Here at last. It took a long time – longer than the 19 hour flight. I have wanted to go to Asia since 1966 when I was captivated by an episode of I Spy in which Robert Culp portrayed a Southeast Asia warlord resisting the modernization and westernization of his world. Then came my young adulthood spent immersed in Eastern religions, mostly Buddhism. So here I am, following in the footsteps of Gary Snyder, Thomas Merton, William Johnston, and so many personal heroes. The title of these blogs by the way is a tongue in cheek reference to The Asian Journals Of Thomas Merton. My posts will be less enlightening than Merton’s, but I hope that, unlike Merton, I’ll make it back alive.
The flight was uneventful except that there was so much interest in the hat case I was carrying. It has a cowboy hat and belt, my presents for Bishop Wanadag. Passengers, flight attendants, and customs agents were all curious. “What is in that?”
I arrived at 4:15 a.m. in the rain. The temporal math has me confused but I think I gained 8 hours but lost a day. It seems to be Saturday. My schedule said I was to be met by an NCO. I had images of the Sergeant from Gomer Pyle. But it turns out NCO meant National Church Office. I was met by Betsy, the secretary for the Prime Bishop, the Most Rev. Edward Pacyaya Malecdan. However, we did not find each other for awhile, so I was wandering about the cab stations pondering my fate having no one’s phone number and no working phone in my possession. I then heard my name paged and all was well.
NCO Betsy who has served 4 Prime Bishops and Wilson the driver got me to my hotel where I freshened up and had an excellent breakfast of fruit, sardines, saffron rice, eggs, and a darn good sausage.
I then checked out the TV and found too many American channels, but a lot of international news – then came across a channel that is mostly in Japanese, I think, but I saw this program in English called Tzu Chi This Week. It was all about interfaith programs doing good things, mostly in the Philippines – helping victims of fire and flood, providing medical and ophthalmological care to the poor, etc. – Buddhists and Catholics together. There was a banner across the bottom saying “Many Ethnicities One Love.” The first segment showed a group of South Africans performing traditional Zulu dances in a hospital here. The South Africans, wearing surgical masks because the patients had infectious diseases, were saying words of encouragement including something about the “Buddha spirit” – which shows they weren’t really Buddhists. Buddhists would say “Buddha nature” – not “Buddha spirit.” They were spreading hope and love, doing their best to speak the religious language of the people they were there to help.
I now have to figure out the exchange rate and sally forth in search of an ATM to get some pesos. Next on the agenda is lunch with the national church staff. I have a church service at an outrageously early hour tomorrow morning. Then Wilson and I head north toward Santiago City. My sense of geography here is extremely uncertain. But I think Santiago City may be in or near the Isabella province where there was a major typhoon in late October. It this turns out to be wrong, I’ll recant in a subsequent post.
To learn more about this church I am visiting, check out http://www.episcopalchurchinphilippines.com/ecp. (This link inexplicably does not work. But go to the url. It is there.)