Merry Kwanzaa, Everybody!

Season’s Greetings from the Philippines! I hope you have all had a wonderful Advent and are eagerly awaiting a new year! I am currently in Bontoc, at the Bishop’s house, which is where I spent my Christmas.

It is impossible to replace your own family, and the feelings you have when you are all gathered together for the holidays, but this was the next best thing for me. I find that I often times don’t realize how much I appreciate things until I don’t have them anymore-Christmas in Wisconsin is one of those things. I have always enjoyed going up there for the Holidays, but never realized how much it meant to me until I couldn’t go.  I’m not one to get homesick easily; but I felt a very real, very sharp, pang for the house and family gathered in Wasau, Christmas morning. However, that was quickly replaced; it is hard to feel homesick in a place where people treat you like you are one of their own, which is something I’ll never be able to repay them for.

 

I’ve been asked several times what Christmas is like, here in the Philippines. So, I’ll try and do it justice. The first major difference that I have noticed, at least here in the Mountain Province, is how UN-commercial it is. I found this to be exceptionally refreshing. Of course I like buying and receiving gifts, who doesn’t? But it was nice not to be constantly bombarded with adverts and sale papers. It also, I think, allows for the true meaning of Christmas to hold a more prominent role in the public eye-as it should.  The second thing I noticed was that the radio stations, just like home, play entirely too much bad Christmas music. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy Christmas music, but the traditional stuff i.e. Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, Nat “King” Cole etc etc. I CANNOT STAND contemporary music stars making Christmas albums and ruining classic, beautiful songs. The third thing I noticed, which is more of a reflection upon myself than the Philippines, but I found it hard to believe that it was Christmas time because it isn’t cold. I think of blustery and snowy days when I think Christmas. It was balmy and in the 80’s Christmas day. The fourth thing I noticed, which is similar to the States, is that people here also deem it important to be with their family during Christmas. I think that may play into why it’s less commercial-people would rather spend money on their traveling expenses to be with family than purchase gifts. And they come from a long way; the Bishop’s sister, husband and son came from London, the Bishop’s niece and her husband came from Poland, and others came from both ends and all corners of the Philippines. A fifth thing, which they share with the states, is the production of a Christmas pageant, which was hands down better than any I have ever seen in the United States. They took this thing seriously. The kids were well behaved, they executed the parts with precision and skill, the costumes looked authentic-it was quite impressive. But perhaps the most glaring difference that I have noticed, or not noticed, is the absence of Christmas trees and lights. I have only seen one building with Christmas lights, which was a Catholic Church. As some of you may have also garnered thus far, our cuisine is a bit different, it continued to be so on Christmas. We butchered a goat and had fresh Tilapia for Christmas supper. It wasn’t my ideal Christmas supper, but it tasted good and was filling nonetheless. Following that food line, I made fried chicken last night. I can’t remember if I mentioned this already or not, but, there are KFC’s EVERYWHERE. World Wide-seriously-it’s ridiculous. Anyways, the moment I tell someone I am from Kentucky I can see the little light bulb go off and they immediately respond with, “like the chicken!” So, last night, at the request of the Bishop and the boys, I made fried chicken. I was leery at first; I didn’t think there would be any chance of finding paprika or onion powder in the Philippines, much less Bontoc, but to my pleasant surprise both were acquired. I’m sure that it wasn’t as good as what my Dad makes, but I think it turned out quite well. I also made mashed potatoes; I hadn’t eaten mashed potatoes since I left the states, and I love mashed potatoes. I ate entirely too many mashed potatoes.

 

I suppose that is about all for now, folks. Keep your fires warm, drinks strong and family close; be good, y’all!

Tuna, Bees and Eel

Well, since I have once again dropped the ball and let too long go by without a blog post, I’ll save the apology and get write (get it-‘write’) to it.

So, in the past month, I have been from one end of the country to the other. I’ll begin my blog with the trip that was the longest ago and continue on chronologically until present time.

