Ep. 24 | Discover: Philippines – “300 years in the convent, 50 years in Hollywood”

Discover the Philippines. In the second episode of the Discover series, we take a closer look at the Philippines. From its Christian history to the people’s love of karaoke, and its American cultural influences, the Philippines’s 7,641 islands are full of interesting stories. But how can we go about sharing the gospel with Filipinos? And what are the greatest needs of the Filipino church? One exciting way to join in with what God is doing in the world is to learn more about his heart for the nations. This is exactly what the Discover series is all about, so come and join us as we learn more about the Philippines!

If you’ve got any comments and questions do get in touch we’d love to hear from you

This episode transcription has been lightly edited to improve readability.

Freddie Barker  

Hello, and welcome back to the serve Asia Podcast, where you’ll find interviews, stories and discussions about how Jesus is being made known in East Asia. And welcome to the new discover series on the Serve Asia Podcast, where we’re giving you the opportunity to learn more about history, culture, and current Christian context of countries throughout East Asia. Today, we’re talking about country with 7641 islands, which is home to 109 million people, has 200 people groups, 182 living languages, is known for its monkey eating Eagle, and inventing the yo yo. It is of course, the Philippines and to learn about the Philippines today we’re joined by Hannah, who’s going to be our student. It’s great to have you with us, Hannah. Before we get to learning about the Philippines, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself, perhaps who you are, and and what you do.

 

Hannah Li 

So Hello, I’m Hannah. I am the graphic designer at OMF. And I help out with a lot of the official stuff, and help design them so they’re easier to be understood. I joined this year, which is an interesting year to join. I’m originally from Hong Kong, but I started uni in the UK in Cornwall, in a degree of graphic design. Yeh.

 

Freddie Barker 

Great. Yeah, it’s been wonderful to have you with us, Hannah, you bring a lot of joy and laughter to the office. And although it’s been an unusual year, we’re happy to have you as part of the team. And it’s exciting that you want to learn more about the Philippines. But before we do that, let’s get to know you a little bit better.

 

Hannah Li 

Sure.

 

Freddie Barker 

So I’m gonna ask you a couple of quick fire questions and just give me the answer that pops into your head. Okay. Summer or winter?

 

Hannah Li 

Summer!

 

Freddie Barker 

Summer. That was easy. Sweet or savoury?

 

Hannah Li 

Sweet!

 

Freddie Barker 

Sweet. Got a bit of a sweet tooth. And cats or dogs?

 

Hannah Li 

Both! Yeah.

 

Freddie Barker 

Okay. Did you have lots of pets growing up then?

 

Hannah Li 

No, we we have goldfish and hamsters.

 

Freddie Barker 

So goldfish is actually your answer?

 

Hannah Li 

No!

 

Freddie Barker 

Okay, yeah. So let’s dive in. What do you already know about the Philippines Hannah?

 

Hannah Li 

I know that Filipinos like to sing. And a lot of them are very gifted in this area.

 

Freddie Barker 

It’s interesting that that stands out to you first. Anything else?

 

Hannah Li 

I know that they are next to the deepest, deepest trench or the deepest point of the ocean because of the tectonic plate.

 

Freddie Barker 

Yeah, they sit on that. I think it’s called the Pacific Ring of Fire don’t they. So they have a lot of earthquakes. And I know, unfortunately, they have a lot of typhoons as well.

 

Hannah Li 

Yeah.

 

Freddie Barker 

They’ve had a few recently. Yeah. What else do you know Hannah?

 

Hannah Li 

I also know they love the Jolly Bee, which is a fast food chain that sells fried chicken, anything delicious like that.

 

Freddie Barker 

Jolly Bee, wow that sounds tasty. Have you had it yourself?

 

Hannah Li 

Yes. So I get to know some of my Filipino friends. And they very passionately always dragged me along.

 

Freddie Barker 

Great. And Is that why you want to learn more about the Philippines? Because you because you have lots of Filipino friends?

 

Hannah Li 

Well, I wouldn’t say a lot, but a few yeah. And also because I grew up in Hong Kong. There’s a lot of Filipino helpers. And I know a lot of friends have their Filipino aunties and ze2 ze2, which means big sister and that care for them. But I feel like I just, even though I grew up seeing a lot of them, I don’t actually have deep connections with them, or I don’t know much about their culture. So I thought, you know, this is a good opportunity to know more about them and sort of know my neighbours. Yeah.

