Thursday, September 29, 2005

Things that are hard to accept here

I just found out today that one of our household staff has taken two weeks off work to go to the funeral of her grandson who died in the provinces from diarrhoea. I had real trouble accepting that somebody to whom I was connected had just died from something that could be so easily treated: I even have the medication in my room. I was informed by the people here that in many places in the provinces people simply don't have clean water and medication with which to deal with these problems. It just makes one feel so helpless. May his soul and all the souls of the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace, amen.
In Christ through Mary,

Feast of the Archangels

Today is the day on which the Church honours St. Michael, St. Raphael and St. Gabriel: three of the seven archangels. I found a great painting by Botticini that I was going to use to accompany this post but the blogger picture tool is working for me at the moment. Today's feast put me in a reflective mood, especially as regards devotion to the archangels. It must be admitted that in general devotion to St. Michael and the other archangels in popular Catholicism today is practically nil. For example, when I went to help with today's bible study with the poor we asked them to name the three archangels whose feast we celebrate today. They had trouble doing this. This would have been inconceivable before the liturgical reforms when St. Michael would have been probably the most familiar saint to the average Catholic after Our Lady and St. Joseph. The prayer to St. Michael which I include below was said after every low mass in the old rite as part of the prayers after mass added by Pope Leo XII. Since these prayers were suppressed one hardly ever hears mention of St. Michael in particular and the other archangels except for on this day and perhaps the annunciation. The disappearance of these great angels from popular perception can be seen as part of a wider departure within the Church from the eschatological perspective. This departure while not of course occurring in the dogmatic sense did take place in the liturgy thus can be said to have changed how Catholicism feels for the majority of its adherents. The tendency within the Church today is to avoid mention of what we should be working towards: the last judgment. The formerly strong devotion to St. Michael was an integral part of an understanding of the Church as militant: as fighting for the salvation of souls against the devil. Since it is unfashionable to mention the devil it is necessarily the case that there will be no mention of the angelic powers which resist the dominion of Satan. How can one mention St. Michael without describing his main function: to fight the demonic powers. I believe Pope John Paul II realised that it was vital for the survival of Catholicism to rescue and strengthen the devotion to Our Lady that was much damaged by the liberals of the 70s and that is why he worked so hard in this regard. In the same way, the time has come to promote this most vital aspect of Catholicism: devotion to the archangels, particularly St. Michael, if we are to restore the sense of this life as a battle for the good, our own sinfulness and need of God's mercy and grace.
Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel
Saint Michael the Archangel,defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray; and do Thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host by the Divine Power of God cast into hell satan and all the evil spirits who roam throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Queen of the Parish

As promised,
Here's a picture of the Queen of the Parish Event

Filipinos love pageants and contests so much. It's unbelievable to me coming from post-feminist Britain the amount of attention and adulation that beauty queens get here.

The Filipina winner of Miss International (picture from the Times of India) has become an instant celebrity here. For two days in a row she has been on the front page of the national broadsheet newspapers and her life is being examined in depth on TV. I commented that in England these things are just laughed at in the manner of the Eurovision Song Contest (for those who haven't seen it, you are really missing out, it's hilarious) but here they are more popular than singers. Funny old world, eh?

Other news: I've started going to the squatter areas every day now to do Bible Study with them. I would love to show you photos of the terrible conditions in which these people live but it really wouldn't be a good idea to take my camera there. When I go there I try to look as simple as possible because the fact that I'm white attracts enough attention in itself . Keep in touch,

In Christ through Mary,


What kind of Elitist are you?

Name the era, and you can name every artist from
it. You've got an eye for design and a knack
for feng shui. Color schemes, architecture, and
objt d'art - these are all your forts.What people love:
You're the perfect person to shop
with.What people hate: They have to clean their house
whenever you come over.

What Kind of Elitist Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Thanks to Lauren for the link
Great Quiz

Sunday, September 25, 2005

My parish church's sanctuary

Following up on the liturgy post, here's a pic of the sanctuary of my parish to represent the average Catholic church here in the Philippines.

Where are you politically?

Thanks to Lauren for the link.
You are a

Social Conservative
(25% permissive)

and an...

