These days, Metropolitan Pavel of Manila and Hanoi heads a delegation making a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Russian Russian Orthodox Mission in Jerusalem, founded in 1847 to create a permanent representation of the Russian Orthodox Church in the Holy Land, was visited by Metropolitan Pavel and pilgrims on March 21, 2023. The pilgrims also visited the holy places of Jerusalem: they walked the Way of the Cross, made by Christ and including the Pretoria (the prison of Jesus Christ), the Alexander Courtyard, the threshold of the Gates of Judgment and the Church of the Resurrection of Christ, visited the place of the Nativity of the Most Holy Theotokos and the Sheep Font (Bethesda), Zion (the chamber of the Last Supper), the house of Caiaphas as well as the monastery of John the Baptist.
On March 21, 2023, at the Patriarchal Residence in Jerusalem, His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilus III of Jerusalem received Metropolitan Pavel of Manila and Hanoi. Metropolitan Pavel heads a delegation making a pilgrimage to the Holy Land these days. During the conversation, Metropolitan Pavel told the Primate of the Jerusalem Church about the life of the Khanty–Mansi Metropolia as well as the Philippine –Vietnamese diocese entrusted to his care, highlighting issues related to church building, social projects implemented by the dioceses. The Primate of the Jerusalem Church drew the guests’ attention to the situation of Christians in the Middle East, Israel and Palestine. At the end of the meeting, His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilus and Metropolitan Pavel exchanged memorable gifts.
In the town of Kinabalan, on the Philippine island of Mindanao, an Orthodox church is being built in honor of the Apostle Thomas. Hieromonk Korniliy, secretary of the Philippine-Vietnamese Diocese, told us about the construction of the temple and about Orthodoxy on the island. He has been helping the locals to get closer to the Lord for the fifth year.
In 2020, Metropolitan Pavel of Manila and Hanoi, the administrator of the Philippine-Vietnamese Diocese (and Metropolitan of Khanty-Mansi and Surgut) blessed the cross and the foundation stone at the construction site of the temple in Kinabalan. But because of the pandemic, it was only in 2021 that the site was prepared and the piles were hammered.For Russian scale, the temple is small. Its area is only 220 square meters. But for the island of Mindanao, and even more so for the settlement of Kinabalan, this is a palace. The houses here are made of bamboo, and the temple that used to stand on this place also looked more like a hut made of stone and bamboo with an earthen floor.– The Philippines is a very poor country, many people are starving here, and they don’t have money for building materials. They are happy to work on the construction of the temple, but the engineering solution, of course, is ours,” says Hieromonk Korniliy. – That’s why we announced a raising of donations for its construction in Russia, and many Yugra residents responded. Thanks to the funds collected this year, the foundation of the temple was completed and the erection of columns began.The island country is constantly experiencing earthquakes and typhoons. The project of the temple was developed by the architectural department of the Khanty-Mansi Metropolia specifically for the Philippines. The stone church must withstand an earthquake with a magnitude of 9 points.There are frequent and prolonged rains in Mindanao. Protection from rain sometimes becomes a real problem. If there is a metal roof in the church, then the rain is drumming on it so hard that nothing can be heard during the service.The new temple will have one dome with a tent. It will be made on the spot from a special dome metal, which will be brought from Russia. Another feature of Filipino Orthodox churches is the absence of a bell tower.”There is no bell ringing culture here,” the priest explains. – Filipinos do not know how to cast bells or ring. It is problematic to deliver a bell from Russia, and you can’t hang it on a bamboo structure. Instead of a bell, a cut-off gas cylinder is used here, which is beaten with a hammer when people are called to service. Now there are about 200 people in the community. Priest Joakim Gonzalez will serve in the new church in honor of the Apostle Thomas, and when Filipino seminarians return with diplomas from the St. Petersburg Academy, then, God willing, there will be a permanent priest in the church.
Father Joakim has a very interesting story. He was an Aglipai priest, there were five parishes under him. The Aglipayans are followers of Gregorio Aglipay, who separated from the Roman Catholic Church and founded an “Independent Filipino church” about 120 years ago, as a result of the war for independence from Spain. Now this church, covering about two million people, has been divided into almost one hundred “more” independent “churches”.
