Just when I thought my Development and Peace Amazing Race had become a bit routine we hit a road block!
Our 4 a.m. (yes, AM!) departure for the airport to take a flight from Tacloban to Cebu was not to be. A plane malfunction grounded the plane, causing a check-in back at our pit stop (our hotel). Finally, we would get to have breakfast - actually coffee was what my body was crying for - and time for a few hours of sleep before having to head back to the airport for a new flight. But that was not to be either! The flight cancelled, and the next one fully booked, we faced a U-Turn on our journey, and it was decided that we would have the adventure of a speed ferry boat ride instead!
After a two-hour drive from Tacloban to Ormoc, we boarded the ferry along with many other passengers and arrived safely in Cebu to enjoy a wonderful meal and evening with Archbishop Jose Palma.
In my first Amazing Race reflection, it was about all the things I awaited to see and experience on this journey. Yet, as I learned, unexpected delays like this one, are a blessing because of the added experiences they bring. The beautiful valleys and mountains, the kindness of my companions, the dedication of our organizers, the on-the-ground observations of more of super Typhoon Haiyan’s destruction and subsequent rebuilding, the laughter of my travel mates, the skills of our drivers (though many Hail Marys were prayed due to the speed at which sharp curves were navigated) and once again the many smiles of resilient Filipinos as they went about their lives as it was presented to them that day.
Many memories in the last days
As I headed into day 9 of the race, I looked forward to seeing more smiling faces in the municipality of Daanbantayan in northern Cebu. Oh yes, I have Seen the Lord many times on this Amazing Race and knew that I would see Him many more times as our journey continued. Our day began with a 5:30 a.m. check out from our hotel and me once again on the hunt for that elusive first coffee! To the rescue – Bishop Bantolo! Bishop Bantolo had visited Canada last autumn when Development and Peace launched its Voice for Justice campaign, and he travelled from his diocese Masbate to Cebu to visit with us. Bishop Bantolo and I were the first two in the hotel lobby and he knew how to get a coffee from a restaurant that was not even open yet!
Later that day, we took part in the blessing of 43 fully equipped, motorized boats, purchased with support from Development and Peace, for fisherfolk affected by the typhoon. Archbishop Miller blessed the boats, their owners and their families against a backdrop of clear blue water with children swimming in it as they attempted to stay cool in the 37 C temperatures. Our next stop was at a small outdoor chapel in Daanbantayan and the blessing of 15 homes constructed from proceeds that you and I contributed to Development and Peace. To know I had a part, small as it may have been, in enabling a boat or a home to be supplied to a very thankful Filipino was special and sad. Sad to know others are still waiting for similar assistance, but special in knowing that those most in need were being looked after. Fifty-three livestock (sheep, goats) and agricultural packages have also been supplied to this community. Happy faces surrounded us with thankfulness evident in their eyes.
The women and young girls engaged with us easily and they all spoke of how having us with them showed we cared about them and their situation above and beyond the monetary. We were there in person! We came from Canada to see how they were managing. And, to have an Archbishop and Bishop as a part of our group was beyond words for them. They now knew that Catholic Canadians did care about them, wanted to help and we promised our continued solidarity.
On our last day, we did a horse-drawn carriage tour of Intramuros (the colonial part of Manila built inside the walls of the old fortress), met with the gentle and humorous Cardinal Tagle, had mass at his residence, did a tour of Manila Cathedral and then met with all of Development and Peace’s partners in the Philippines.
And lastly, homeward bound! Flying from Manila to Edmonton via Tokyo and Vancouver gave me a great deal of time to reflect on the eleven days of my Philippine Amazing Race. Heat, new food, plenty of air miles, daily mass, a ferry trip, hugging children, thankful families, beautiful scenery, thoughtful conversation and most important the hope that is alive within the Filipino people came back to me.
Thank you Development and Peace for your amazing good work around the world and for the opportunity to see firsthand the results of that work. Let us all pray for a steady and complete restoration of the Philippines in a timely fashion.