Economic Liberal
(25% permissive)

You are best described as a:


Link: The Politics Test on Ok Cupid
Well, I knew that, ;-)

Saturday, September 24, 2005

An aquatic day all round for an Aquarius

Had a great day today. Got my hair cut then went to a spa for the first time in my life. It's so cheap here, got to use a jacuzzi, go in the sauna and have an hour long massage for only 350 pesos (3.50 pounds, 7 dollars), it was so good. After that, having worked up a serious appetite, ;-) I went to Greenbelt mall (regular readers should know this place well by now) for some excellent European food. You won't believe what happened. I walked towards a restaurant called Fish and Co which I had read was opening and cooked Fish and Chips (for those who aren't familiar that's fried battered fish with fries) a dish which is much beloved in my native England and I had greatly missed in my three months here. The lady greeting potential customers proceeded to tell me that the restaurant had not yet opened, would not do so until 27th September and that it was only open today for family members of the staff to prepare the restaurant for opening. I poured out my heart to this lady, pleading with her to allow me a taste of something that I missed so much and promising that I wouldn't possibly let my first impressions be spoilt by any unreadiness I might encounter. The lady was convinced and went to check with the manager if we could be allowed to enter. We could and were promptly seated and told that we should order a whole set menu of three courses because everything today was ON THE HOUSE. I was shocked because I hadn't thought that of course they couldn't charge for it since they weren't officially open for business. When I had pleaded with this lady I had of course every intention to pay but discovered to my great amusement that I had effectively begged for a free meal in return for my comments on the experience. The waiters couldn't have been more polite and attentive and the beautiful food was served very promptly indeed. We had baked mussels as a starter, followed by spaghetti in tomato source and probably the best fish and chips I have ever tried ( and I've tried a lot), definitely the most gourmet. What was that someone said about giving yourself to the Lord and him blessing you abundantly?! ;-)
Other news, there has been so much going on in the parish lately, it being our parochial fiesta tomorrow. Last night the Queen of the Parish coronation and party was held. The Queen of the Parish is a ceremonial title and crown which is given to the lady representing one of the various parish organisations who can raise the most money for the parish, photos to come soon. As you can imagine it was rather an exuberant affair with tiaras and ball gowns all round, very intriguing. Tomorrow mass will be celebrated by our Bishop, once again at 7:30 am so I better get to sleep soon.
Last thing: I'm very happy because I think my blog may have had a visit from the very cool Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. Well, somebody from Ann Arbor at least.
More parish stuff tomorrow,
In Christ through Mary,

Liturgy in the Philippines

This post came about because of a question by Quintero, author of the excellent but terrifying LA Catholic blog. Quintero commented that he heard of pretty crazy things being done with the liturgy over here in the Philippines so I wanted to give my experience of how things are. I have to say that in my experience and from what others have told me liturgical abuse here is almost nil. The spirit of Vatican II never prevailed here; the new norms were implemented and that's about it. Often altar rails were removed and altars were moved away from the wall slightly (just enough to allow for versus populum celebration, still in the sanctuary deo gratias). Oh yes and sometimes tabernacles were moved to side chapels. Whether we personally agree with these moves they were all recommended by Rome, and the Church here showed its loyalty by following; they went no further. Statues were never removed (my parish church which is in an extremely poor area has seven images of Our Blessed Mother alone) and are still very important for Filipinos. I have yet to meet a priest who would be considered liberal in the west. When I once described te opinions and behaviour of a priest whom I knew from London, including his lack of belief in angels and condemnation of the use of incense, my community were shocked and wondered whether he believed in anything of the Catholic faith. In many ways popular catholicism here has retained much of its pre-conciliar character. First fridays are big occasions when a great number of offerings are given to the parish, many people pray in chapels of permanent adoration (which are common here) every day, the rosary is said by a group of people every day before mass and processions are a big part of life here. What Quintero may be referring to is the widespread pre-Christian beliefs which the average person stills cling to alongside the Catholic faith. These range from what we would consider harmless superstitions to the sacrifice of chickens after funerals. It must be stressed however that these practices are not encouraged by the Church, are often criticised by priests and never form part of the liturgy. It could be said that my experience is skewed by my being in the capital, the place because of its progressiveness where one is least likely to observe irregularities. However, I would respond firstly that my parish is located in an extremely poor area where many squatters who have recently arrived from all over the country reside so it is quite representative of the nation (or at least the Catholic majority, some regions in the south are Muslim). Secondly, since it is the capital it is also the place where one is most likely to find liturgical progressives but I have not observed anything that remotely compares to what occurs on a daily basis in L.A. The solemn liturgies, such as the funeral of Cardinal Sin (which incidentally, Mahoney attended: you see, even he wasn't able to make it dreadful) which I attended may not contain a great deal of Latin and choral music (as is often the case in London) but they also do not contain anything against the norms. The church I mentioned a couple of days ago only deserves particular mention because it was decorated so tastefully and at great expense. The difference between this church and the average here is not one of content but simply of the available money they have to spend and the wealth of the parishioners. Every church I have been into has images of Our Lady and the Saints and I have only been into one where the altar was located in the centre of the church. This was the church built by the Ayala corporation as part of the Greenbelt mall, a high end mall frequented only by the wealthiest sector of society. This mall is very close to San Antonio church (the one pictured upon which Quintero commented) which is run by the Franciscans, I know it's funny but this is the only church in a wealthy area that they have, the rest are in normal/poor areas. For further research I leave you with the website of the Archdiocese of Manila.
In Christ through Mary,

