How do you spend a day in Hong Kong with the Running Priest?
Contrary to what many of my friends guessed, there was no running (we’ve done that), no mass, no confession (at least not real confession). But it was still a cardio-packed day filled with spiritual reflection, thought-provoking conversation and inspiration.
I went to Hong Kong upon the invitation of Fr Robert Reyes, otherwise known as the Running Priest. A few weeks ago he was at the Senate and told me about his current work with OFW cancer stricken patients and survivors. He wanted me to meet them and see what we could do to help them.
I arrived on Sunday afternoon and went straight to the meeting held in the Philippine Consulate. What transpired was an emotional yet extremely inspirational 2 hour dialogue. There are clear gaps in policies and laws which I am looking into. I will cover this in a separate blog.
The next day, Fr Robert and I agreed, or should I say, connived to show my staff and friends a different side of Hong Kong. I had been to Lamma Island a few years ago and was excited to go back.. We met at Central station and took a ferry to Lamma. That alone was an adventure because I get seasick very easily. Thankfully, it was a short 25 minute trip and I managed a smile soon as my feet touched land.
We were introduced to island life by the sight of bicycles parked by the pier. This is how people got around in Lamma. No cars, just bicycles and a few miniature vehicles that transport goods. Even their ambulance and fire trucks were miniature versions.
Fr Robert explained to the group that we would walk to the other side of the island. You could hear the sound of resistance to Father’s plan but Father simply said, that’s where we are eating, so if you want to eat, you have to walk… end of story.
After passing thru the commercial area, we found ourselves in the midst of forest cover walking to the beat of bird sounds. Fr Robert pointed out the burial sites which seemed to almost blend with the forest.
Our first stop was the Portiuncula Monastery. We met the contemplative sisters, headed by Sister Mary Ann. They served us cold orange juice and told us about the distance learning program they offer to OFWs. Sister Mary Ann explained that the objective was to keep the modules as simple and relevant as possible to enable to students to study and comprehend the lessons on their own.
Leslie, an OFW walked me thru the course she was taking. I was amazed! The topics were very relevant to the lives of the OFWs. One sample test was to make a marketing plan for the sale of pre-paid cards to other OFWs.
Our next stop was the taho carinderia. Since the Chinese version of taho is served without sago, I took out my bag of trail mix (nuts and dried fruit) and passed it around to be added as toppings.
More walking…. Fr. Robert then announced that we would make a stop to visit Joey Dyogi, an OFW who has end-stage kidney failure. Although, he no longer works, Joey is still able to avail of subsidized treatment from the Hong Kong government because he was working as a professional and was a permanent resident at the time he got sick. Contrast this with our domestic helpers who lose their benefits once they are no longer employed and who cannot attain permanent residency status despite the number of years of work.
The main path then led to the beach. After walking in the heat, the urge to jump in the water was almost irresistible. How I wished I had a swimsuit.. I didn’t and neither did anyone else, so we just took more pictures.
The next segment of our walk was hilly and hot. We entertained ourselves with storytelling, jokes and phone calls from people who Fr Robert wanted me to touch base with.
Finally, we reached the other side of the island. We sat down for lunch at 4:30 in the afternoon just in time to catch the 5:30 ferry back to the mainland.
What did we take home from this trip? Because it was led by the Running Priest, our stops were not the usual tourist stops. The people we met and interacted with along the way had stories that affected us, changed us.I think my staff was inspired to take their fitness to the next level. We also felt a deeper appreciation of nature walking thru the well-preserved island devoid of vehicles and traffic. I picked up lessons, I will use to work on legislation and policies for our OFWs.
I plan to go back and take my kids there. They have been on nature walks, they have climbed Mt. Pulag. But I want them to see Lamma Island where it seems modern living and nature have found a way to co-exist.