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Saturday July 23, 2016

Karla, our international relations coordinator that has helped organize most of our trip on this end, had saved us a an early, long drive out to Quiapo this morning with yesterday’s stop, so we finally had an open morning! Students slept in, went to local cafes, ran around the Ateneo campus, and had leisure mornings. Our first commitment was our final lecture at the Ateneo by Dr. Zialcita Popular Christianity; an Anthropological Perspective. It was interesting insight on indigenous beliefs and a debriefing on the history of Mount Banahue, where we are heading tomorrow. From there we took the bus, picked up our dinners for later expecting a long ride to El Shadai close to the Manila airport. We experienced a long overdue storm that even flooded a little of the highways! We left our hotel around 3:30 and arrived to El Shadai around 5:30. We even surprised Karla with cheesecake and the typical Birthday song when we found out it was her 40th! She was so flattered and said if there was anyone shed want to be with if not her kids, it would be this group of students. She is so genuine and such a wonderful leader! The semester students are fortunate to have such a loving mentor to turn to.

El Shadai is a massive six hour Pentacostal ceremony that takes place each Saturday in Manila. It’s differentiated from typical Pentacostal services by more socioeconomic involvement and beliefs, like that certain actions or blessed objects will bring economic prosperity/ stability.
When we arrived, the view of the stage and people from the highway was comparable to a large concert filling in with thousands of people, mostly in casually organized rows of chairs. Our bus snaked through the road that ran through the people, jeepneys, and sections of chairs in the middle of the crowd. This mass of people faced a stage with a late choir and priest figure speaking. We settled in seats that someone actually anonymously paid for- which was totally unexpected because why were we anyone amongst the masses?! Shows how hospitable and observant people are.

Not sure what the first several hours consist of but around 6pm it opened with a more traditional Catholic mass, however it was all in Filipino and made it a little hard to participate so it was more observation of surroundings. It was pretty incredible to see close to 6,000 people gather like this weekly to acknowledge their faith and give their entire Saturday evening to worship. The faith in this country is inspiring and so interesting. I haven’t been to many events with as large of crowds with the exception of concerts or Football games.
Most of us didn’t know what to expect, but I personally assumed a more lively, wild experience of exuberant people jumping around or yelling ‘AMEN!!!’ But it was much more laidback, or at least the couple hours that we stayed for were. Following the mass part, we were led to a building behind the stage to meet with the Founder of El Shadai, Mike Velardi; however, he was sick and unable to meet and possibly not even perform/speak that night to the crowd. We met his wife and middle aged son for pictures and to exchange thank yous. We stayed another half hour and saw a new phase of more lively worship music and dancers on stage, incorporating a little more English or “Taglish.” Then our bus came around 7:45pm rather than staying until the end (9:30) listening to testimonies in another language! We headed home in lighter traffic than ever, however we still got home around 8:45pm. We had a quick reflection on what we saw and how we connected it to our course goals and attributes.

Another awesome, eye opening experience in this faith-filled country of contrast! Until tomorrow friends (: