After our business was completed, we drove to Sagada, Mountain Province. Along the way we experienced fantastic Philippine scenery and some interesting adventures driving over washed out mountain roads.
Drive to Sagada
The drive to Sagada was interesting. The first part of the trip was the usual, two-lane narrow, paved highway. We stopped at one of the churches along the way, which also has a coop ministry. The congregations in the diocese of Santiago are situated where the people live and focused on the needs of the community.
We traveled through Banaue, Ifugao, where the Banawae Rice Terraces are located. These rice terraces on the sides of steep hills were carved out by ancient peoples. It is spectacular considering that they were dug with hand tools over 1000 years ago. They still grow rice in the terraces and the rice was near harvest time.
Once we got into the mountains, the road turned into a combination of mud ruts, one-lane pavement, or rough rock. Through the highest part of the mountain the road had been washed out by mud slides and was in various states of disrepair or partial repair. It was raining and dark and workmen were out pouring concrete on one section. The workers live in tents along the road where the repairs are being done and move with the job.
We arrived in Sagada after dark and stayed at St. Joseph’s Inn, which was operated by the Sisters of St. Mary until Sister Lucy discovered that it was being used as a retreat for businessmen from the cities to bring their secretaries or girlfriends. Sagada is the location of St. Mary the Virgin church, St. Thomas’ hospital, St. Mary’s School, and the Convent of St. Mary. It is here that Sister Kiara, my mentor when I became an Associate of the Order of St. Mary, served as a young sister, coming from the diocese of Western New York. When Jun was ordained at All Saints’, I met a retired bishop who told me he had Sister Kiara as a teacher at St. Mary’s school. So, after hearing about Sagada for many years, I finally get to see it firsthand.
When we arrived in Sagada on Sunday evening, the local clergy were here to meet us. Several of them are classmates of Jun and Arsie, so it was a reunion occasion for them.
We started the day visiting St. Benedicts’ church, which will celebrate its centennial anniversary next year. Some history of this church is that the Americans bombed the rectory during WWII as the Japanese had occupied this area and were using the church, rectory, and surrounding houses as living quarters. The young woman, Melanie, whom I met in Manila on our first day here lives near the church and she met us when we arrived for breakfast and spent the day with us. Melanie is renting part of a house owned by a retired school teacher and her living space is typical of this area. She has 4 rooms, one a kitchen and a living room area and two bedrooms. Her “bathroom” is outside with a “French toilet”, an outside sink and enclosure for a cold-water shower. Our breakfast included the local delicacy, dog, and they did warn me of the menu. After breakfast we toured the church and St. James’ High School located next to the rectory. This is also a school founded by the Episcopal Church.
Next we went with the rector of St. Anne’s and his wife to see their church and had coffee on the front porch of their rectory, which has a fantastic view of the mountains and valley. Fr. Daniel’s wife, Nancy is from Reno, NV and they met in Japan.
Our next stop was to visit the Sisters of St. Mary in Banga’an. Sister Evelyn and Sister Inez are there, although Sister Evelyn was in Baguio having cataract surgery. The Associates of St. Mary had gathered to welcome us, although we were late, so some of them had to leave just after we arrived. It was a good visit to meet the associates and interesting that they thought I was a woman, and surprised to find out a man could be an associate of the order. We had another meal with them and returned to Sagada.
On the way back to St. Mary’s, we stopped at Sagada Weaving, a local crafts shop specializing in weaving, with unique designs and materials. I found gifts for the grandkids and some unique material for Debbie here.
Upon our return, we toured St. Mary’s church and parish center. The parish center was St. Mary’s convent until they moved to Banga’an. St. Mary’s church is a large “monument to the early missionaries” and seems out of place in this setting. It is a large parish with over 200 people in church on Sunday. This area is predominately Episcopal, with few other churches and the residents are faithful with church attendance.
The history during WWII is that the Japanese bombed this area in the attacks of Dec 8, 1941 and occupied this area after the invasion. St. Mary’s church was damaged by the US military during the retaking of the Philippines. Floyd Lawet told me a story about a baseball game on Dec 8th, between two of the communities that was being played and for the first time Sagada was losing. The news of the Japanese bombing of Bontok, Baguio, Clark field and Subic bay reached the area and the game was called off, and the one time Sagada was losing, the game was never completed.
We also toured St. Timothy’s hospital, another missionary work, now operating as a separate corporation. It was typical of my experience of Asian hospitals, plain, with few of the kinds of equipment and facilities we are accustomed to.
When we finished the tour, Nancy and Melanie and I walked “down town” for a snack of yogurt. We ended the day with a few San Miguel and Nancy, Daniel, and Melanie left for home before it got dark.
I learn some interesting things about being an Episcopal priest in the Philippines. They are usually assigned by the bishop to their congregation for 3 to 5 years, although the full parishes have the opportunity to call a rector, from the clergy of the PEC. The base pay for a priest is the equivalent of $300 per month, with most congregations providing a rectory. They get a pay increase for each year of service and are vested in the Philippines Church Pension Fund.
I arranged for a massage and made it an early evening to work on getting caught up on my travel journal. Tomorrow we head for Manila, with a stop at the diocesan center in Bontok and a stop in Baguio. We will leave Jun with his family along the way and I will go to Manila for my last two days in the Philippines.