– Priest Joakim began to search for the truth with his parishioners a long time ago and found him in Orthodoxy, abandoning his Aglipai priesthood. But, unfortunately, instead of a real Orthodox church, he, without knowing it, first got to the schismatics. And only after a few years, having figured it out, he turned to the Russian Orthodox Church. And for the second time he lost his schismatic “priesthood” for the sake of staying in the true church. So he was accepted as an ordinary layman with all his five parishes, and after a long training he was ordained to the rank of a real Orthodox priest,” explains Hieromonk Korniliy.
He emphasizes that 9 years ago, Filipinos themselves appealed to the Russian Orthodox Church with a request for their admission to the ROC. There were 2 bishops, 10 priests and 28 parishes located on the island of Mindanao uniting several thousand people. They were baptized right in the ocean. According to Father Korniliy, even now the Kinabalans are undergoing the rite of baptism in groups in the river or ocean.
In general, among the Filipinos there are also pagans, Muslims, Catholics and various sectarians
Our daily bread
The history of Christianity in the Philippines began in the XVI century, when the Spaniards reached the coast of the country. Catholic Christianization of the population was carried out by various monastic orders.
– Services are held in the local language of Cebuano. Catholics even under Magellan translated the Bible into Cebuano, and nothing more. During several years of our mission, we have translated a lot of literature on worship and catechesis. But there are still problems. We have been watching the services since childhood. And local priests do not have such experience, and it is necessary to explain to them, and it is better to show them how and what is done during the service, but there are so few of us here,” Father Korniliy complains.
The hieromonk told about the case of the translation of the prayer “Our Father” in Cebuano:
– Our daily bread is our main food, food in principle, the sustenance necessary for life. For Filipinos, bread (tinapai) is an optional sweet snack to drink with coffee. Their main food is rice. The words “rice” – “pagkaon”, and “food” – “pagka-on” are almost similar. So we did not translate “give us an optional snack for this day”, we translated “pagka-on”
Russians and miracles
Filipinos do not know how to light a candle or how to worship an icon, and representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church teach them. They also teach how to bake cakes and paint eggs for Easter. Local Orthodox People like this tradition very much, as well as body crosses. They also believe in miracles.Since 1949, when 6 thousand Russian “white emigrants” who fled from China landed on the deserted shore of Tubabao Island, Filipinos have been watching how the Lord helps the Orthodox.The refugees came to Tubabao with St. John of Shanghai. They thought they would stay here for a few months, but they lived for three years. They lived in a tent camp. The refugees opened two schools and 3 Orthodox churches. During this time, not a single typhoon hit them – it’s a miracle. After all, several typhoons come from the ocean every year. Filipinos say that typhoons were calmed through the prayers of St. John.– In general, in the Philippines, God’s help is felt all the time. In 2022, we quite miraculously acquired land on the site where the Russian refugees with St John of Shanghai lived. Half of the land was donated to us by a Catholic grandmother, half was sold at a big discount with the help of the mayor’s office, which also treated us well. And the sponsor was found unexpectedly. We bought even more than we had planned. Every step of this process was a miracle through the prayers of the wonderworker John,” Hieromonk Korniliy affirms.By the way, it is God’s will that it was Metropolitan Pavel of Khanty-Mansiysk and Surgut who became the administrator of the Philippine-Vietnamese diocese. He had served in San Francisco, just where the relics of St. John of Shanghai rest.
On February 20, 2023, Metropolitan Pavel of Manila and Hanoi met with the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of the Philippines, Jesus Domingo. During the conversation, the Administrator of the Philippine-Vietnamese Diocese discussed the situation and development of the Russian Orthodox Church in the Philippines. The meeting was attended by the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Russian Federation to the Republic of the Philippines M. I. Pavlov
On February 20, 2023, Metropolitan Pavel of Manila and Hanoi met with the Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines, Archbishop Charles John Brown. The parties shared the peculiarities of Christian service in the region, and also discussed the issue of providing land at the cemetery in Guiuan to perpetuate the memory of our compatriots buried there. The meeting was attended by the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Russian Federation to the Republic of the Philippines M. I. Pavlov.
Reference. In 1949-1951 on Tubabao island, a temporary shelter was found for about 6 thousand former Russian citizens who arrived from Shanghai, where they emigrated after the Civil War in the 1920s. Some of them did not live to receive the right to emigrate to developed countries, having died on Philippine land. They were buried in the cemetery of Guiuan.
On February 20, 2023, Metropolitan Pavel of Manila and Hanoi met with the Mayor of Manila, Maria Sheilah Honrado Lacuna-Pangan. During the conversation, the parties discussed the restoration of the historical presence of the Russian Orthodox Church in the Philippines.