Friday, September 23, 2005

Happy Fiesta!

Here are the Grade 6 (my class, biased? moi?) contestants for Little Mr and Mrs SLRPS, don't they look sweet? Today is the second day of San Lorenzo Ruiz, my elementary school's, Foundation Day(s) celebration. For some reason I can't quite fathom everything: even fun filled recreation has to start SO EARLY. Ok, so 7:30 am may not sound so early to you but it does strike me as an unusual way of preparing a crowd for festivities. I got sunburnt yesterday (only my second time in three months, not bad) so spent today shielded by a cap and covered in factor 50 sunblock, desperately trying to avoid more cancer-causing UV rays. The day began with what they call a Field Demo here. This just means that each year group performed a dance for the rest of us to watch, the last two being the parents (inc.. me, don't ask) and the teachers. This was followed by the basketball game putting the faculty of the school and the parents head to head. I was supposed to take part in this but I was worried about getting more sunburnt (sometimes it's really annoying to be white) so I skipped this one and sang "Fields of Gold" on the karaoke instead. After lunch I was feeling really tired so I effectively skipped the rest of the day by taking a siesta, making the assumption that I I was needed then somebody would text me and the text would wake me up. Just realised that I've been online for two and a half hours so better go and say evening prayer before mass. Below you can see my Grade 6 students enjoying the day.
In Christ through Mary,

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Say a rosary for the unborn

This Sunday people all over the world will be saying the rosary for the protection of unborn children and you can pledge to join them here. Thanks to Danielle for the link.
Today was the first day of our elementary school's Foundation Day(s?) so lots of fun was had by all, more details and pics later today or tomorrow.
In Christ through Mary,

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Good News

"The FBI is joining the Bush administration's War on Porn. And it's looking for a few good agents. Early last month, the bureau's Washington Field Office began recruiting for a new anti-obscenity squad. Attached to the job posting was a July 29 Electronic Communication from FBI headquarters to all 56 field offices, describing the initiative as "one of the top priorities" of Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and, by extension, of "the Director." That would be FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III."
From the Washington Post: click here for the full article (requires registration)

Catholic Content: Daily Mass Readings

Happy Feast of St. Matthew. As you can see I've added a graphic with today's mass readings to my side bar, courtesy of Catholic Content. It's a great resource that is updated every day and I'd encourage all Catholic bloggers to do the same. Thanks to Amy for the link.
Tomorrow is the foundation day of my elementary school, just a tiny part of our fiesta activities (where I'm a teacher, not a a student: in case you were wondering ;-) ) so we have a whole day of fun and games beginning with a 7:30 am mass, my school is so Catholic, hee hee hee. It's all in honour of San Lorenzo Ruiz (click on his name for a biography from, Dominican, Martyr and our patron.