Aug 25 – Sagada to Manila – a long day
Up for the sunrise in Sagada and breakfast and on the road to Manila, with stops in Bontok and Baguio. On our way to Bontok, we encountered the road closed due to a head-on accident between a Jeep and a bus. We had coffee and waited for the traffic to clear and when we went by the damaged bus and saw the passengers on the side of the road, we recognized Padi Daniel and Nancy among the crowd and gave them a ride to Bontok. Arriving in Bontok, we visited All Saints’ Cathedral, which also has a school. From All Saints’ we went to a tailor shop on the first floor of the diocesan center and I purchased two Filipino style clergy shirts. Jun will get the shirts and bring them back to LV when he returns home.
I met with Bishop Brent Alawas, Bishop of the Diocese of Northern Philippines and we had a short conversation about our visit to Santiago. We had coffee with the some of the staff and found out that one of the women on the staff was a seminary classmate of Arsie Almodiel (I didn’t get her name).
From Bontok, the next stop was Sabangan, Jun’s hometown and we visited St. Peter’s church. It has an interesting history in that a few years ago some city officials wanted the property St. Peter’s church occupied for an open air sports field. To avoid the possibility of the people protesting, they bulldozed the church building down during the middle of the night in a rain storm. Only some of the furnishings and other items from the church were able to be salvaged by the congregation when they discovered what had happened. A new church building was built on the highway, on the hill overlooking the old site. This seems to be an example of how the government in the Philippines works. Government officials work hard for their own benefit and profit (not different from US politics, only more obvious and direct).
We had lunch with Jun’s sister and members of his family, and then hit the road again, leaving Jun for a few more days with family before he returns to LV on Monday.
Next stop was Baguio, the “Summer Capital” of the Philippines (as named by the American military). We stopped at Easter Weaving, an enterprise started by an American and a supplier of cloth and other goods to C M Almy. I found a Filipino style stole I couldn’t resist and some other gifts that I won’t describe here JIC the recipient might be reading this.
Out from Baguio is the point of the highest elevation for any roadway in the Philippines, at 7,400 feet above sea level, so we had to stop for a photo. At the bottom of the hill is the “world’s largest lion” – a huge lion’s head carved from rock by the local Lion’s Club, another “photo opt.”
By now it is dark and we set our sights on Manila. Out of the hills the highway is better and we finish our trip, arriving at the Contemporary hotel about 11:15 pm. I say good-bye to my tour guides and new friends, Patrick, Eric, and Clarence. They will spend the night at the Church center and leave early on Wednesday for Santiago. I have greatly enjoyed their company and their hospitality.
Aug 26 – Playing tourist in Manila.
The diocesan driver, Fray Degay, picked me up at 9 am and we went sightseeing. I asked him to suggest some places to go as my trip to Corregidor had to be cancelled as Wednesday is their “maintenance day.” Our first stop was Rizal Park, with several monuments to Filipino heroes, beginning with the statue of Lapu Lapu, the Visayan chief who defeated the Spanish and killed Magellan in 1521 (?).
At the other end of the park is the monument to Dr. Jose Rizal, who was the instigation and leader of the revolution against the Spanish and who was executed by a Spanish firing squad on December 30, 1896. He is considered the father of Filipino independence. Unfortunately in 1898, the Spanish were replaced by Americans when we took the Philippines from Spain in the Spanish American War. Rizal’s monument is guarded by Filipino Marines 24/7.
After a walk around the park, our next stop was the National Museum with artifacts from the San Diego, a 17th century Spanish ship that sunk and was recently discovered providing many artifacts and insight into the Spanish shipping of the 16th century.
From the museum, we went to the Intramuros section, or “walled city” which is the location of one of the oldest Spanish cities in the Philippines. We toured San Agustin Church, dating from the early 16th century and the current building was completed in 1599. The church is still an active parish and there is a museum on the grounds with vestments and church decorations from the 16th to 19th century.
While in the Intramuros section, we went to Fort Santiago, located on the Pasig river at the mouth of Manila Bay. This was the largest and first fort in the Philippines. It too was occupied by the Japanese during WW II and Filipinos were held prisoner in its dungeons. IT is also where Jose Rizal was imprisoned before his execution.
After lunch we went to the American Military Cemetery, a memorial listing all the names of Americans and Filipino Scouts who died in the Japanese invasion and occupation. I found three Loveladys on the walls of the monument, Obed L. Lovelady, Francis G. Lovelady, and Leon L. Lovelady. The cemetery is a large, green area in the middle of a developing industrial and residential area.
Back to the hotel and some time to cool off and Fray picked me up for my appointment with the Prime Bishop and his staff. They invited me out to dinner and we had a wonderful Chinese dinner and good conversation.
Tonight and tomorrow are for getting ready for the trip home and trying to get everything in my bags for the trip home.
It has been a wonderful experience, exceeding my expectations. I have seen a lot of the countryside, sights, churches, and people. I’ve made some new friends, with whom I hope I can keep in contact. I believe we have a good basis for a meaningful companion diocese relationship with the diocese of Santiago and a good start on meaningful people-to-people relations. Distance and money will be an obstacle, but with the use of technology, we have an opportunity to keep in close contact to share our ministries and experiences. I hope to stay connected, even after my retirement and for an opportunity to return for a longer visit and the possibility of doing some meaningful ministry here.
I am thankful to God for safe travels and for the new friendships and thankful to Bishop Dan for his support for this project and for me personally to have the opportunity to “put some meat” on the bones of our developing relationship. I am thankful for the wonderful hospitality, great food, and great worship and fellowship. Special thanks to my tour guides, Patrick, Clarence, and Eric.
As I end this writing, a huge rainstorm has closed in on Manila.