Thursday, May 8, 2014

BE in the Philippines - Down South

The Diocese of Davao, the last stop on our Philippine whirlwind, or better known as the “Battle with the Durian.”

Durian is Davao’s pride and joy. A fruit they say that “tastes like heaven, smells like hell.” Well, it definitely smells like Dante’s inferno and I’d go as far to say it takes like it to. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

{Me and Bishop Casimina with the Durian}

Buck, Emily, and I boarded a plane to Davao early Wednesday morning. First stop was the Diocesan office and guesthouse. The breakfast spread was full of new, colorful foods.  I think we were all a little frazzled and overwhelmed after the 3:30am wake up call. I kept the coffee flowing. Next thing we all know Bishop is saying, “well they’ll have to try it at some point. Yes, let’s bring out the durian.” Now, long before this trip I heard from Andrew to stay away. I didn’t quite understand his warning until the durian aura enters the room and your mouth immediately snaps up to cover your nose while your throat slowly closes shut. This is when the battle began.

With all eyes on me, I was the first to entertain our hosts by trying their precious fruit. They did say it takes like heaven so my hopes were up. The insides don’t look like any fruit I’ve ever seen. I would go for more of a whale blubber description with a pale yellow and gray coloring. I managed to swallow it and say, “interesting.” That was the closest of a warning I could give Emily without insulting Davao’s pride. I guess in some ways it was good we got it over and done with. We could say we tried it, but would definitely not be eating it again.

{The inside of the durian fruit}

{new and colorful food to try}

The Diocesan staff was kind to take in to account our early travel and let us have a long break at the hotel before an afternoon meeting. The meeting was similar to the one the day before. We took time to listen, learn, and share. Each office gave a presentation some included wonderful videos of their work!

It’s important to note that the Episcopal Diocese of Davao (EDD) is the newest diocese of the Episcopal Church in the Philippines (ECP), the daughter diocese of Episcopal Diocese of Southern Philippines. Bishop Casimina’s consecration took place in November 2012, only six days before devastating Typhoon Pablo hit the Mindanao Island. Then in November 2013 as EDD was celebrating the one-year mark, Super Typhoon Yolanda swept over the Philippines.

Instead of seeing the two natural disasters which bookended the first year as bad omens, Bishop Casimina and his wonderful staff saw it as an opportunity to spread God’s good works and assist in Typhoon relief. The diocese isn’t even two years old, it struggles month to month financially, and is the smallest in terms of baptized members, but those factors don’t deter it from extending a hand to its neighbors.

{Development Officer, Gideon Bustamante, sharing their work with Typhoon Relief} 

 {Group photo with the staff and a couple of clergy}

We continued to be astounded and energized by EDD the next day when Bishop Casimina and some of his staff took us to meet some of his congregations. At each one young and old congregation members joyously welcomed us. We had great fun introducing ourselves, explaining why we were there, meeting them as they stood to share their names and history of the church, and sometimes singing a song. Unfortunately, the battle of the durian continued as each church presented numerous fruits to the Bishop as a gift for his visit. The smell couldn’t be avoided as it wafted through the air aiming at Emily and I’s noses as searched for fresh air as quickly as possible. The durian lost some ground as we persuaded the other car to transport the fruit for the Bishop.

{Buck was in his element and loving life!}

{Emily is the one who "takes the pictures" - that's motion she's making}

{Bishop Casimina}

{Group shot with St. Bartholomew}

{No, that child is not wearing a wig}

{Wacky-Wacky shot with St. Mary the Immaculate}

{Introducing ourselves to St. Mary the Virgin Parish}

{One of the founders of the parish}

The most inspiring visit took place at Transfiguration Church. Upon arriving, we learned that the members of the church were not yet baptized Episcopalians. As one of the newest mission stations, the parish formed after the staff of the diocese assisted the community after a typhoon. While receiving the relief efforts, the community realized not only did they want to be fed physically but also spiritually. Hence the church building was constructed and the mission station formed. The only regret the community has is not learning about the Episcopal Church sooner.

{Diocese of Virginia World Mission hats for everyone!}

We returned back to the guesthouse to an overwhelming, delightful feast. Buck, Emily, and I shared our reflections and impression on our visit to Davao. It was their first time hosting international guests in such a way and wanted to hear feedback, but it will not be their last! It became difficult to share as durian was brought in as we began. Let me tell you it is hard to only breathe through your mouth and talk at the same time! Of course, we only had fabulous things to say. By visiting the congregations, we could see Bishop and his staff pour their heart and soul into these parishes and mission stations. It's hard not to when met with such joyous people in every congregation. Lastly, we received wonderful gifts for our visit and said our goodbyes as we were leaving early the next morning.

You could say we lost the battle to durian as we retreated far, far away from fruit that tasted like hell and smelled even worse. Even in the airport and on the airplane it lingered. It wasn’t until we were safely inside Manila’s airport that we had finally escaped our combatant.

Otherwise, it was a fabulous end to a fabulous trip!

{Map of our road trip}

10 days,
36 hours on the road,
6 different languages/dialects,
5 dioceses,
4 bishops,
2 islands
and numerous wacky, wacky photos,
led to a trip of a lifetime with two wonderful friends! Bridges were built and friendships are just beginning to blossom.

Thanks for reading!
Photos by Emily Cherry and me

Check back tomorrow for a wonderful article by Emily detailing EDD’s Typhoon Relief Efforts.

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