The Wake of Haydee Yorac: Requiescat in Pace

Just in case people are getting the impression that my time is all dirt and poor people I'd like to tell you that are also some pretty glamorous moments. Last night for instance, the second Society Wake I have attended since I came to the Philippines; the first was that of Cardinal Sin. After dinner we hurriedly got changed and rushed off to the Franciscan church of San Antonio in Forbes Park, Makati, one of the most exclusive areas of Manila. Haydee Yorac was a great political activisit and opponent of Ferdinand Marcos, former dictator of the Philippines, so her wake was attended by many in Manila Society, including a senator. GMA television channel was there to film for the news and we knew that we would attract attention because people always assume that am I rich or important or both just because I'm caucasian and once again I was the only one. The cameraman did in fact zoom in on me twice but it was Fr Terry, not me who ended up on the news. Oh, the media is a fickle mistress LOL. Seriously though it was a very interesting evening as I got to see a very beautiful church, San Antonio, probably the most beautiful I have seen here and to pray for the repose of a very important figure here. The church even had two frescoes on the walls in the style of Fra Angelico with a halo of gold leaf, exquisite.
Just to avoid confusion I'd like to point out that the photo is just a photo of the church and not of the wake.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Blogs 4 God rises from the dead

Thanks to Mark Shea for the link. Blogs 4 God, the directory of Christian bloggers, has just come back in business today, if you're a Christian blogger add your site to the list, I just did.
In Christ through Mary,

Monday, September 19, 2005

Clash of Civilisations?!

Can't believe what I've just read:
Bishops suggest apology for war:
"Church of England bishops have suggested Christian leaders apologise to Muslim leaders for the war in Iraq. As the government is unlikely to offer an apology, a meeting of religious leaders would provide a "public act of institutional repentance", it said. It urges a "truth and reconciliation" meeting, but acknowledges that arranging it could be difficult. The report, entitled Countering Terrorism: Power, Violence and Democracy Post 9/11, was written by a working group of the Church of England's House of Bishops. It suggests the meeting would be an opportunity to apologise for the way the West has contributed to the situation in Iraq, including the war."
How can the Church of England be considered instutionally responsible in anyway for the Iraq war? I can't believe that they would be so idiotic as to encourage the thinking that the war is part of a fight between Christians and Muslims. It's extremely offensive to all those Christians who opposed the war to be told that they should apologise for it. Are they assuming that all Christians wanted a "crusade" and all Muslims opposed it? This is utterly bizaare. It only serves to add credence to the nonsense notions of the tiny minority of Muslims who peddle this "evil west" fundamentalist-holy war garbage. I know the Church of England is tries to please as many people as possible but even they surely don't advise apologising for things for which one is in no way responsible?!
I'm going to go and pray,
This world really needs it,
In Christ through Mary,

My Sojourn in a Strange Land

Praying daytime prayer this afternoon I noticed something in the reading that was brought out by my experiences here living in a very different culture. One can often feel out of place and it is difficult to feel a sense of belonging, to feel "at home" here. In 1 Peter 1:17b St. Peter instructs us:
"Conduct yourselves reverently during your sojourn in a strange land."
St. Peter is of course speaking of the strange land that is this earth for us Christians who are not of it, it is not our Kingdom. However, it also makes me think of my stay here as a sojourn in a strange land, a place that by its differences and many things I find incongruous reminds me that not only this country but this whole world should not be the place in which I make my home. For Our Lord tells us "Make your home in my word, then you will be my disciple" (Jn 8:32). It is the Word, it is Christ through the scriptures in which we should make our home. I suppose that is why the saints always recommend and exhort those who wish to be holy to do penances and make themselves uncomfortable, to be more aware of this world as a "vale of tears" . It is not our "native land" . There is also a second element to this instruction: I must act reverently during my stay here. I must resist the temptation to be proud and snobbish, disliking and sneering at something simply because it is different from that to which I'm accustomed. Please pray that I will be faithful to these instructions of St. Peter,
In Christ through Mary,

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Google "[Your name] is"

