Why You Should Visit The Philippines (Not A Travel Blog)18 Sep 2018
By Villie Joe Gorra
Most travel websites would say that August is not the best time to visit the Philippines – it’s true. The monsoon season is at its peak during this time. As a tropical country that sits beside the Pacific, strong rains, rough winds and even typhoons are common. Flights often get delayed or even cancelled.
Thankfully, this trip was never meant to be your typical picture-perfect island holiday, and leisure was not on the agenda! Our action-packed trip allowed us to be a blessing and we were able to bring back experiences and stories that far surpassed all our expectations.
Over 20 people from City Hill and different parts of the world were present at what turned out to be an eventful and extremely fruitful week in the Philippines. It was a delight to be reunited with friends who were once part of our church in Dubai. They were very open to the invitation to join us, even though some of them come from different parts of the Philippines.
We were bound to meet our friends at two Grace City Fellowship churches: one in Quezon City and the other in Bulacan. At the same time, we were also thrilled to meet our new family in the churches at Caloocan and Taguig, within Metro Manila (which actually comprises of 16 independent cities). I was overwhelmed thinking about the number of faces and names I had to remember. I’d like to think that I managed to get them by the end, mostly with the help of Facebook.
Overall, the trip felt like the start of something significant that would eventually grow and influence this part of the world – a rising movement for gospel advancement.
After almost 3 hours of driving from the airport in Manila, our first stop was at a place called Batangas, a province about 100+ kilometers from the bustling capital. Driving along the scenic view of green hills and grasslands was comfort to our tired eyes and bodies from the long flight.
At Batangas, we had the privilege of being part of a wedding of a couple from City Hill. The official ceremony was held in an outdoor garden on a bright, clear day, despite the rain forecasts. It was a beautiful wedding, a union which reflected the next few days to come.
After the wedding in Batangas, our team – led by Fusi Mokoena – held a 3-day leadership training for our family churches in Quezon City, Bulacan and Caloocan. The ever passionate and gifted worship teams led us in incredible times of worship. Fusi and the City Hill team took the reins in the teaching sessions and group discussions, which were deeply rooted in the Word. They were incredibly insightful and helped us focus on issues concerning the church, especially within the context of the country that we were in.
Every session made me think deeply about the problems in our own society and culture, and how they can restrain us from loving and serving God and our neighbours. It was stirring and challenging for both our City Hill team and the churches in the Philippines. The response was overwhelming at the end – we saw people responding to the Word, leaders rising up and the body edified for kingdom advancement.
After the leadership training, we headed down to Taguig City on a Sunday morning for a huge joint gathering of the four churches. What a union it was in celebrating as one body! While the strong cool winds raged outside, we were greeted with the people’s warm smiles and embraces inside. As the constant rain poured, the spirit had an outpouring in the moments of our worship.
Almost 300 people filled up the congregation, comprised of both the young and the old, singles and families – all sons and daughters of God. After the meeting and prayer time, we huddled up for what felt like almost an hour of picture-taking filled with laughter and friendly banter!
We were met with such amazing hospitality! It is an extraordinary gift that people can bless each other with. Our new friends have shown warmth and hospitality from their hearts. We were treated like family – where it doesn’t have to be grand every time. It was almost as if they handed us keys to their homes, and brought us right into their families saying, “This is our life, our home and what we have. You are most welcome.” Their love, humility, and warmth truly reflected the heart of God.
Don’t get me started with Filipino food, this might go on longer than planned. It’s fair to say that our bellies were just as full our hearts. I met a lot of people who serve the Lord in many different ways. Some people had started businesses that provided jobs and supported the church in its building. We heard stories of great resilience and sacrifice among the people. Their generosity and openness towards us was incredibly inspiring.
During the course of the days, our team grew a lot closer. We spent hours inside the car whenever we would drive to other cities. The dense traffic gave us time to learn about each other. We often talked about the Filipino culture and it’s amazing how I started to see things in my country in a completely different light. It was as if I was looking at things with a brand new lens with a clearer, more insightful perspective.
Before this trip came into the picture, I could’ve just gone somewhere else on holiday, been a tourist and done whatever I wanted to. Since I was born and raised in the Philippines, I have spent most of my life there and it would be the last place I’d think about visiting on this kind of trip. It’s safe to say that it is only God who changed my heart, and I’ve learnt that there is more to His will and purposes than I know.
The world is smaller and more connected than ever before. It has become so easy to travel almost anywhere. God could be calling you to go to the world and join hands in the work for His kingdom. It can even be your very own country that you know personally.
Wherever the destination, what matters is how we carry His light. There is just something profound in knowing that there is a far greater purpose, which amounts to more than just going for yourself or for sightseeing. On trips like this, I have learnt that God is able to reveal new things to you through meeting new people and engaging in their lives. By His spirit, He will use you and truly make you capable of carrying His purposes for the nations. You will see that everything is for His glory and kingdom. We belong to Him alone and this world is His.
“Mabuhay!”, a widely known Filipino greeting which translates to “live” or “live long”. I love how it reflects the promise of our future hope, which is the reality that Jesus overcame death and by that we will actually live and be made new like Him. Ultimately, this trip was a glimpse of that future promise, children across the world who will, in time, be fully reconciled with the Father.