 

Freddie Barker 

Yeah, that’s such a good reason we all want to know, or understanding more about our friends, cultural backgrounds is a great way to get to know them more deeply, and to show that we love and care for them. Are there any other reasons that you’re interested in learning about the Philippines?

 

Hannah Li 

Yeah, so I got to know my Filipino friends at a church when I worked there. And they did a week of justice. And through that I learned about some of the social issues of Philippine and particularly cyber sex of children really stood out to me and yeah, then I learned more about it myself. And I would like to learn more about the context of how this social issue is how, where, where it’s happening and how it’s happening, I suppose. The context of it.

 

Freddie Barker 

Yeah, both good reasons. And yeah, it’s important issue that we need to be praying for God’s justice to be brought to. So hopefully we can both learn a lot as we head over now to our Filipino teacher. So today we’re joined by Jojie from the Philippines. Who’s going to teach us all about Philippines history, culture, and Christianity. It’s great to have you with us Jojie. I wonder if you could start off by telling us a little bit about yourself, perhaps where you’re from and what you do.

 

Jojie Wong 

Yeah, thanks for inviting me to share. It’s exciting for me to be able to share about the Philippines. Just a bit of background. I’m from Davao City, I’m actually not from Manila, the capital. Davao is in Mindanao, in the southern island of the Philippines. And, yeah, but I’ve been living in Manila for quite a number of years now. And if I totalled it, I’ve been in Manila more years than I have been in Davao counting my time of childhood. But identity wise, I would say I’m more identified with where I’m from of birth which is the island of Mindanao. So my main ministry is with OMF. And for many years, my ministry is really to come alongside churches and individuals and help them to be engaged in cross cultural missions, whether locally or overseas. And currently, I am involved in training missionaries, and those who are also helping churches in their missions engagement, or cross cultural missions. Yeah.

 

Freddie Barker 

That’s great. So you’re involved in inspiring and teaching Christians and members of the churches to get involved in in God’s global mission, which is really exciting. So let’s get to get to know you a little bit before we jump into the interview about the Philippines. Jojie, I wonder, if you could tell us what your favourite food is.

 

Jojie Wong 

Okay, that’s really hard to answer because there’s a lot to that I mean, it’s a seasonal thing. I mean, we here in the Philippines we call March and April our summer months, but actually, we don’t have four seasons, but we call it summer because it’s the hottest season of the year. And on summer months, I’d say Halo-Halo would be my favourite. It’s a desert. It’s an ice desert. Halo-Halo is Halo-Halo is literally mix mix. So you have shaved ice and you have some frozen fruits in it and beans. And it’s a sweet dessert. So it’s something that I really look for in really hot. You know, it’s it goes up to almost 40 degrees in the summer. So..

 

Freddie Barker 

Yeah, so you need you need something quite refreshing do you? That does sound refreshing.

 

Jojie Wong 

Yeah, so that’s one of my favourite.

 

Freddie Barker 

Great. And Jojie, what was the last good book that you read?

 

Jojie Wong 

Okay, the last one. It’s actually a big one. Just because of lockdown you do, I do have more time to read. I’ve been reading, I just finished actually reading Eugene Peterson’s Christ Plays in Ten Thousand places. It gives me time to just meditate on scripture, but it’s really about discipleship. So it’s a good book. And it’s very thick. So I do take sections of it and chew on it. So it took me a few months to finish, but I finally finished it. So it’s a it’s a really good book, even though it’s written in, I think in the context of Canada. But a lot of things apply to Christian life, wherever and even here so so yeah.

 

Freddie Barker 

It sounds really interesting. Sometimes you need those thicker books to mull over and kind of work through over a longer time. It’s good to get to meditate on that stuff.

 

Jojie Wong 

Yeah.

 

Freddie Barker 

So we’ll move on to finding out more about the Philippines and learning about Filipino history, culture, and the current Christian context. I’m really excited. So let’s just jump straight in. And we’ll start off. I wonder if you could tell me what some of the key features or or cultural norms are in Filipino identity?

 

Jojie Wong 

That’s interesting to talk about identity. I think it’s very hard for us to actually pinpoint one and I think sometimes, Filipinos are like chameleons, like we just integrate with wherever we are. That’s why if you look around, even in the UK, there’s so many Filipinos there. And one of our greatest exports, it’s actually our people, you know, they work and they blend in and they get along with any culture, and probably that’s because we are a very extroverted culture. Now, if you’re here, I don’t know if you hear the background noises, probably not now, but once in a while, you’ll hear karaoke playing. There’ll be people..