Got the following idea from Elizabeth:
Google "[Your name] is..." Here are my results
Daniel is 1!
Daniel is an executive committee member of the Campus Web Council of Wisconsin
Daniel is riding across a steep hill on his bike at night - suddenly he isaccosted by Johnny, Tommy, Bobby, Dutch and Jimmy on their motorcycles
Daniel is one of the few OT books that can be given a [what?!]
Daniel is struck by a brilliant inspiration [well of course] that leads to the drawing up of his famous Plan for the Rebirth of Africa [interesting...]
Daniel is a recognized authority on Java software development [news to me]
Daniel is described as living in Babylon for the entire duration of the ... [what? You'll have to know your scripture to get this one: comments appreciated]
Daniel is back [no not yet, still in the Philippines]
Good fun,
In Christ through Mary,

Funny Sunday

Got up at 5:30 am (not an easy thing for me to do) this morning for morning prayer at Santo Domingo. Felt so tired by 9am after mass that I went back to sleep for 2 hours, well, I didn't have anything to do and I really needed it. Another great weekend with the coristas, Dominicans are so cool. Thought I'd report a funny conversation I had yesterday with Fr Robini, a very amusing man:
Watching TV we see a news report about very poor people in India, I notice that the clothes are really beautiful
Me: If they're so poor how come they have such beautiful clothes
Fr. Robi: They're very cheap and they're the only clothes they have
Me: So they wear them for a month and when they wash them...
Fr Robi: Then they're naked for three days
Me: And they stay inside the house
Fr Robi: And that's when they get pregnant
We both laugh
If anyone thinks this is in bad taste remember we are living in a poor country and working for the poor so it's only meant as a silly joke. Fr Robi is a great guy to talk to, we can banter easily.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

In Santo Domingo again

I'm writing this post from the computer room of the Convent of Santo Domingo, the formation house of this province and the home of Our Lady of La Naval, who can be seen on the left. There is great devotion to this statue and many pilgrims will come for the procession that takes place on her fast approaching feast day in the second week of October. The convent is buzzing with preparations to beautify the church for the occasion. It is wonderful to see the great devotion to Our Lady that is absolutely standard here and is not considered anything out of the ordinary. Throughout the country every Wednesday is dedicated to Our Lady of Perpetual Help (every church seems to have her icon) and hymns are sung in her honour before and after mass. Anyway, back to the script: yesterday I arrived in the early evening and just had time to settle in before the angelus was said. It's a really nice practice here: a bell is rung and everyone stops what they are doing at 12 noon and 6pm (not 6am because we are in the middle of mauds, that's morning prayer and mass combined, oh and with the rosary for good measure :-) to come out onto the corridor and recite the angelus, such a great custom. After evening prayer we had dinner and then there was a choir practice which I was eager to join. I got a chance to sing Victoria's Ave Maria again so was very happy. Today I'm feeling dazed and confused after getting up at 5:15 am to be in church in time for the rosary. After breakfast I went straight back to sleep (I'm not an early riser, it's going to take a lot of hard work for me to get used to early wake-up calls) for an hour. As I didn't have anything to do I have spent most of the day in the blogosphere and have to admit that i'm currently skipping choir practice because my throat is sore. Though I haven't actually done that much I always feel like a gain a lot from my time here. I love to say the office in common and it's wonderful to be around so many young, friendly and enthusiastic religious, they are a great inspiration. I get very excited when they call me brother, I know, many people in the parish call me brother all the time but when it's from friars it seems extra special.
Special prayer request for my friend Br. Lawrence (that's his religious name) Paul Lew as he begins his novitiate in Cambridge, may Our Lady and St. Dominic be with him.
In Christ through Mary,

