I arrived in Manila on their February 2nd, Western Washington’s February 1st. I was met by Betsy Reodica and Fray DeGay, both employed by the National Episcopal Church of the Philippines. They were so gracious and saw me to my hotel, the Sulo Hotel, which I was very glad to see. I had a good first night and good breakfast, then off to the national offices to meet with the Prime Bishop Edward Malecdan and his staff. After a good sharing that morning, we all went to lunch together and then Fray took me back to the airport for my plane trip, 1.5 hours south to Zamboanga City. Unfortunately, it was delayed more than two hours, but we did finally take off.
The first thing I could not help but notice was that, on a Airbus 320, I was the only Anglo face. This was an experience I was going to have quite a bit, and it was daunting at times, but also quite good for me. I think of those among us that have to deal with the same every day, in some form or fashion. This is made so by many things but mostly by the fact that this part of the Philippines is now under several travel warnings. In fact, the most recent one on the State Department Website regarding Philippines mentions most of the areas I traveled and stayed in as places where Americans are discouraged from traveling.
All of that aside, I was warmly welcomed by Bishop Bustamante and some of his staff at the airport. They had gotten special permission to enter the airport secured area to meet me right off the plane. We had a good evening meal and then off to my first night in the Lantanka Hotel, on the water. And old but venerable place. I was well taken care of here. The next morning I was up early and picked up by Bong, another staff member and excellent driver for us during my stay, and taken to Brent School, named after Charles Henry Brent, the first missionary bishop to the Philippines after the US acquired the islands in the Spanish-American War. Brent set up many schools and his name is on many of them. Brent School is Zamboanga is Chaired by Bishop Bustamante, and I was fortunate to be there for the 98th Anniversary of the school. So, an early morning Eucharist, breakfast with diocesan clergy and school staff.
After that, Bishop Bustamante chaired the Board meeting as several area residents and clergy took me up to see several tree planting environmental projects they put on steep hillsides to mitigate earlier slash and burn tactics. The local parish and diocese worked extensively with local farmers to help in this area. We also visited the Church of the Good Shepherd in Zamboanga where I would preach the next morning and where Bishop Bustamante and I would sign the covenant I posted last night. I had a scrumptious lunch, the first of many great meals, in the gazebo at Good Shepherd, where this is also a school, all 10 grades, with about 400 students.
With a full stomach and still reeling from jet lag I was blessedly given a chance to rest a bit at the hotel and this also gave me time to work on my sermon. In late afternoon I was picked up again for a dinner at Brent School and then a front row seat at the Faculty Appreciation and 98th Anniversary Show! There are videos below of some of the truly great acts put on by students and faculty. Wonderful night! So much fun! After a later night than we first thought, back to the hotel for a night’s rest.