 

Freddie Barker 

Karaoke?

 

Jojie Wong 

Yeah! That’s like the main thing here. And also because there’s a mix of the Spanish influence, the Malay and American influence is very strong. And that’s why we joke that our history is summed up in a statement that’s, “300 years in the convent and 50 years in Hollywood.” Referring to you know, the time that we were a Spanish colony as well as an American colony, then you will see that everywhere. This this mix of cultures.

 

Freddie Barker 

Oh that’s really interesting, that phrase, can you just unpack that a little bit for us? What what do you mean by that?

 

Jojie Wong 

So 300 years is because the Spaniards came in the 1500s. And they stayed and stayed and stayed. And that’s how we became very much a Roman Catholic country. It’s very deeply rooted, you know, the time that they were here, and and very strong on religion. That’s why it’s 300 years in the convent. Right, and the 50 years in Hollywood was in, yeah, when they came in, and the height of, you know, all this, hollywood stuff came in as well. And also, in Protestantism, evangelicalism came in with Americans as well. But I think the biggest influence that they had was really the language, English language, but also in our pop culture. And until now, it’s huge, right? Some Hollywood movie is released. In you know, if they have a global release, we actually get it released here first before the US just because timezone wise we, you know, we hit the date earlier than they do so.

 

Freddie Barker 

Oh really? Yeah.

 

Jojie Wong 

Yeah! Yeah, yeah.

 

Freddie Barker 

It sounds like a really interesting place. One has kind of a rich religious history, but also kind of on the beat of pop culture. Quite a colourful place to be, that’s really, it’s really cool.

 

Jojie Wong 

Yeah. Yeah.

 

Freddie Barker 

So I wonder is that is that the same throughout the whole of the Philippines? Or is there some diversity?

 

Jojie Wong 

It’s interesting that you talk about diversity, because we do joke that, you know, when people ask, ask us, like, how many islands are there in the Philippines? We’ll say, we’ll ask first, do you mean high tide or low tide, just because there’s so many islands. But there are officially 7000 Islands. So that contributes to diversity a lot, because there’s so many different regions. But the common things would be family ties, strong community ties, you know, everyone’s on Facebook, we’re at one point, we’re called the text capital of the world, because people are texting everyone else. And so community is a common binding thing. Community pressure, wherever you are in the Philippines that’s a big, big deal. But we also, as you say, there’s that diversity there. We’re very regionallistic. I didn’t realise it until, you know, when I was studying for a year in the UK, that whenever I introduce myself, I actually say, “I’m from the Philippines, I’m from the south.” I always..

 

Freddie Barker 

Okay.

 

Jojie Wong 

I always make that distinction. And one of the missionaries who used to serve in the Philippines who I met in the UK again, and she said, “Funny that you do make that distinction when you introduce yourself.” I didn’t realise it until she said that. In that, yeah we do identify with our regions. We don’t just say, “I’m a Filipino.” You know. So there’s that regional thing that comes out, and it is quite diverse. There’s over 170 languages, depending on depending on how you classify. That’s a lot of languages. So yeah, there is that diversity that comes in and we do have the Chinese, I’m also ethnically Chinese. But I do identify myself as a Filipino Chinese, not, you know, not the mainlanders, it’s very different culturally as well. But there’s also the Muslims in the south, there’s so many of them there. And again, also the different regions and the different language to contribute that this distinctiveness in terms of diversity, and yeah, what else is there? Yeah, and also the tribal people, the highlands people. So yeah, it’s very diverse. And there’s in fact one, one city in the south that speaks a mixture of Spanish, in a broken Spanish called Chavacano. So they speak that you know language. So yeah, it’s a very diverse, diverse country.

 

Freddie Barker 

Yeah, sounds very diverse and quite a colourful place as well with all that mixture of languages and kind of immigration and things like that. So is there is there a distinction between perhaps, urban centres and more rural districts as well?

