How I Fell in Love with the Philippines
Recently, attending a church service in the field with my soldiers during a field training exercise put me in mind of another reason I fell in love with the Philippines and the Filipino people. This even did not take place when I was a relative new comer to the Philippine way of life but several years after my first visit.
I had just returned from a tour in Iraq (about the only thing good that can be said is that the heat in the Philippines didn’t bother me after that), and the first Sunday there my asawa and I went to our Barangay Basita (local chapel) for mass. As we walked in and took our seat in a very small pew I noticed more than the average amount of looks directed my way. Complete strangers were walking up smiling and shaking my hand. Now having been to our Barangay many times now I was used to the looks a Kano can get, but these people “knew” me.
Soon the priest came in, things settled down and the mass started. Since it is in Tagalog I soon slipped into my usual state of wakeful unconsciousness. About halfway through the Homily I started, “was that my name?” Looking around I saw every eye upon me and everyone was softly clapping. My wife was nudging me so I stood and took a little bow and sat down. My red face was not due to the heat I can tell you that. When I looked at my wife with a questioning look she pointed with her lips (another Filipino trait that took a while to get used to) to a side alter and there surrounded by the normal flowers and such was a picture of me that was taken in Iraq. Turns out that during each mass during the year I was being remembered during the intersession and the congregation of our parish were praying for my safe return.
I was already familiar with the sense of family, extended family, and extended extended family, but the idea that an entire Barangay praying for my safe return completely floored me. For the rest of that visit, and all of the visits since, I have taken the nods, the smiles and the looks differently than I had before. I no longer felt like the “Kano” but the “Kano who has a house in the Barangay and will live here”.
It’s a good feeling.