It was January 1991, 28 years ago when I first travelled to the Philippines and when I returned to Winnipeg I met with the late Linda Cantiveros as we went through all the pictures I had developed (35 mm films back then) and after chatting with Linda for a while she asked me to write a story for the Journal. Since than I have travelled many times and, on each occasion, the Filipino Journal has allowed me to write a story.
A few weeks ago I had the experience of travelling to Philippines and once again I was able to accomplish a lot in a relatively short period of time, from January 15 to 22(my birthday) For six days, from morning till night, I kept busy with a wide variety of activities, including official meetings, and helping people with respect to immigration. The time went by so fast and I felt somewhat exhausted when it was time to leave. But I would not want it any other way.
One of the highlights was when I was able to visit the Iglesia ni Cristo administration office in Quezon city where I was able to meet and talk with Executive Minister, Mr. Eduardo Manalo. The administration compound is very impressive where it has a complex that includes a beautiful church, world focused administration buildings, Post-Secondary facilities that go far beyond the teaching of future Ministers, residences and even a modern museum. Iglesia ni Cristo also has a complex in Bulacan where I was provide a tour there I saw the world’s largest indoor arena that seats 55,000 people, an open-air sports complex, a garden and a zoo. As a world wide church Iglesia ni Cristo is having an impact, for example I think of the hundreds of hampers given to less fortunate families in Winnipeg North and that was done by the Winnipeg congregation.
Thinking of how our faith impacts our communities I also met Chelsea, a wonderful young lady from Calamba who is excelling in grade 10 due, in part, to the financial support she receives from ANCOP. “Answering the cry of the poor” is something that many people in Winnipeg have responded to. Young and poor families in the Philippines and other countries have been direct beneficiaries of ANCOP’s programs.
Another interesting meeting took place when I met Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Administration, Mr. Eduardo Malaya. We talked about how the accessibility of consular services could be improved and the possibility of more direct flights to Philippines from Canada. As the chair of the Canada Philippine Parliamentary Friendship Group I raised a few issues related to the relationship between Canada and Philippines including future Parliamentarian visits from both countries.
Philippines Ambassador to Canada Madam Garcia happened to be in Manila promoting the annual winter escapade amongst other things. I was able to meet with her and other diplomats and civil servants over dinner where we had some wonderful talks about a wide variety of issues.
When ever I travel to Philippines I always make time to assist people with respect to immigration matter, this time due to time constraints I was only able to conduct meetings at one place but we were able to help a good number of people who have family here in Winnipeg. This year, the meetings and consultations were held at the Luneta Hotel right beside Rizal Park.
The early morning after the immigration meetings I went for walk across from Rizal Park and met some volunteer firefighters and health care workers that were on the way to support some of the victims of the Taal Volcano eruption. Later that afternoon for the first time I took a bus ride that brought me to Calamba and along the highway I saw hundreds of vehicles that were driving in the direction of Luzon to support the volcano victims from hopping on jeepneys to taking busses, boats and more I was able to check out Pasay, Taytay, Antipolo, Calamba, Quezon city, all over Manila, and an Island in Rizal province called Talim. I visited my kuya Henry’s home on Talim Island, which is located in Laguna de Bay. The fishing boat I took was not large and I would describe it as a canoe with bamboo sticks on both sides powered by a motor. The waves were choppy, but it was a fantastic experience and the island itself gave me a different perspective of life in Philippines.
If you have questions about my trip or would like to make a suggestion for a future trip, please don’t hesitate to email me personally at email@example.com.