The meeting was attended by the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Russian Federation to the Republic of the Philippines M. I. Pavlov.
Reference. In the 1930s, Russian refugees who emigrated from Russia after the Civil War built a temple in Manila in honor of the Iveron Icon of the Mother of God. The temple was destroyed in 1945 by the bombing during the liberation of the city by the American army from the Japanese occupiers. In its memory, the parish of the Russian Orthodox Church in Manila, established in 2017, is named after the Iveron Icon of the Mother of God.
On February 19, 2023, on Meatfare Sunday, of the Last Judgment, Metropolitan Pavel of Manila and Hanoi celebrated the Divine Liturgy in the church in honor of the Iveron Icon of the Mother of God in Manila, Philippines. His Eminence was co-served by the Secretary of the Philippine-Vietnamese Diocese, Hieromonk Cornelius (Molev), the rector of the temple, Hieromonk Alexei (Lapshin), Priest Agustin Ponferrada, clerics of the Antiochian Orthodox Church, Priest Methodius Rafanan and Priest Luke Abouna and Hierodeacon Nicodemus (Pirkhovsky). At the small entrance, by decree of His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia, for diligent service to the Holy Church, the rector of the temple in honor of the Iveron Icon of the Mother of God in Manila, Hieromonk Alexei (Lapshin) was awarded the right to wear a palitsa.
At the end of the service, Metropolitan Pavel addressed the audience: “Dear fathers, brothers and sisters! allow me from the bottom of my heart to congratulate everyone on the feast of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ! Today is the Sunday of the Last Judgment. The Gospel today says that the Lord will distinguish between the righteous and sinners, and put them on different sides. This Sunday is one week before Lent, and it reminds us of what we must do on this Great Lent, to save our souls in order to be on the right side. The most important thing is for us to see our sins, because when a person sees his sins, he has something to repent of. To do this, we are given Great Lent — in imitation of the fast of our Savior, who suffered a forty-day fast before His saving mission. We also go through this period with repentance, with awareness of our deeds and our sins. The most important thing is spiritual fasting, during which we must realize our deeds, our life, understand whether we are going the right way, whether we are doing everything to save our soul. But it is also a physical fast, that is, we do not eat fast food, and this reminds us that there is a Great fast, so that we do not forget about the main thing — about our soul. I wish all of us to pass this fast with a result, so that we can change a little for the better, get rid of those vices with which we live, and from which we cannot get rid of in any way. Help us, Lord! I thank you for our common prayers, I rejoice at our meeting, we haven’t seen each other for a long time — for three whole years, and today the Lord has vouchsafed us to be here together, in order to thank God for the opportunity to serve together, to pray, to glorify his Creator and ask the Lord for blessings for the coming fast and for the rest of our lives. Once again I wanted to thank everyone for the common prayers. God bless everyone!”
On February 18, 2023, on the Ecumenical Saturday of the departed, Metropolitan Pavel of Manila and Hanoi celebrated the Divine Liturgy at the church in honor of the Nativity of Christ in Tagaytay, Philippines. His Eminence was co-served by: Secretary of the Philippine-Vietnamese Diocese, Hieromonk Cornelius (Molev), rector of the temple of the Nativity of Christ in Tagaytay, Priest David Grubbs, dean of the Manila Deanery, Hieromonk Alexei (Lapshin), Rector of the Holy Cross Church in Siniloan Archimandrite Philemon (Castro), Secretary of the Khanty-Mansi Diocese Abbot Anthony (Kirpichev), dean of the Surgut deanery of the Khanty-Mansi Diocese Archpriest Anthony Isakov, dean of the Nizhnevartovsk deanery of the Khanty-Mansi Diocese Archpriest Sergiy Shevchenko, Priest Oleg Gordeev. The deacon’s rank was headed by Hierodeacon Nicodemus (Pirkhovsky). The service was attended by the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Russian Federation to the Republic of the Philippines M.I. Pavlov and his wife. By decree of Metropolitan Pavel of Manila and Hanoi, for his diligent service to the Holy Church, the rector of the church in honor of the Nativity of Christ in Tagaytay, Priest David Grubbs was awarded the right to wear a loincloth, a camisole and a pectoral cross. During the Liturgy, Metropolitan Pavel ordained deacon Augustine Ponferrada, a cleric of the Church of the Iveron Icon of the Mother of God in Manila, to the priesthood.
