I will admit this post is way long overdue. Back-dated to May 6, 2010.
It was wonderful to see Fr. Mel Portula, CICM once again. He had spent a couple of weeks in NC amongst friends and parishioners of St. Eugene's in Wendell, where he had served as Pastoral Vicar before he was sent to the Philippines to be the Formator/Postulancy Program Director at the Maryhurst Seminary in Baguio City, Philippines.
As part of the month-long Flores de Mayo celebration, we had met at a house in Southwest Durham (can't remember the name of the family, sorry... I didn't really know them). As was usual, we started off with praying the Rosary, complete with the typical music that is usually sung during these celebrations (Halina't tayo'y magsidulog, Our Lady of Fatima, Paalam Inang Birhen, etc.). This was followed by a Mass celebrated by Fr. Mel. And then after the Mass: the food! Filipinos joke that everyone gains a heap of weight during the month of May because of all the good food that is prepared for these celebrations.
I'm happy about these traditions continuing on even in a foreign land, and for me, the local-born, I feel perfectly at home with these people. I was always aware of my culture during my youth, even though I may have resisted it growing up, but despite that, I'm glad I am living the Filipino culture, even though it is outside, abroad in a foreign land. This particular host family has a couple of young children... I'd estimate the oldest is no more than 7 and the youngest no more than 5, and she might even be younger than that. I noticed they were holding their rosaries and following along. It's really nice to see these traditions being passed down to the next generation so they too can hold on to it, appreciate it, and pass it on to their own children.
Dinnertime conversation was very interesting. I devoted one post to one of the conversations (click here to read about it)... admittedly, another thread of the conversation didn't interest me too much, but considering when it took place, it attracted a lot of attention. Elections in the Philippines are to take place next Monday, May 10. Naturally, people at the table wanted to hear Fr Mel's take on the whole thing, considering that he knows the situation from the perspective of a local, as opposed to the rest of us who could only follow from abroad, with opinions formed from whatever the Filipino media feeds you over the interwebz.
I will admit--I hate politics, and I try to avoid it like the plague. However, the dinnertime political conversation I found rather disheartening. It's disheartening how the rampant corruption in Philippine politics breaks the hope of the people. Most of what I heard at the table, I've heard before as I recalled conversations with friends who have been disillusioned with politics in the Philippines. Sure, they're not there now, having immigrated to the West, but it's a reflection of how others feel... those who might have a shred of honesty and humanity try to go against the machine that is corruption in politics... the cycl of corruption continues, making you wonder when it would end; when would Filipinos stop shooting themselves in the foot so that we could become a viable entity in the world stage? We have a lot of people with good brains in their heads, good abilities, etc. Why can't we play honestly in the political stage?
It's a question that is always asked. Who knows who has the answers?
I just listened to the conversation, which was conducted mostly in Tagalog. Fr Mel was telling some stories that just sounded quite unbelieveable... and it made us shake our heads because of the continual perpetuation of corruptive behaviour amongst the politicians.
He will be returning home over the weekend, expected to arrive in the midst of the voting... I can't remember if he said he'll be back in time to vote (polls open until 7.00 pm), but despite it all, I was able to get the sense that there was a lot of excitement and anticipation surrounding these elections.
It was great seeing Fr. Mel again. I wish him safe travels as he winds down his trip to NC and returns home to Baguio City.