 

Jojie Wong 

Yeah, it’s very different. So whenever somebody says, “The Philippines is..” It will be correct in certain places, and wrong in other places as well. Yeah, so city centres. Yeah, even the city centres are distinctly different. Like, if you are in Manila, it’s very different from Cebu, which is the capital in central Philippines or Davao, where I’m from, it’s the capital in the south of the Philippines, Davao would be a little bit more laid back. And recently, because there’s so many Tagalog’s, or people from the from Manila who has come to stay in Davao, we’ve developed what we would jokingly call TagBis, Tagalo Bisaya, which is a mix of our local language. And Filipinos in in Manila will come in. So it’s a mix of tagalog and all that. So. So yeah, there’s, there’s there’s that in the cities too. So cities, there’s a bit more of a melting pot thing going on. But if you go to the provinces, it’s quite different as well, very much, much more laid back. Much, much more. People are more trusting more. Yeah, it’s just a very different thing. Very flexible. And yeah, in Manila, if you say, for example, a church service, if it starts at nine, it starts at nine. And quite professional, and you know, everything’s really on time and all that, especially the big churches, but in the province, when you say nine, it’s always ish.

 

Freddie Barker 

Yeah.

 

Jojie Wong 

Yeah.

 

Freddie Barker 

Perhaps they’re a bit more traditional and haven’t spent as long in in those Hollywood years as you were talking about earlier.

 

Jojie Wong 

Yeah, yeah. That’s very true.

 

Freddie Barker 

Yeah. So it’s really interesting that actually, the Philippines is not, it’s not just one place, but there’s a lot of different factors and contexts within within the 7000 Islands or so. So that means to me that as a foreigner, I should be quite careful when when speaking when interacting with a Filipino. What, what perhaps Should I know, before talking to someone from the Philippines, as as an outsider as a Westerner?

 

Jojie Wong 

I think, I think part of the fact that we have the West, strong Western influence in terms of Americans coming to stay, and also partly because of our very laid back type of personality, cultural culture wise, we are very accommodating to Westerners. So we do, we do give a bit of grace if a foreigner, you know, makes some blunder, you know, but there’s really. If you think of do’s and don’ts, there’s really not much of that in terms of do’s and don’ts. I think the key word would be the word, “pakikisama”, which means to relate to people well. To be, you know, if somebody says, “Do this for us.” You’d have to succumb to peer pressure. Because it’s really about pakikisama, it’s about the community being conscious, about what the community feels, you don’t make decisions for yourself, but for the, for the rest of the group, or for your family and all that. So a foreigner will have to be very conscious of that. And you know, if we offer food, please receive it because we’re proud of our food. You know, smiling is a big thing. You see people smile here everywhere, because it’s also, I think, partly, it’s friendliness, but it’s also a way of how we call that it’s the nuance thing. The nonverbals part of it is the nonverbal, so we asked for a favour or if you go and ask for a discount from a store, if you smile, it goes a long way, you know. And people do put a lot of premium on the nonverbals. So if you go around and you’re not smiling, people might label you as unfriendly even if you’re not, you know. So the nonverbals are very, very important. And also here, I guess one of the things we’ve, the respect thing is very important. If you’re talking to older people, we don’t use first names.

 

Freddie Barker 

Oh right.

 

Jojie Wong 

So if they’re older, we do use uncle or Auntie, or the local counterpart.

 

Freddie Barker 

Okay. So it’s all kind of based around community rather than perhaps a more individualistic Western perspective. So you really needs to be conscious of how you’re appearing to act, as well as how you’re, how you’re actually feeling. And, yeah, it’s really interesting how you say that respect within the community is so important.

 

Jojie Wong 

Yeah.

 

Freddie Barker 

I think that’s something that I’d have to be wary of when going, just how I’m treating different people and how I’m presenting myself.

 

Jojie Wong 

Yeah. And also, I think, what will go a long way in terms of relationship capital, just building relationship is trying to learn to speak some, you know, Filipino words, you know, like, just saying, “Thank you”, “Salamat po”, or “Kumusta ka”, which is, how are you? It actually sounds like this sounds like the Spanish “Cómo está”, right. So it’s probably derived from there. And you know, even even simple words like that go a long way, just appreciation that you’re trying to learn something of the Filipino culture. So it’s a very relational culture. So any relational effort from any visitor would really go a long way.

 

Freddie Barker 

That’s really that’s really cool. It’s really interesting. So moving on, perhaps to talk a bit more about Christianity in the Philippines. What is, I mean, you said briefly that there’s kind of a 300 year history of Roman Catholicism. But what is the religious context currently? How would you describe religion in the Philippines today?

