Our Cebu experience

Our Cebu Experience – by Hugh and Mary Ward, Apostleship of the Sea Teesport Ship Visiting Volunteers 

             The initial reason for wanting to visit Cebu was to visit Captain Flores. He took poorly a short time after we saw him at Teesport.
             After we booked our resort, Fr John Mission (AoS Cebu Port Chaplain) informed us that he had a few things planned for us.
             A warm welcome
             We arrived at Plantation Bay Mactan Island at 5.30pm Wednesday 28th February. At 9am the following morning we were met by our reception committee – AjAj, Sr. Dorleen and Aida.
Hugh and Mary with Fr John and AjAj
With Fr John and AjAj           
             We were given such a warm welcome then whisked off to the Associated Marine Officer's and Seamen's Union of the Philippines (AMOSUP) hospital for seafarers where we were greeted by the clinical director and other hospital staff.
             We then joined the AoS volunteers on their weekly visits. This was a something new to us and we felt very humbled.
Hugh and Mary with hospital Director and volunteers
With Hospital Director and volunteers
             Mary's 'magic bag'
             Mary had her magic bag which had rosaries donated by our parish [Our Lady of The Rosary, Peterlee] in the UK.
             These were distributed among the patients and families.
             Fr John and Captain and Mrs Garcia plus other volunteers joined during the morning.
             After photo stops we assembled in the canteen for a delicious lunch. Yummy!
             We were quite amazed when people apologised because there was only rice and noodles. We explained that we eat these at least three times a week.
Hugh and Mary with hospital staff and volunteers
With staff and volunteers         
             After lunch we went to the Centre at the port for a quick briefing from Fr John. (Looks like we are going to be busy).
             We then had an ice cream stop in Robinson’s Galleria then off to visit the government building and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA).
             The director Mae Codilla gave us a warm welcome and explained the role of the agency.
             Food and more food
             We delivered a birthday cake for her so we had more food. It was explained that Filipino people eat three meals per day and snack in between.
             Later in the afternoon we returned to the Centre where Captain Garcia was waiting for us.
             He then took us to his family home where we met his family and a sumptuous meal. We were finally delivered back to our resort at 10pm.
Mae Codilla's birthday tea
Mae Codilla's birthday tea
             Our next meeting with the AoS family was Saturday morning when’s AjAj took us to port for the volunteers monthly meeting.
             This was a very well-structured meeting, two good/interesting speakers, and well-attended.
             After snacks we gave a short account of the work we do in the UK.
AoS Cebu volunteers monthly meeting
AoS Cebu volunteers meeting

             Emotional meeting 
             Saturday evening was an emotional meeting with Captain Flores.
             His wife brought him to the hotel then they took us to their home where we met their family and enjoyed a wonderful meal.
             Captain and Mrs Flores expressed their gratitude for the help given by AoS in the UK and Cebu.
             Again, the emotions were high when they dropped us back off.
Hugh and Mary meet Capt Flores and his family
Meeting Capt Flores and his family
             Sunday saw us up before the sun. We went to the port, where Fr John had arranged to say mass on board mv Don Charles Robert, through the HR department of the ship’s owners.
             These people were also at the Mass and thanked us for attending and giving our time.
             The Master spoke of his time in international shipping and remembered visiting our home port, Teesport.
             Mary once again distributed Rosary beads. After this it was off to Fr John’s sitting room, Robinson’s for brunch.
Mass on board mv Don Charles Robert
Mass on board mv Don Charles Robert
             Later we went to Santo NiƱo Basilica where we were able to venerate the statue. Then to Magellan’s Cross.
             The next time we met our AoS family was the Wednesday morning. It was planned for us to be at Mass at the Marine College but because of the high volume of traffic we were late.
             Nevertheless, we met the Director of the College who remembered also visiting Teesport. Then the fun began.
At Magellan's Cross Cebu
Magellan's Cross
             Fr John had arranged an island-hopping excursion for his volunteers and ourselves. What a great day!
             Lots of food, a little drink, lots of chat and pictures. Thank you Fr John!
             The end of the day was sad as we had to say goodbye to the volunteers. Sad yes but many happy memories.
Island hopping
Island hopping
             Final goodbyes
             Friday night we were able to host Fr John and his fantastic driver AjAj to a meal in one of the restaurants on our resort.
             We could have talked all night. Our final goodbyes were said and we thanked god for the wonderful time we had had.
             To sum up…
             We were overwhelmed by the kindness and love shown to us by the Cebu AoS family. 
             You have a thriving centre, something we do not have. We pray that this continues to flourish and support seafarers.
             You have an absolutely wonderful Chaplain. Don’t let the Bishops move him in next years’ shuffle.
             God sent him to minister to seafarers. Pray for him. Your volunteer group are exceptional.
             May God bless them and let them continue to support the AoS.
             We now understand and can visualise places and conditions the crews talk about. 
             We feel we have another family now living in Cebu.
             Lastly, thank you. We have brought home such beautiful memories and new ideas.
             May God bless you in all of the work you do. 
             ~ Hugh & Mary Ward
Fr John Mission AoS Cebu port chaplain
The wonderful Fr John Mission