My first trip was to Bohol, which is an island in the Southern half of the Philippines. Even though it is a relatively small area of the country, it is one of the more famous areas of the Philippines. It is home to the worlds smallest mammal, the Tarsier, and the Chocolate Hills, both of which draw tourist from all over the world. Along with me, I was joined by all of the Bishops of the Episcopal Church in the Philippines. We were also lucky enough to have Cannon Peter Ng and Rev. Cannon Bruce Woodock join us. While we did attend one day of meetings, the majority of time, for me at least, was spent relaxing and taking in the beauty that is the Philippines. The country is remarkably beautiful. It is easy to lose oneself in the surroundings. It takes no stretch of the imagination to be transported back a few hundred years. You walk down streets that are walled by Spanish architecture; you hear the ocean, birds, and children instead of cars, and you smell grilled fish and coconuts, which I think smells the same now as it ever did. It was a wonderful trip.kids waterfall seaaa seaside tarsier church bruce n peter

The next trip for me was to Davao, which is also in the lower half of the Philippines. I, along with the whole Community Development team, flew down for the Ordination, Consecration and Installation of a new Diocesan Bishop. Bishop Jonathon Casimina was installed as the first Bishop of the Diocese of Davao. I had the pleasure of meeting and spending some time with him in Bohol; I think the Episcopal Church in the Philippines has gained an excellent leader in Bishop Casimina. I expect many great things out of the Diocese of Davao in the very near future.

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While in Davao, I was  introduced to John Deane, the director of the ABM (Anglican Board of Mission), in Australia, and to Philip Miller, one of the ABM board members. Besides being excellent companions for a few days, they have offered an invitation to me for February. If everything works out-I will be going to Australia with Attorney Floyd Lawlet, who is the National Development Officer for the ECP. While Floyd has other business, I will be giving a presentation of the basics of YASC, along with what YASC has meant thus far to me and the benefits that come from a program like this. Needless to say-that excites me.

The trip to Bohol was at the end of October; the trip to Davao was at the end of November; the time in between the two were just as busy as always. During this time, I attended the ordination and the baptism of which was mentioned in my previous blog.

The ordination went very well and as I said before, I am honored. It was a bit of a strange feeling for me, though, vesting someone. I felt a tad out of place. I also felt a little strange vesting someone who is only one year older than me; I do not think her age takes anything away from her accomplishment-if anything it makes it more impressive; I guess it is just strange to have to look at someone of my age in that type of position. Luz Tobe is a Deacon, which is a position that is given respect world-wide. She is directly responsible for the spiritual and financial health of a parish. The thought of that kind of responsibility is daunting to me. I am not one who is afraid of responsibility, in fact, I even search it out at times; but, that specific type of responsibility seems a little different, to me at least, than being able to produce a presentation or document by a deadline. Shoo-growing up is a weird thing.

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We have also been busy in regards to the farm. We submitted two proposals, which have both been accepted. The first, is for the construction of a second, larger greenhouse. This greenhouse will be 20mx20m; the materials have been donated by the Tadian Department of Agriculture. Construction will be beginning within the following week. The second approved proposal was for a new water entrapment pool. This is exceedingly important to the continued growth of the farm; without this pool, the farm would be severely pressed for water in the coming months. The pond is also dual usage-we will grow and harvest Tilapia in it. Cool, right?

We also have begun the SRI, which is absolutely backbreaking work. My legs have been sore for dayssss. I don’t know if you all know this, but walking in shin-high mud all day is very tiresome. The fields have all been prepared, and the planting will be commence in 12 days. We have also just finished installing a net roof over the tree nursery, which will be harvested in late April and early May.

Bishop Brent and I are in the beginning stages of creating a youth in agriculture program as well. It will focus on organic farming and smart financial planning. As I said, it is in its fledgling stages, but I will keep you informed as we move along.

In my time, here in the Philippines, I have eaten several strange things. But, this past week, I ate the strangest. We harvested a Bee hive; I ate wild Bee. It was not good.

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I have also been given an Igorot name, which is Gatan. I may be wrong about the legend, but if I understood correctly, Gatan was this herculean type figure from one of the tribes here in the Mountain Province. Anyways, Gatan was said to be able to do anything and is single handedly given the credit for numerous battle victories and for bringing gold and water to the mountains. Naturally, I am flattered. The meaning of the name is nice, but its the meaning of them giving me one which is nicer. The Bishop said that by them giving me a name they have adopted me as a son into the community. He says it rarely happens to Americans and even less this quickly. So, that’s cool.

I also did the most un-American thing ever on Thanksgiving-we had tuna, river eel and squid. I felt like a traitor, but I think it would have been most difficult, if not impossible, to have found canned yams or a butterball turkey. Or, for that matter, an oven or stove by which to cook it. So, the Tuna sufficed.

Anyhow, I hope you have enjoyed this blog. I would say expect to hear from me again soon-but lets be real-history repeats itself-my blogging seems to be no exception to that rule.

Be Good, Y’all!