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Mater Dolorosa

Today is the day on which we honour Our Lady of Sorrows, whose heart was truly pierced by the lance that tore her son, Our Lord. Who could be better at teaching us how to reflect upon the sorrowful passion and death of Our Lord than his own mother who had to witness it all, powerless to help. The second reading in the Office of Readings for today is from a sermon by St. Bernard, one of the saints most devoted to Our Blessed Mother. The most interesting point for me came when he highlighted the exchange between Christ on the cross and his mother when Our Lord told his mother that from now on St. John, the beloved disciple, would be her son and she would be his mother. I had always regarded this exchange wholly positively as I considered unbelievable the concern for us that Christ showed that even in his dying agony he gave his own mother to be our own, how blessed are we to call the Immaculate our own mother. And from then on St. John made a place for her in his home, as we should make a place for her in our hearts. However, I was surprised when St. Bernard pointed out that for Our Lady this would have only added to her sorrow for she had lost the Son of God and is given only a Son of Man, she has lost God himself and is given merely a creature as substitute. Here St. Bernard shows how much he loves his Blessed Mother in that he is thinking only of her sorrow and not of the great joy we receive from becoming children of Mary.
The parish fiesta in honour of San Lorenzo Ruiz, our patron, begins today with a motorcade,
Our Lady of Sorrows, Pray for Us
St. Joseph, Pray for Us
St. Bernard, Pray for Us
San Lorenzo Ruiz, Pray for Us
St. Dominic, Pray for Us
The picture above is a detail from the deposition by Rogier van der Weyden and can be seen in the Museo del Prado, Madrid.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Feast of the Triumph of the Cross

Happy Feast of the Triumph of the Cross. Sorry that I haven't posted for a while but I didn't have anything interesting to report. Yesterday I started a new work: I went to help the BEC (Basic Ecclesial Community) volunteers with their Bible study and preaching to the poorest of the poor in the squatter areas. I was not looking forward to it because I knew that the squatter area we would be going to was Market 3, the worst of the three. However, it wasn't so bad at all because the room where we held the BEC was very close to the road so I didn't need to walk for long through the filthy, flooded, narrow paths that snake between the shacks; definitely the worst part of any visit to the squatters. I couldn't do much because it was all in Tagalog but I read the passage along with them in my own Bible and I prayed with them. I suppose the most important thing is that I show that I care about them just by being there with them in their difficulties. In the evening we went to see the movie Brothers Grimm, it was very nice I thought, kind of in the line of Van Helsing but with not so much action and less scary, more romantic (in the traditional, not the hearts and flowers sense.)
I taught my second Catechism lesson to the public High School this morning, at 7:10am! I'm really starting to enjoy it because the only thing I'm given is an outline so I need to be very creative, especially as I'm trying to communicate to people whose English varies greatly; it's a great challenge and feels like practice for preaching (blushes). At the moment we are exploring the notion of freedom and what it really means. In the last session we went over the Church's view of freedom as being found only in Jesus Christ and how this affects our view of school, community and country. Today the theme was "Freedom and Me" with the scripture verse John 8:32 "and will you know the truth and the truth will set you free". I explored what is meant here by the truth, stressing that it was the truth not a truth and that truth was Jesus Christ. We then looked at how this truth set us free and I took St. Paul's assertion that the value of our lives can be seen in the cross of him who gave his life for us, as the theme. I was really happy to share this radical notion that we judge our worth not on the things of this world but that we were worth enough for Christ to die for us; it's something that helped me more than I can say. This theme built upon the last session's idea that the greatest obstacle to our freedom is sin and the best example of a truly free person is the Blessed Virgin Mary. In Our Lady's yes at the annunciation we see perfect freedom unshackled from the chains of sin. We then explored what else putting Christ at the centre of our lives would free us from. These included greed, lust and violence, each explored in turn. I was really annoyed that I forgot that today was a feast of the Cross and only remembered when I said the Office after the class as I would have related this to the topic. Today's feast reminded me of Our Lord's words in John 12:32 "when I am lifted up I will draw all men to myself" and how this refers to the crucifixion in a mystical way. I always found this verse really moving. I spend this weekend in Santo Domingo, the Dominican formation house, can't wait.
May the Lord draw us all to himself,
In Christ through Mary,
The painting is an early Raphael and can be seen in the National Gallery of Great Britain in London. I particularly like how the angels are collecting the precious blood of Our Lord in chalices, very sacramental.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Which saint are you?

