History of the Philippine-Vietnamese diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church

In 1923, in Manila, the first Orthodox community was formed by a group of emigrants from Russia who were forced to leave their Homeland after the Civil war. In 1934, following the request of the Russian diaspora in Manila, Bishop Victor (Svyatin) of China and Beijing established a parish in honor of the Iveron icon of the Mother of God. Iveron church existed until 1945, when it was destroyed during the liberation of the city by the Americans from the Japanese invaders.

In 1949, after the Communists came to power in China, about six thousand Russian refugees left Shanghai. Of all the countries in the world, only the Republic of the Philippines agreed accept them for some period. The Russians were stationed on the small island of Tubabao. One of the first buildings built were two churches: in honor of the Archangel Michael and in honor of Seraphim of Sarov. And the temple of the Mother of God was made of the American field church. The famous Hierarch John (Maximovich) was among the refugees. Saint John of Shanghai periodically left the Philippines for other countries, primarily the United States, to organize the relocation of refugees there; so in 1951, the Russians mostly left the Philippines.

The next Liturgy was served on Tubabao only in 2013, when Russian Orthodox Church outside Russia (ROCOR) priest Seraphim Bell and deacon Siluan Thompson visited the Philippines. In preparation for this trip, the first Filippino ROCOR monk Philip (Balingit), with help from Russia, built a chapel on the site on the island where the Russian temple was previously located.

In November 2013, the chapel was destroyed by Typhoon Yolanda. Kirill Shkarbul, a priest serving in the ROC parishes in Taiwan, arrived in Tubabao with humanitarian aid.

At the same time, on the island of Mindanao, a group of aglipayan priests (followers of the Philippine Independent Church of Gregory Aglipay, which separated from the Roman Catholic Church more than 100 years ago) began to take an interest in the history of Orthodoxy. Aglipayan communities asked fr. Kirill to visit them with a lecture on Orthodoxy. So the mission of the Russian Orthodox Church among Filipinos began. After catechism, in 2015 a number of mass baptisms were performed in the waters of the Pacific ocean, thousands of people were joined to the Orthodox Church. Priest Georgy Maksimov played an active role in organizing the work of the mission. He and fr. Kirill Shkarbul periodically came to the Philippines, served the Divine Liturgies, conducted catechism classes. Fr. George organized fund raising in Russia for the mission.

From September 2014 to March 2020, also ROCOR priest Siluan Thompson (USA) performed missionary service on the island of Mindanao (Santa Maria village). For some time, Hieromonk Philip Balingit worked with him and then in Manila. They made a huge contribution to the missionary work, especially in translating of liturgical texts.

In October 2016, the Holy Synod appointed Bishop Sergiy of Solnechnogorsk (Chashin), the head of the Administrative Secretariat of the Moscow Patriarchate, to manage parishes of the Moscow Patriarchate in Vietnam, the Philippines, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Cambodia, Laos, North Korea and the Republic of Korea. His Eminence began with the renewal of the parish of the Iveron icon of the Mother of God in Manila on Easter in April 2017. The parish has united Orthodox people of many nationalities, Orthodox Filipinos  interested in Russian culture becoming its basis.

In the same year 2017, at the request of the faithful, ROC communities were founded in Tagaytay and Cebu. In Tagaytay, the Orthodox community originated on the basis of the Grubbs family charitable Foundation FMI. The head of the Foundation, fr. David Grubbs (USA), who converted to Orthodoxy in 2000 after ten years of work in Russia, was ordained a priest in 2019.

The community in Cebu is the only one in the country consisting mainly of Russian citizens.

In December 2018, Holy Synod established the Patriarchal Exarchate of Southeast Asia with 4 dioceses: Korean, Singaporean, Thailand, and Filipino-Vietnamese. Metropolitan Sergiy (Chashin) was appointed Head of the Exarchate.

In August 2019, by the decision of the Holy Synod, Metropolitan Pavel (Fokin) of Khanty-Mansi and Surgut was entrusted with the title of “Metropolitan of Manila and Hanoi” as the ruling Bishop of the Philippine-Vietnamese diocese. In  2019, three Filipino elders of Mindanao parishes were ordained to the priesthood.

In February 2020, during an archpastoral visit to the Republic of the Philippines, Metropolitan Pavel ordained to deaconship 5 other elders of the communities of Mindanao. A place for the construction of a temple was also blessed in the village of Kinabalu. On February 22, for the first time in the history of the ROC in the Philippines, a temple in honor of St Seraphim of Sarov in Makalangot was blessed by Met. Pavel.

The community in Makalangot village converted to Orthodoxy from the “Aglipayan church” in 2015 after conversion of its leader  fr. Moses Cahilig, now a priest of the Philippines-Vietnamese diocese. Priests Moses Cahilig and Roman Buniel were ordained by Metropolitan Pavel in Ugra in September 2019.

During his archpastoral visit in February 2020, Metropolitan Pavel also led the divine Liturgy at the Iveron parish in Manila and held talks with the foreign Minister of the Philippines, Mr Teodoro Loxin.

