The UU Church of the Philippines (UUCP), comprised of roughly 30 congregations that vary in size from 25 to 250, based essentially on the island of Negros in the Visayas region, celebrated their 50th Anniversary in April 2005. I was invited to attend, in part to help facilitate the development of a new young adult ministry network that the UUCP Board has been envisioning for several years since my last visit in 2003. Along with a dozen other UUA guests, I joined the 175 youth, adults and elders for a week in Dumaguette, a beautiful little college town/state capitol on the Southern edge of Negros Oriental.
The flow of their annual conference is quite different from an American UU perspective. Participants register (nothing online yet), and bus or drive to Dumaguette where the headquarters of the UUCP are located (with a half dozen paid staff). Folks eat, sleep, clean and meet on the campus of the Dumaguette Congregation, collectively and cooperatively. Sleeping is primarily on the floor, but some homestays were made. Us internationals, mostly from the US but also India Khasi Hills, slept at local hotels. The program was built in part around pilgrimages to heritage sites. This required early morning travel, on several days we left at 5am, for 3 or 4 hour trips to the mountainous spine of Negros where Unitarian Universalism first took root in the ministry of Rev. Toribo Quimada (father of recent past UUCP President Rev. Rebecca Quimada Siennes, a graduate of Meadville Lombard). We visited his home, burial, and location of one of the first congregaitons.
I enjoyed meeting with 50 young adults who had come from 2/3 of the UUCP Congregations. They are working to establish a standing young adult ministry network and begin hosting an annual conference for young adults. They are interested for many of the same reasons we do young adult/campus ministry in the UUA: spiritual needs of young adults, questioning nature of young generation underlines potential ministry, strong faith vision based on life and love, need for social justice in our communities. I hope to visit again next year, and possibly even work with the UUCP as part of my ministerial internship for community ministry.
In Manila, two groups of Unitarian Universalists, one a wealthier part-ex patriot group, one a group carried over from a UU convert (formerlly Jehovah Witness) that is working class, are planning a new permanent fellowship in Metro Manila. Rev. Fred Muir (who has wrriten an excellent but in his own words just a beginning account of Unitarian Universalism in the Philippines entitled "Maglipay Universalist") and I met with the group at the home of Michael Lim, who used to attend UU congregation in Brooklyn NY. They are seeking to have weekly worship and establish a spiritual home to welcome newcomers this fall 2005.
Unitarian Universalism is held in similar fashion in the Philippines, with a strong emphasis on social justice, covental relationships, individual search for truth and meaning, and universal salvation. I’ve been comparing and contrasting my experience with the Khasi Unitarians in Northeast India who I lived with for 2 months in 2003. Unfortunately, it is very difficult for Filipinos to get travel visas to the states.
UU’ism is strong in the Philippines and I would imagine that a viable congregation will flourish in Metro Manila in the next decade. While the UUA is not involved in church planting overseas, there is some technical and financial support trickling into the community and networks growing through the International Council of UU’s.