven’t had time to blog at all. But Fr. Placido and I just got to Boracay today, so I thought I’d take some time this evening in an Internet café and update everyone on my adventures. Check out the back posts for details!

A little piece of home

I have discovered something very interesting here in Davao: Canadian priests, especially those from Quebec, are held in very high regard. The whole diocese, you see, was originally founded 60+ years ago as a missionary project of the Prêtres des missions étrangères, and the very first bishop of the diocese was a French Canadian! I had a chance to visit his tomb in the cathedral, and then to visit the house of the p.m.e. fathers. They were so surprised, but so happy, to get a visit from home, and in true French-Canadian style offered great hospitality.

The Philippine Eagle Center

I’m currently in Davao, in southern Mindanao, staying at REMASE (an acronym which means REgional MAjor SEminary). The main visit of the day was to the Philippine Eagle Center, a conservation site aimed at educating the public about the endangered Philippine Eagle. They also have a captive breeding program, and have even managed to reintroduce a few birds into the wild. The Center is very impressive, but not nearly as impressive as the birds themselves.

The world’s smallest monkey

Today I had a chance to visit the Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary, a protected area to safeguard one of Bohol’s most fragile residents: the Tarsier, the world’s smallest monkey. And really cute, too! Apparently this is the creature that Stephen Spielberg based “E.T.” on. Unfortunately these tiny animals are threatened due to the destruction of their habitat, although some greater environmental awareness is slowly emerging.

Balicasag, day 3

Today I got a taste of what I can only describe as “rustic Philippino medicine”. Oh, don’t look so worried. Looking back, the whole incident was hilarious.

Some background: I must have stepped on a piece of sharp coral or something, because I developed a sore of some kind on the bottom of my foot. If it had been anywhere where else, I would have ignored it, but given that I (like most people!) walk on my feet, this was most annoying (and limp-inducing).

Balicasag, day 2

Now this is a vacation: I swim in the ocean until I get bored of that, then I read until I get bored of that, then I swim in the ocean again. Repeat until bedtime.

And did I mention that the food here is great? I am not much of a fish eater, but given that the catch of the day really was caught that day, by one of the fishing families here on the island, it is too good to resist.

This is the life!

Hinagdanan cave

Today’s highlight: Hinagdanan cave, on the island of Panglao, just opposite the city of Tagbilaran. (Again, not my photo.) After climbing down a small ladder you enter a large cave filled with sea water — just ready for swimming! So naturally, I forgot my bathing suit :-( All very interesting nevertheless.

The Chocolate Hills

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m currently in Bohol, one of the provinces of the Philippines, and also the name of the largest island of that province. One of the main attractions here is a site of natural beauty called the Chocolate Hills. The pictures I’ve linked to don’t really do them justice, although the web page does provide some interesting additional info on Bohol itself. Trust me: the Chocolate Hills really are breathtaking and well worth the visit.

Greetings from Bohol!

After a 30+ hours trip, including 3 flights and 1 boat ride, I made it to Tagbilaran in the province of Bohol. Fr. Macarine and I are staying with the family of a friend of his, Fr. Jing Jong (that’s a nickname), whose father was once the mayor of this city.