How cool, I'm an English mystic! Well, maybe someday.
You are Julian of Norwich! It's all about God, to
you. You're convinced that the world has a
happy ending. Everyone else is convinced that
you're a closet hippie, but you love them

Which Saint Are You?
brought to you by

Friday, September 09, 2005

Omay and I outside Enchanted Kingdom

The Butterfly House

School Field trip to Butterfly House and Enchanted Kingdom

On Wednesday I went on the parochial school field trip to a butterfly house and enchanted kingdom, the theme park here. We had to get up really early as the coach left at 6:30 am. The night before we had been to the cinema (I saw Cinderella Man, which was a very moving film, well acted) but I didn't get to sleep til about 12:30 am so I was really tired in the morning. However, as soon as we got to Enchanted Kingdom I woke up completely as I was really excited to go on the rides; I'm just a big kid really. First we went in one of those cinemas where the seats move to match the movie and then we on the rio grande, a water ride where you ride in those big rubber rings; I got completely soaked. After that I decided that I needed to get something to eat so we got burritos from a Mexican stand, I was really happy to eat Mexican food as I hadn't had it for 2 months. After the food we went on the log jam, a really high log flume that was my favourite because it was exhilarating but didn't make you feel sick. In contrast to this was the space shuttle, one of those really intense rides that seem to have replaced roller coasters (can't remember the name of them) everywhere. It spun us upside down and then upside down backwards, I felt really ill afterwards and had to sit down for half an hour, not a good feeling. It was a fantastic day though and everyone really enjoyed themselves. I hope you all are well,
In Christ through Mary,

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Happy Nativity of Our Blessed Mother

A happy birthday to the Blessed Virgin. DVI asked me to write a letter about my work here and so I did. Seeing as this is the kind of thing this blog is all about I thought that I'd post it here:
My work amongst the poor of Dagat-Dagatan
It was with trepidation and fear that I looked out on my surroundings from the comfort of the air-conditioned car of Fr Clarence as we approached the parish where I was to work for the next ten months. As we passed the infamous “Smokey Mountain” of garbage that used to be the most potent symbol of the destitute of the Philippines I could see all of the signs of a terribly deprived area. The shacks put together from garbage, skeletal stray dogs with their ribcages protruding and children sniffing drugs from plastic bags: all of the things that I had before only witnessed from afar on television were suddenly brought crashing into stark reality all around me. I have to confess that my first thought upon seeing all of this was: what I have got myself into? The sheer vastness of the 7000 miles that separated from me from my family seemed overwhelming in itself. However, at the point when all of these worries were rushing into my mind I had yet to be immersed in the heart-warming, welcoming hospitality for which the Filipinos are famous. My parish priest Fr Allan, Fr Terry and all the others actively involved in the parish of San Lorenzo Ruiz, of which there are far too many by mention by name, could not have done a better job of making me feel comfortable and supported in this alien environment that is gradually becoming familiar to me.
I’ve been here for two and a half months now and have come to really enjoy my work. My first and foremost role is as a religion teacher for Grade 6 in the parochial school. This involves preparing lessons to teach to the class for 40 minutes Monday to Friday, assessing their progress through recitations and tests and then marking and grading this work. I had never taught before I came here and my first lesson was dreadful: I was really nervous and didn’t have a clue what to do. However, I started to learn by observing the lesson of the religion teacher and now feel completely comfortable with the class. From this teaching baseline Fr Allan has gradually expanded my work and so I now instruct the fourth year star section class of the high school in catechesis every Wednesday morning for one hour and have also started to lead English fluency seminars and a Bible study on the gospel for the following Sunday for the faculty and staff of our parochial elementary school. These seminars will be held twice a month. Next week I will begin working with the volunteers who lead these Bible study sessions with the poorest of the poor in the squatter areas. This is something that I have been working up to, preparing myself psychologically and spiritually. The conditions in which these people live are hard to believe unless one has experienced them first-hand.
I won’t pretend that my time here is always easy but it is an incredible experience and one that I wouldn’t give up for the world. I know the difficulties that I experience here are making me a stronger person who is more open to the will of God in my life. There are so many things that I do here on a regular basis, like ride in the side car of a motorbike without a helmet, that I never would have done in England before I came here. Perhaps the hardest doubt to live with here, especially on days when you don’t have so much to do, is wondering whether I am actually doing any good here, making a difference. This was a strong theme in my mind when I received the letter from Fr Enrique addressing this idea exactly and reassuring me and the other DVIs that the important thing is simply to be here, to give our time to be with these people when there are so many things that we could be doing that perhaps would be much easier and materially profitable for us. I knew when I read that letter that the Lord was speaking through his words. Please remember to pray for me and the other DVIs,
In Christ through Mary with St. Dominic,
Daniel Jeffries

