Life Update Post!
I have been living in Tabuk and working with the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Luzon since January 23rd and I have been very busy! I have gone on 2-week long community visits, went to the Igorot Global Organization bi-annual gathering, sat in on a diocesan clericus meeting, went to a wedding, met other missionaries, and more! I will be staying in EDNL until the end of their diocesan convention on March 17 - 20.
My first weekend in Tabuk, I went with Bishop Pasikan to Balbalasang which is a barangay in western Kalinga. In the early 20th century, American missionaries started a school there that is still run by the Episcopal Church in the Philippines. It was the feast day of St. Paul- the namesake of the school and church. The barangay also had their festival at the same time so it was a week of festivities. We started our visit with a church service including the confirmation of 22 youth and the reception of one. We then had lunch at a congressman’s house.
The school in Balbalasang is a high school that owes its current success and ability to stay open to Viccy Harper, a missionary from Australia. 18 years ago, she and her husband were trying to find a place they could spend a few months giving back. The Australian Anglican Board of Mission got them connected with the ECP. She was sent to Balbalasang and has been coming back almost every year since. She has worked to improve the quality of teaching by establishing stronger finances so the school can afford the teachers they need. She has really helped bring the school from almost closing their doors to now building a new girl’s dormitory. She was there while I was visiting and it was wonderful to meet and hear her stories of how things have changed since she first arrived 18 years ago.
That afternoon, we watched various sporting events and then that night there were cultural performances. The performances didn’t start until around 10 pm! It was cold and late, so I didn’t last too long. I did get to see a very funny performance by the Episcopal men’s group Brotherhood of Saint Andrew (BSA) and some adorable performances by the elementary schools.
On Sunday, we went to the neighboring community for Sunday mass, including more confirmations! In the afternoon, the bishop went back to Tabuk. I stayed to wait for an E-CARE project officer named Aldwin. He was meeting me there so that we could go and do community visits.
We spent the next four days visiting communities in the area holding various meetings including assisting with a community’s application for their first cycle of R2G livelihood support, a general assembly, and a bookkeeping training.
That weekend, back in Tabuk, I attended a wedding! It was the wedding of a priest’s daughter. The children of priests in this diocese have a group and it was fun to meet other individuals of clergy members. Many were young women so I fit in perfectly. In the afternoon, I got to have coffee with a young adult volunteer with the Presbyterian church. We shared stories of our experiences here in the Philippines. We both arrived in August so our timelines overcoming culture shock and homesickness have been similar.
I got to attend a diocesan clericus meeting. It was interesting to see a new part of priesthood that I hadn’t seen from my dad. They talked about national church business and new salary policies. They also talked about revitalization and evangelism and how to grow the church. A priest in the diocese had recently gone on a trip to Malaysia. The province there is growing exponentially. The priests at the meeting talked about how they could take examples from there and implement them successfully here. One approach they agreed to tackle was to improve their music ministry.
The next weekend, I got to partake in activities for the Igorot Global Organization (IGO) bi-annual meeting. Igorot is the name given to people coming from the Cordillera region of the Philippines. Every 2 years, members of this organization meet somewhere around the world to have fellowship as well as discuss ways to give back to their home. I met Igorot people living in New Zealand, Europe, Canada, and all over the US. I got to sit in on presentations on topics related to sustainable tourism. The Cordillera was one of the last regions colonized by western nations. Tribal traditions are still practiced here as well as the production of traditional weaving and other crafts. This well-preserved culture, along with beautiful mountains and nature, presents an opportunity for tourism. However, everyone is concerned about the destruction of their culture and natural resources if tourism grows too large or too quickly.
Monday afternoon, Jocel (another E-CARE project officer) and I were off for a week in the North Star deanery. We spent the week in various communities in Apayao, Ilocos Norte, and Cagayan. Most of the trainings here were on strategic visioning, part of E-CARE’s current Capacity Enhancement Program. We spent time in the mountains, rain forest, and at the beach!
This weekend I will be attending the consecration of a newly built church, going to a nearby city for visa extension, and then I head to Manila for meetings between TEC and ECP.