On February 22, 2020, after the divine Liturgy, in the church of St Seraphim of Sarov in Makalangot, under the chairmanship of Metropolitan Pavel, a diocesan meeting of the clergy and laity of the PV diocese was held.

Metropolitan Pavel made a report summarizing the work of the diocese in 2019.

To date, it consists of 33 parishes, 11 prayer rooms, 7 priests: 3 Russians (1 in Vietnam), 3 Filipinos and 1 American. The divine Liturgy is celebrated weekly in seven parishes of the diocese. Services are held in the languages: Russian, English, Tagalog and Cebuano. The main liturgical texts have already been translated into the latter.

In 2019, 125 baptisms were performed, including 13 babies, 18 weddings and 6 funerals. 8 Filipino students study at the St Petersburg theological Seminary.

During the meeting, the members of the Diocesan Council were elected and the heads of the diocesan departments were appointed.

Information Department was headed by hieromonk Alexy (Lapshin), the Department of Religious Education and Catechism — hieromonk Cornelius (Molev), the Department of Social Ministry and Charity — priest David Grubbs, Missionary Department — priest Moses Cahilig.

There are 5 deaneries in the PV diocese: Manila (Luzon and Cebu islands), Davao (Mindanao and Leyte), General Santos, Davao del Sur and Vietnam.

In February 2020, the official website of The Philippine-Vietnamese diocese was launched, and a Facebook page was created. The site is available at http://phvieparchy.org/ru/. It contains information about the diocese, the ruling Bishop, the clergy, churches under construction and operating, the work of parish communities, sisterhoods and fraternities, current news from the life of deaneries and the ministry of the Archpastor, decrees and orders of the ruling Bishop, appeals, documents, contacts and other information.

With help from Russia, churches are being built in the Philippines, and social work is being carried out in parishes, including helping poor families with food and necessary things. Volunteers travel to poor areas, conducting conversations and practical classes on hygiene and healthy rules.

During Typhoon Yolanda and during powerful earthquakes, priests and volunteers went to the affected areas, helping with water, food, and even rebuilding destroyed homes. So in the north of Cebu island, ROC funds were used to build more than 100 homes for victims of the typhoon.

The Russian Orthodox Church provides an opportunity for aspiring young Filipinos to receive a high-quality spiritual education both at the Davao training center and at spiritual schools in Russia.

The ROC plays an important role in the cultural exchange between Russia and the Philippines. In cooperation with the administration of educational institutions and localities, the Church participates in folk festivals, organizes cultural lectures, youth camps, and even charity concerts by professional singers from Russia, introducing local residents to the rich Russian culture.


ROC in Vietnam is represented by the parish in honor of the Kazan icon of the Mother of God in Vung Tau, where about 1000 Russian-speaking employees of JV “Vietsovpetro” live, and the parishes of blessed Xenia of St. Petersburg in Hanoi and the Protection (Intersession) of the Mother of God in Ho Chi Minh city. The blessing for the opening of parishes was given on July 17, 2002 by the Holy Synod.

The first of the ROC hierarchs to visit Vietnam in November 2001 at the head of the ROC delegation was Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad (since 2009, Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia). During the trip, the Hierarch met with his compatriots, held pastoral talks, and held prayers in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh city and Vung Tau. The first divine Liturgy and Easter services in Vietnam were held in 2002 in Vung Tau.

Representatives of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department for External Church relations regularly (once or twice a year)  visited the parish in Vung Tau, Ho Chi Minh city and Hanoi for services on Easter and other Church holidays.

The clergy of the Vladivostok diocese also visited Vietnam. In  2009, they celebrated the first divine Liturgy in the capital, Hanoi.

In February 2017, Archbishop Sergiy of Solnechnogorsk, Administrator of the parishes of the Moscow Patriarchate in East and South-East Asia, visited Vietnam. He met with the Deputy head of the Government Committee for religious Affairs of the SRV, Zuong Ngok Tan. During the conversation, the parties exchanged views on the organization of pastoral care of the Russian Orthodox Church for Russian-speaking compatriots in Vietnam.

In October 2018, by order of his Holiness Patriarch Kirill, priest Eugene Tsukalo, appointed rector of the parish in honor of the Kazan icon of the Mother of God in Vung Tau, arrived in Vung Tau for pastoral service, with the task of feeding the Orthodox communities of the cities of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh.

In Vung Tau, regular services are held on holidays and Sundays, on Wednesdays – the reading of the akathist to the most Holy Theotokos, prayers and dirges.

On July 9, 2019, the Holy Synod included the parishes of blessed Xenia of St. Petersburg in Hanoi and the Intercession of the Mother of God in Ho Chi Minh city under the jurisdiction of the ROC.

In Hanoi, services are held monthly. On Sundays, the Orthodox congregate in the Catholic chapel for a lay mass.

 In Ho Chi Minh city, services are held every 2-3 weeks on the territory of the Consulate General of the Russian Federation.