Philippines – Cebu
Cebu was my final destination and brought some unexpected pleasures. It seems I missed Sinulog, the biggest event of the year. The Sinulog-Santo Niño Festival is an annual cultural and religious festival held on the third Sunday of January in Cebu City, and is the centre of the Santo Niño Catholic celebrations in the Philippines. However, on the fourth Sunday of January, the spirit of the festival remained. The English mass at the Metropolitan cathedral was packed with all stackable chairs in use and people standing at all entrances.
Not far from the Cathedral. crowds were pouring out of the Basilica of the Santo Niño. This is where the statue brought by Ferdinand Magellan in 1521 is venerated. Alongside there is a pavilion with another much venerated object – the wooden cross that marked the spot where Magellan baptised the first Christian Filipinos, Rajah Humabon and Queen Juana and about 400 followers into the Catholic faith.
For my last few days, I devoted more attention to healing my injuries…Uncle Tom’s Cabin was a brand new hotel that allowed me a greater degree of comfort. Unfortunately it was located at the end of an unsealed road – a dirt track…moreover the pavements where they existed had great holes down which you could disappear without trace. Taxis proved to be the best way of getting around. Staying at a hotel also allowed me space to offer peer support to someone who had contacted me prior to the trip…it turned out to be a great pleasure and a privilege.
After exploring the intriguing triangular fortress of San Pedro, I was approached by a group of young people who wanted to do an interview for their course work. They showed me badges that confirmed they were genuine university students. Naturally, I had no hesitation in agreeing to their request…and suggested we crossed over in to the park where it was relatively more quiet. Questions ranged from why I had come to Cebu to my views on the importance of intercultural communication. It was my personal story, of course, which aroused the greatest interest. Condensing 75 years into a few minutes is a hard task…but I did my best, focusing on education as subject we had in common. My early upbringing in post war Britain and the repercussions of living 33 years with HIV were listened to with respect, and close attention…but the one fact of my personal history that had them laughing in disbelief was my age! Bless!
It would be difficult to make a comprehensive list of all the benefits I get from my adventures…it is always great to have a chance to read and take photos…however, the thrill of visiting new places, tasting different food would come higher up…but it is the joy of meeting people and making new friends as well as reuniting with old ones that would come out on top.