 

Jojie Wong 

Okay, um, the 300 years of being under the Spaniards really has an impact even now. That’s three centuries, so it’s, it’s really not like, just a few years, it’s not to be taken lightly they had a very strong influence. So that’s why we still are 80% Roman Catholics here in the Philippines. And you see that in many of our fiestas, the fiestas will be really focused on the saints, you know which saint and all that, and also, yeah, there’s a particular focus on Mary, mother of Jesus. And also baby Jesus, or the Santo Nino, we call it a saint, the small saint, so to speak. So the baby Jesus especially is very, very prominent. In Central Philippines. There’s so many fiestas there. And actually, a lot of foreigners go to Central Philippines to celebrate the fiestas with baby Jesus. Probably they don’t know they come and enjoy the festivals, but actually, it’s focused on the saints. Yeah. And for the, and then the Protestants and evangelicals are usually counted together, you know. And they, they’re about 8%, maybe. And, yeah, and also, Muslims would probably be 5%, and then the mix of some of the indigenous religions. But for the evangelicals, the church is really growing. And there are churches here in Manila, what we would probably label as mega churches, and averaging, pre pandemic is about 30,000 average church attendance.

 

Freddie Barker 

Wow, that’s like a football stadium!

 

Jojie Wong 

And, and literally when you go in for service, it does, it probably does look like a bit of a stadium.

 

Freddie Barker 

Evangelical Christianity is would you say it’s growing?

 

Jojie Wong 

Yes. Yes, it is growing, especially in major cities. You’ll see. Even if you go to the province, if you take a van trip in Luzon, to somewhere, you can actually count how many Christian Fellowship as we call them along the, along the road. So you could actually see maybe three in a block, maybe. So there’s a few. There’s a few cities here that I read somewhere before I forget the source. But there are a number of major cities that are highly, you know that there’s a high concentration of evangelicals in those cities. So yeah, there’s many. There’s quite a few of that. Here. So yeah, in terms of Christian witness, there are many but there are also what we would call places that are relatively unreached or places that are, there’s, there’s not many evangelical presence in them, you know, and there are those in the south of the Philippines mainky. Mostly in Manila, you’d say, or in the north, Luzon, you would say there’s many, many churches but probably central and southern Philippines, there are places that are relatively what we would call unreached.

 

Freddie Barker 

So it was there is kind of a religious heritage. Because of that diversity, the difference between different regions of the Philippines, there’s still a great need for for the gospel in certain parts of the country.

 

Jojie Wong 

Yes, there will be some places that need some, yeah evangelical witness so to speak, there will be some chapels and all that, and all these different places, and they’ll be in the south, there’ll be some religious presence, but not with evangelicals.

 

Freddie Barker 

So there’s still, still work to be done, as it were. What is the greatest need for the Philippines in the Filipino church at the moment? How could perhaps someone who, who’s from a different culture and wants to go to the Philippines, how could they help? or how could they be praying for the Philippines?

 

Jojie Wong 

I think the greatest need would be to see more Christian presence outside the major cities. There was a survey done many, many years ago, just to plot out how many churches there are. Unfortunately, because of funding that, that survey wasn’t updated. But I think it’s still reflecting now, even though, you know, it’s been about 20 years since that survey. That there are still communities that need Christian presence. You just heard a motorbike pass by so anyway. Yeah, yeah. Anyway, so yeah, so there are places that still need churches. And also one of the things we need is to really pray that the more established churches have the vision to reach the unreached places in central and southern Philippines that have very limited Christian presence, but also for pastors in this province has to be equipped better. So training and equipping is needed for the pastors and also Christian resources. Biblical grounding as well. And you know, yeah, that’s a, that’s a huge need. But also a more how they call, holistic way of discipleship that meets needs, but also empowers people to, yeah to learn about how to walk in Christ in a more holistic way, I think that’s, that’s that kind of training as well. Yeah. So that’s one of the needs. But again, for the unreached places, we do have work there in places like Samar, where they’re fisherfolk, who are, really, there’s a great potential and they were open to the gospel. And the way that they do it is really through Bible story. Just to bring them back to what Scripture says, about everything from creation onwards, they’re very open to hearing that. Yeah, so there’s a lot of need for that in certain areas as well. But for the church itself, I think the need is prayer, prayer for the church to have a, have a bigger vision of their missionary potential.

 

Freddie Barker 

Mm hmm.

