Philippine Orthodox Church

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The Philippine Orthodox Church refers to the officially established Eastern Orthodox presence in the Philippines as a whole. Currently, there are three canonical Orthodox jurisdictions:

  • The ROCOR Canonical and Official Representation in the Philippines, under Metropolitan Hilarion, First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad (http://www.russianorthodoxchurch.ws/).

An influx of Russian emigrees fleeing the Soviet regime occurred during the American colonial regime. In 1935, a Russian parish was established in Manila, and the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia appointed Father Mikhail Yerokhin as vicar. The Episcopal Church then permitted Fr. Mikhail to use the north transept of their cathedral for worship. In 1937, the first Orthodox church was built and was named after the Iberian Icon of the Mother of God. This also became the first Orthodox altar in the Philippines. Later, both the Episcopal Cathedral and the Russian Orthodox church in Manila were destroyed by American bombing during the Second World War.

In 1949, 5,500 Russian Orthodox from China, including then-Archbishop John Maximovitch, were relocated to Tubabao in the south central Philippines by the International Refugee Organization and with the permission of the newly independent Republic of the Philippines. Abp. John Maximovitch then established a wooden church, orphanage, and other buildings in Tubabao exclusively for the Russian refugees.

Tubabao, however, was (and still is) an underdeveloped island which is humid, prone to typhoons, and at times inaccessible due to the ocean conditions. When a Russian commented on their fear that a typhoon would destroy their camp to local Filipinos, they replied that there was nothing to worry about because "your holy man blesses your camp from four directions every night." There were no typhoons or floods while Abp. John was there.

Abp. John Maximovitch did not preach the Orthodox faith to the native inhabitants of the Philippine islands. No Filipino was baptized, chrismated, ordained or consecrated during his stay in the Philippines. Through the persistent lobbying of Abp. John to the U.S. Congress, the refugees were allowed to settle in the United States and Australia beginning in 1951.

In August 2013, Metropolitan Hilarion, First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad, sent Archpriest Seraphim Bell and Fr. Dcn. Silouan (Thompson) to help re-established the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (Canonical and Official Representation in the Philippines)and made the first Divine Liturgy, baptism of catechumens, trained chanters (http://orthodoxnepal.org/2013/09/dn-silouan-training-cantors/) and the blessing of the first ROCOR mission in the Municipality of Sta. Maria, Davao del Sur (http://orthodoxnepal.org/2013/09/feast-of-the-dormition/). The chapel was dedicated to St. John Maximovitch in honor of the first Russian Orthodox saint who lived in the country sometimes in 1950's. Before departing Davao, Fr. Seraphim, Fr. Philip and Fr. Silouan visited the ROCOR Mission Center in Davao City, the second ROCOR mission in the Philippines where Fr. Seraphim was able to bless the Center and the staff and some friends. The Mission Center is dedicated to the "Holy Royal Martyrs" (http://orthodoxnepal.org/2013/09/rocor-mission-center/). Fr. Seraphim then went to Tubabao Island where the Russian Refugees took and camp. Before departing for Tubabao, Fr. Seraphim served Divine Liturgy in Palo, Leyte at the ROCOR mission dedicated to St. Nikolai Velimirovich, the third ROCOR mission in the Philippines (http://orthodoxnepal.org/2013/09/divine-liturgy-in-palo/). They performed baptism in Palo to 10 catechumens (http://orthodoxnepal.org/2013/09/holy-baptism-2/), and finally they went to Tubabao Island. On the day of the Feast of the Vladimir icon of the Theotokos, a Divine Liturgy was served in the chapel of the Theotokos on Tubabao Island. The new chapel is located on the site of the previous chapel of the Mother of God, built by the Russian refugees who lived on the island from 1949–51; the same chapel in which St. John Maximovitch concelebrated during his stay there. This was the first Liturgy to be served on the island in 62 years (http://orthodoxnepal.org/2013/09/st-john-maximovitch-and-the-russian-refugee-camp-on-tubabao-island/).

A small group of Orthodox pilgrims made their way from the city of Leyte to the town of Guian. Included in the group were the 10 newly baptized Christians from the ROCOR parish of St. Nikolai Velimirovich in Palo together with Fr. Sava Salinas, a priest of the Antiochian Archdiocese in Leyte, Fr. Philip Balingit, administrator of the ROCOR parishes in the Philippines, Fr. Dn. Silouan Thompson, a young journalist and TV presenter, the head of the local tourist association, and Fr. Seraphim who was blessed to be the celebrant of the liturgy.

They arrived in Guian on Saturday evening. Early Sunday morning at 5:45 am, they made their way to the docks and took a small boat across the water to the island of Tubabao. From the landing on Tubabao, it is a short walk of about 1.6 kilometers. They walked down the same road that was used by the Russian refugees during their stay, passing the bamboo huts of the islanders on their way. Finally they turned off the road and walked into the bush until they came to the new chapel (the fourth ROCOR mission in the Philippines). The Divine Liturgy was served.