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

The inhumanity of the aftermath in New Orleans

This post started as a email response to the post of Br. Paul Lew, whose post on the subject can be found here: under Sept. 3.
As regards Br. Paul's post on New Orleans generally I completely with him. I don't think that the behaviour of the those in the city can be justified by their circumstances. From what I can remember people in 9/11 acted very decently. However, the only point where I would disagree with him is his comparison of poverty in New Orleans with the poverty in Manila. I come from a city which was highlighted on a TV documentary because it contains one of the most deprived areas in the country so I feel that I can speak on this matter. In my opinion the poverty of a traditional culture like that of the Philippines is mostly of the material nature: despite their shortage of material comforts and perhaps a lack of education they are generally bound together by a common belief in basic decency usually provided by a religious authority, whether through conviction or simply through conformity. The poverty that I have seen in England however is a very different kind of thing. It is mostly a poverty of culture, perhaps involving a lack of parenting because one of the parents refuses to bring them up. Where material poverty exists in this sad situation it is greatly exacerbated by the absence of a common value system. While I agree with him that the rise of individualism is an important factor I would stress more the collapse of commonly held set of values to which almost everyone conformed ( at least publicly). As an analagous example I would cite the rise of the neo-conservative Catholics since the dark days of the 70s. While this group generally shares an "old-fashioned" conception of the Church and Catholicism they cannot escape their upbringing in an extemely individualistic society. The result of this is that they may even frame the demand for the vindication of their views as a matter of allowing greater personal choice, something greatly at odds with the views they hold. Thus I would stress more the absence of a commonly held set of values than the absence of the sense of a strong sense of community which can so easily exclude those whom the community considers undesirable. For instance many people tell stories about the signs which could be found on bars and shops in the 1950s (often held up as the heyday of manners) stating "no Irish, no blacks". The difference I believe between the poor Filipinos and poor westerners is like the difference between the old respectable working class of which Britain used to be proud and the new underclass of chavs which are almost universally vilified. In my opinion the greatest and most crucial difference between the underclass and the mainstream is low expectations, a lack of aspirations for them on the part of those who are supposed to be their mentors. To give one small example, a friend told me of people that he knows who live in a deprived area next to Hampstead Heath, one of the most beautiful parks in London, but haven't visited it even once! To me the similarity between poor Filpinos and the old English working class is their sense of respect for those whom they perceive to be "better" than them, whether economically or morally.
However, in the end the reason why the behaviour was so atrocious may simply be that under normal circumstances most people have the basic decency to treat their fellow citizens with respect but when it comes to a real calamity the number of people who can be expected to act well is so low that they may be not simply decent people but everyday heroes, one may go so far as to say saintly.
May the prayers of the Blessed Virgin Mary in her glory protect us all,

Friday, September 02, 2005

Videoke evening: goodybye to Fr Jepoy

Firstly, I'd like to express my shock and sadness at the natural and human disaster taking place in New Orleans. Let's all pray that no more lives will be taken and those affected can rebuild their lives as soon as possible. Our Lady of Prompt Succour, pray for us.

Last night the Catholic Women's League organised a farewell occasion for Fr Jepoy, the priest who normally is in Paris studying but is here back at home on a short vacation. It's interesting for me to talk with a Filipino who has spent time in Europe and knows how different things are as we get a chance to compare. We first went to a Chinese restaurant in Malate, the bar district and then went on to a Videoke bar. The place was quite funny as it was made of several small rooms in which a group of friends can sing Karaoke without having to worry about strangers making fun of them. The rooms were named and decorated after different countries. This explains how when I came out of the bathroom, which I went to as soon as we entered, I looked around and not being able to see my friends was rather surprised to be told by the waitress that they were in Egypt! I was tempted to reply "wow, that was fast" but wasn't sure if she would get the joke. Had probably the best evening since I've been here, most probably because I feel much more settled in now and was more comfortable around a smaller group than is usual here. I'm really beginning to appreciate the climate: it's really nice to go outside and feel the warmth every night, such a change from England. I hope everyone is well,
In Christ through Mary,