 

Jojie Wong 

There are, there are already, there are already lots deployed overseas, as, as you know, you know, as workers. But how many of them are Christians? And the prayer is that they will really be able to be intentional about being witnesses wherever they go, or wherever they’re working. To be, to not just stay among themselves as Filipinos, but to really be reaching out and be effective witnesses wherever they are, and whoever they’re interacting with. I think that’s, that’s one other thing that needs to be thought through.

 

Freddie Barker 

So we need to be kind of relationally investing in Filipinos and helping to disciple one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. I guess the understanding the faith is there, but you want to help that to flourish and to thrive, and for them to be witnesses reaching out. Perhaps they just need that little bit of encouragement and inspiration from, from other Christian brothers and sisters.

 

Jojie Wong 

Yeah, so I think, yeah, basically, it’s really how to challenge those that are here, especially in the provinces. To help them go deep in their faith, because there are a lot of different types of teachings around, and you can easily be swayed if you don’t have proper guidance, or if the pastors don’t have deeper training just because they don’t have access to resources. Most of the trainings, seminaries, or training schools are in the cities, it doesn’t get to the provinces. Yeah and they need more resources, and maybe translated resources or having, you know, develop their own indigenous resources. That’s the, that’s a big need as well, in terms of training and, yeah, going deep in discipleship, understanding scripture, how the scripture then relate to their everyday life. How are they going to respond to false teachings or teachings that are not biblical, that kind of thing. And yeah, and then the, and also then the missionary potential of the churches as well. So those two are the, I think the needs here.

 

Freddie Barker 

So there are lots of, lots of ways that people can get involved there. That’s really helpful and insightful. Thank you, Jojie. Finally, if you could give us a few prayer points that we can be praying for the Philippines for. I know you’ve just had some typhoons, maybe we could pray into those.

 

Jojie Wong 

Yeah. Yeah. typhoons how do you pray? I guess, the prayer, because I mean, it will come. And that that’s the joke here. We’re so hospitable that we welcome the typhoons before they go, from the Pacific, before they go elsewhere, whether to Vietnam or Japan that we get it first. Right, but pray I guess for, yeah for, for this to cause people to deepen their faith. To just trust in God, because he does answer like the previous typhoon that passed by, we prayed hard and the typhoon actually, somehow weakend. So you know, pray for people to have a deeper faith in God, whatever happens with every disasters. But pray also for our governments to really know how to prepare people for disasters like that. Another thing I think, just pray for unity in the church. There’s a lot of defensiveness because of social and political issues, but pray that the church will be able to, yeah, to be able to deal with it with maturity and grace with one another despite the differences. And yeah, be able to present a united Christian witness in a way that will cause people to see you as a Christian rather than whichever side of the political fence you’re in. I think that’s a big need right now in terms of prayer, prayer for unity in the church. Pray for the government as well. You know, I, I don’t envy those in the government having to respond to so many needs right now. Now with the COVID as well, taking, you know, affecting the economy. And then we have to deal with all these typhoons. And I just heard that there’s about, maybe about three more coming through before the year ends. So yeah, pray for, yeah just pray for us that God will be merciful. Maybe those typhoons will just stay in the Pacific and not come through. That would be great if that happens.

 

Freddie Barker 

Thanks so much for sharing, Jojie. And thanks so much for teaching us so much about the Philippines. I feel like I’ve learnt a lot. It’s been really insightful and interesting.

 

Jojie Wong 

Yeah, you’re welcome. Thank you. Thank you. Appreciate this time. And yeah. And hopefully, as people interact with Filipinos in the UK, I think there’s so many of them, it will be a prayer from for them. And try to make friends with them. Some of them may be lonely. As you know it’s highly relational, people here are highly relational. They’re away from their families can be quite lonely. So make friends with them if you see Filipinas around.

 

Freddie Barker 

Yeah, absolutely. We shouldn’t, we shouldn’t forget about the Filipinos who are across the street. Great, thank you so much, Jojie.

 

Jojie Wong 

Thank you. Thank you as well.

 

Freddie Barker 

So now we’re back with Hannah. And we’re gonna see how closely Hannah was paying attention to what Jojie had to say. I thought it was a really interesting interview. Jojie is great fun. I’ve learnt a lot from her in the past. And I’ve learnt a lot from what she’s just said and shared with us. Hannah, what points stood out to you the most?

 

Hannah Li 

One thing that stood out the most is the diversity in Philippine. That they have different religion, so many languages. I think it’s more than 170 or more. And the different ethnicity I guess, tribal people and the Highland people.