At the end of the service, Vladyka addressed the audience: “Dear fathers, brothers and sisters! Your Excellency, our dear Ambassador, Marat Ignatievich! Let me thank everyone from the bottom of my heart for the common prayers. There is no greater glory than to glorify your Heavenly Creator together, the Holy Scripture says. The Lord has gathered us all here so that we can thank our Creator for the immeasurable boon to each of us, for everything that each of us has and even for the simplest — the ability to move, isn’t this the grace of God? We haven’t seen you for 3 years — there was a pandemic period when restrictions prevented us from meeting and glorifying the Lord together. But prayer knows no distance, and we prayed for each other. I prayed for all of you, for all the clergy with the whole flock, you prayed for your archpastor, and the Lord heard our prayers and brought us all together today. I would like to congratulate Father Agustin on taking holy orders, it is also a part of our life, our diocese, that there is one more clergyman here in the Manila Deanery. As a sign of our meeting, I would like to present to your church a three-candlestick for Easter and surplices for the brethren, who will grow up and prepare for further spiritual education. I would like to especially thank Father David for his service, for the work he has been doing in Tagaytay for many, many years. May God grant you health, so that you may live and serve here for a long time. Thank you for your efforts. I am also glad to see Father Philemon, who is in our church today. I hope that our diocese will grow stronger, strengthen and multiply. There are a lot of questions and problems, but I think that with God’s help we will slowly solve them. There is no temple in Manila today, it was destroyed earlier, and now the task is to acquire land and build a temple and our representative offices, not only here, but also in Davao and General Santos, and in other places. So there is a lot of work, and I invite everyone to work hard on this issue. Once again, I thank everyone for the common prayers, for the meeting!”
On February 15, 2023, on the feast of the Presentation of the Lord, Metropolitan Pavel of Manila and Hanoi celebrated the Divine Liturgy at the church in honor of the Resurrection of Christ in General Santos in the province of South Cotabato, on the island of Mindanao. His Eminence was co-served by the Secretary of the Philippine-Vietnamese Diocese, Hieromonk Cornelius (Molev), the rector of the church, Priest Roman Buniel, and the clergy of the Philippine-Vietnamese diocese. The deaconess rank was headed by Hierodeacon Nikodim (Pirkhovsky). By the Metropolitan’s decree, for the diligent service to the Holy Church, the rector of the parish in honor of the Resurrection of Christ, General Santos, Priest Roman Buniel was awarded the right to wear a loincloth. During the Liturgy, Metropolitan Pavel ordained the reader Juventinus Bulakvenya as a deacon. At the end of the service, Metropolitan Pavel addressed the audience: “Dear fathers, brothers and sisters! Allow me to congratulate everyone on the feast of the Presentation of the Lord! On this day, Saint Simeon the God-Receiver took Christ into his own hands and thanked God: “Now let Your servant depart in peace, Master, according to Your word!”, for it was promised to him – until he sees Christ, he will not die. It is said in the Holy Scriptures that Simeon the God-Receiver was a man of holy life and was honored to take into his hands the God-Child and thus sum up his earthly life. He was expecting this event. One can only imagine what joy he had when the Lord promises and you get what you ask for, and he asked for a meeting with God. Each of us desires a meeting with God, so that the Lord will guide us in this earthly life and in eternity, everyone truly desires this. But the Lord does not appear to everyone during His lifetime, only to those who live holy on Earth. And we follow this path, waiting, hoping, trusting the Lord that He is with us, even if we are unworthy of meeting Him now. The fact that He makes it possible to perform the Sacrament of Holy Communion with His Body and Blood, and to unite with Him, is a great providence of God for each of us. It is not for nothing that the Lord says: “Whoever does this in my memory will not see death”. And we know that everyone is alive with God, the soul is immortal. Having lived an earthly life, the soul goes to God and remains in Eternity with him. May God grant us to follow this right, true path, on which the Lord has chosen and set us. I am very glad to meet you, celebrating the Divine Liturgy here, praying together, and I hope that the Lord will give us the strength to see each other more often. The Lord has given us the opportunity during these two weeks of our visit to the Philippines to increase our church with pastors — priests and deacons. We have performed the seventh ordination today and I thank God that our church is developing and growing both flock and pastors. I congratulate you, I wish you spiritual and physical strength, God’s help to all! I thank everyone for the service, for the common prayers!”