As we’ve noted previously, Fr. Bernie Rosinski, SCJ, is spending several weeks in the Philippines assisting the SCJ district with administrative duties as well as helping students in the international formation program with their English. Time is going quickly; he writes with just one week left to his stay.
I leave for the States a week from tonight and this Saturday will fly from Cagayan de Oro for Manila. I will stay in Manila at our Theologate (one-and-a-half hours away by plane) until Monday. Return will be through Seoul/Inchon and almost over the North Pole.
To confess the truth, I have enjoyed my stay in the Philippines though I will be processing all the things that have happened to me along with all the things I have seen. I have taken as many photos as I could to remind me of what I have seen.
Here in Aluba (Cagayan de Oro suburb), I shower every morning in unheated water. Which is ok because at 5:30 AM when I shower, it’s already about 85F. I sleep without any blanket. Only two rooms here have “aircon,” which is the Filipino word for air-conditioning. One is the office of the fund-raiser and his secretary and the other is the library.
It would be unfair to leave the impression that showering with cold water is the norm. There are hot showers at the Novitiate in Dumalinao and in Manila. But since I spent most of my time here, I pretend to myself that I am a cold-water hero. We have one other vexation: sometimes there is no water, or else the faucet has a mere trickle. That’s why every shower has a large plastic bucket so that it can fill by catching water from the shower head when things are normal. If necessary, a small pot can be used to dip into the bucket and splash enough water to rinse off the soap or shampoo. It works; I know from first-hand experience.
I am here in the dry season. Yet I have witnessed a couple of monsoon-like rains (which the people say is unusual). It is the dry season that causes leaves to drop from trees, not the frost or cold that we are used to. Despite it being the dry season, the humidity is excessive.
What can I say about the people? They win your heart so effortlessly you don’t even know they’ve got it. They are so generous, so helpful, so thoughtful and considerate. I don’t know how many feasts and festivals I have gone to because some parish or organization or family was celebrating something and we were invited.
Rice is the food staple. It appears on the table at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Always boiled and without any sauce or condiment. Never fried. There are OTC bottles of soy sauce and other sauces that are used to flavor food according to individual taste. Filipinos like “hot” sauces. There is always a soup (usually highly salted) at lunch and dinner. The favorites are mushroom, egg, chicken, and fish. Fish and chicken appear at almost every midday and evening meal along with a cooked or uncooked vegetable. Recently I have been enjoying cucumber and cherry tomatoes. The table drink is water. It is always cold and filtered.
While the Vietnamese here (six) are rice-eaters, they are also noodle eaters. The understanding cook provides us with soup once or twice a week laden with rice noodles. She has endeared herself to Vietnamese hearts. Another person who is very endearing, to me at least, is Fr. Francis Pupkowski, SCJ, whom I met in Hales Corners in 1988-1989. He was among the first group of missionaries destined for the Philippines. He was there to learn English along with a German, an Italian, a Brazilian, and a couple of Argentinians. It would be their common language (Oh, the price people have to pay to serve God as missionaries!). Fr. Francis has a bread-making machine and every morning I would have a couple of slices of homemade bread with margerine and marmelade. Occasionally, the cook would surprise us with an omelet or some fried eggs and Spam (very popular here in the Philippines).
This week remaining I have four masses to celebrate here in community, one talk to give, and four homilies. I also have to go through a formation plan that the Philippine District is revising so that they can work toward becoming a region. It is 46 pages long and I proofed it and made a number of corrections and some editorial suggestions. I have already done as much with their District Directory and Chapter Rules and some correspondence. I knew there was some reason why I came here; it is like I never left my administrative work even though I was here to teach English pronunciation. Even there I think I did pretty well; at least I haven’t left my students angry at me. Yet? 🙂