 

Freddie Barker 

Yeah, absolutely. It’s full of diversity and there’s a lot of, yeah, it’s not easy to define a Filipino, we have to be careful of using stereotypes. There’s all different cultural groups, and there’s a difference between urban and rural. And yeah, there’s a real mixture, a melting pot of cultures.

 

Hannah Li 

Yeah.

 

Freddie Barker 

Just, just the fact that they have 7000 plus islands shows you how, kind of, diverse they are. And that really stood out in how Jojie was saying that when she introduces herself, she doesn’t introduce herself as a Filipino. She introduces her…

 

Hannah Li 

I’m a Filipino from the south!

 

Freddie Barker 

Yeah, yeah, from a particular place, which is really interesting.

 

Hannah Li 

But I think another point that we have to remember is that they, they also have common traits, I suppose. Like they are culturally extroverted, or they think in a collective way. They emphasise on the respect for elderly or respect for people in sort of a hierarchy.

 

Freddie Barker 

Yeah, they seemed like a really accommodating friendly people. As you said they place a lot of importance on community and relationship. So yeah, whilst we’re perhaps thinking of them as different groups, we shouldn’t ignore the commonalities between them.

 

Hannah Li 

Yeah.

 

Freddie Barker 

Yeah, yeah. Another thing that stood out to me was this phrase that Jojie said, “300 years in the convent and 50 years in Hollywood.”

 

Hannah Li 

Great phrase!

 

Freddie Barker 

Yeah, it is a great phrase isn’t it. It just struck me that there’s such a deep religious history in the Philippines from, from kind of Spanish missionaries going over 300 years ago, with 80% of the population now being Roman Catholic. And there’s been a lot of outsider influence, a lot of immigration both in and out of the Philippines.

 

Hannah Li 

Yeah.

 

Freddie Barker 

Yeah.

 

Hannah Li 

I do wonder though how involved are people with the Catholic practices now? Because say, in China, the main religion is Buddhism. But I think a lot of people nowadays, they don’t really get involved with it. They just do it because that’s the tradition for festivals and such. So yeah, I do wonder how people now in Philippines deal with Catholic.

 

Freddie Barker 

Yeah, there’s always the question isn’t there whether that religion is at the heart of their identity, or whether it’s just something that they nominally follow. And they attend all these, these festivals, the Santa Nino festivals, the saint festivals, the festival celebrating Mary and baby Jesus. Or, or whether it’s actually a life changing transformative faith as we would perhaps understand Christianity.

 

Hannah Li 

Yeah.

 

Freddie Barker 

Yeah. Great. Was there, was there anything else that stood out to you, Hannah?

 

Hannah Li 

I think the potential for church growth, it’s quite interesting. There’s a lot of opportunity for us that I can, that she, that Jojie mentioned. And it’s great to see that she’s seeing churches growing in the Philippines. And yeah, just mentioning how there’s opportunities for outsiders to go in and help to train and equip Christians, and to help develop resources and such.

 

Freddie Barker 

It’s really encouraging to see that the Evangelical Church is growing particularly, particularly in cities. I was struck by those, those mega churches, those kind of stadiums of people worshipping Jesus, that sounds really wonderful.

 

Hannah Li 

I actually looked it up on Google after that interview.

 

Freddie Barker 

That’s great! That’s great. Yeah. And, yeah, you’re absolutely right, there’s a place for us to be equipping pastors and churches and Christians to be reaching out to their neighbours. To be intentional witnesses to the saving grace of Jesus Christ. And so yeah to be encouraging unity as well I think was a point  that Jojie was mentioning that she wanted prayer for. Although it’s got a lot of Christian history. And we might not think that the Philippines is a place that we need to go and live as Christians. There is actually a lot, a lot we can do.

 

Hannah Li 

Yeah, exactly.

 

Freddie Barker 

Yeah okay, great. So now that we’ve learnt a lot, how has learning about the Philippines changed the way you might share the good news of Jesus with Filipino people? What will you continue to do to share God’s love with Filipinos?

 

Hannah Li 

I suppose now that I’ve learned more about the Philippines, I’ll be more aware of the cultural context. So the religious context that they are from. And yeah, it’s just something good to be aware of when you speak to them. And I suppose when I present myself outward, I’ll maybe remember to smile more. And yeah just, I mean, genuinely, not just smiling.

 

Freddie Barker 

Yeah, absolutely. That aspect of presenting yourself and even your body language, and focusing on being accommodating and accepting in relationships with Filipinos was so important to what Jojie was saying. So, even just an awareness of that, and being conscious of that when you’re around Filipino people can go a long way.

 

Hannah Li 

Yeah.

 

Freddie Barker 

Yeah. Was anything challenging to you?

 

Hannah Li 

So I guess one of the challenges that I see could happen after Jojie shared, is that, because the Filipinos care about what other people think, and they’re quite extroverted culturally, and that they focus a lot on smiling and making other people feel welcome. It might be a challenge when we try to share the gospel with them. If they’re not actually wanting to receive the message, or if they’re not actually engaging with it out of politeness, they will still smile and be like, “Oh, yeah, yeah.” And, yeah, probably it will be a challenge to understand what they are truly thinking or what they’re truly feeling about the gospel.

 

Freddie Barker 

Yeah, I think we need to be really intentional about building relationships with the Filipinos don’t we. We need to be friendly and welcoming ourselves but also accommodating to their points of view.

 

Hannah Li 

Yeah.

 

Freddie Barker 

Yeah.

 

Hannah Li 

And probably be sensitive with the nonverbal languages that they are putting out. Or maybe just to be aware that sometimes maybe if they, they probably won’t voice out their opposing opinion as much.

 

Freddie Barker 

Yeah, absolutely. For me, it was how a lot of people in the church ask, “Why do we need to go to the Philippines to share the gospel?” And now I have an answer to that. It’s not because they don’t know who Jesus is. It’s because they need further training and equipping. One to be reaching out to those who don’t in the country, but also to encourage people to deepen their faith. Yeah, that was, that was the main point that stood out to me.

 

Hannah Li 

One thing that stood out as well, is how Jojie mentioned that they export a lot of workers out to other countries. And then also, how many of them are Christians. And how many of them are following Christ and intentionally living as a Christian. So I guess, yeah, there’s a way we can better train those people. And that will be great impact.

 

Freddie Barker 

Yeah, as we try and share God’s love with Filipinos, it should have a larger impact, because Filipinos naturally go elsewhere and work all around the world themselves. So they’ll be bringing the Gospel to wherever they’re, working as well.

 

Hannah Li 

Especially with a lot of them being in other people’s homes.

 

Freddie Barker 

Yeah, yeah.

 

Hannah Li 

Can’t get any closer than that!

 

Freddie Barker 

Yeah, they truly are relational aren’t they.

 

Hannah Li 

Yeah.

 

Freddie Barker 

Yeah, it’s great. Well, thank you to both Hannah and Jojie for sharing with us today. And thank you for listening. I hope you’ve learnt a lot. And it would also be great to continue learning about the Philippines. So we’d love to point you in the direction of resources that you might find helpful on your learning journey. So first of all, on the OMF website, you can find lots of helpful infographics, which are short and snapp. Full of key facts and figures about the Philippines. On pray.omf.org you can also find a number of helpful prayer guides. So you could be praying into current issues about the Philippines. If you’re after perhaps a longer term format, or some longer term content. There are a number of really great books about Filipino life and culture. Martin Haworth has written a book called Smoking the Mango Trees, which is all about his work amongst the Mindoro people in the Philippines. He’s also written one, which is perhaps a little bit more accessible, called Beyond Coral Shores, which again is full of anecdotes of his time working in the Philippines. Then there’s another book called Dawn Harvest by Patrick Hobbs, which is about sharing God’s love with urban poor communities in Manila, the capital of the Philippines. And there’s a more recent publication by Lesley Gomez called Have a Little Faith. And this talks about the hardships of poverty across cities in the Philippines, and talks about Lesley’s time with working in a rehabilitation centre for youth who’ve grown up living on the streets. So yeah, tackles those really big issues surrounding social justice that Hannah was mentioning earlier. So hope that gives you plenty to dive into and to continue learning about the Philippines. You can find more episodes of the Discover series and the Serve Asia podcast at www.omf.org/uk/resources/podcast, or wherever you listen to podcasts. And we’d love to hear from you. If you have any comments or questions. Please do get in touch. You can do so via Instagram @ServeAsiaPodcast, or email us at uk.podcast@omfmail.com. Thanks again, Hannah, for being with us. And we’ll see you next time.

 

Hannah Li 

Bye!

Start typing and press Enter to search