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 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.

1990s - Filipino Orthodox Christians [1]

Around the beginning of the twentieth century, Greek sailors settled in Legaspi city on the island of Luzon. Descendants of these Greek Orthodox Christian sailors now number no more than 10 families, who have kept their Greek surnames and many of whom have become distinguished public figures and intellectuals in the Philippines, including serving as the Greek consulate in Manila. Though they do not speak the Filipino language fluently, they were largely responsible for the re-establishment of an Orthodox presence in the Philippines through their encouragement of Filipino converts and the Hellenic Orthodox Foundation.

One of the first Greek Orthodox to arrive in the Philippine province of Albay was Alexandros Athos Adamopoulos (a.k.a. Alexander A. Adamson), who came to Legaspi city in 1928. Together with his brother and cousin he co-founded Adamson University in 1932, which is now owned by the Vincentian Fathers of the Roman Catholic Church. Adamopoulos was appointed in 1942 by the Greek government to take charge of Greek interests in the Philippines. He was later promoted to the rank of Consul General of Greece.

In 1989, Adamopoulos saw the need to establish the first true Greek Orthodox church in the Philippines and thus established the Hellenic Orthodox Foundation Inc. Although he died in 1993 before the church was completed, the Orthodox Cathedral was finished in 1996 and is constructed in true Byzantine style, with all the interior furnishings imported from Greece, and is home to hundreds of Filipino Orthodox and Orthodox expats in Metro Manila, the capital of the Philippines. This cathedral, the Annunication Orthodox Cathedral,[2] was consecrated by His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on March 5, 2000.[3]

The Patriarch was assisted by Metropolitans Ioakeim and Nikitas, Bishop Dionysios, and a significant number of clergy from various parts of the world. During the service the entire congregation followed His All-Holiness in procession when he circled the church. The Patriarch told the people present that the only thing which can really lead man to the land of gladness is the perfect love for his fellow man and for God. The message from the Church of Constantinople is one of love for the people of Southeast Asia, one which assures people everywhere of the immeasurable love of Christ.[4]

On April 20, 1990, a Filipino hieromonk, Fr. Vincentius Escarcha (a former Benedictine Abbot and a Roman Catholic priest for more than 20 years in Bajada, Cataingan, Masbate island), together with four nuns and faithful members of his community, were received into the Orthodox Church by Metropolitan Dionysios of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of New Zealand and assisted by Bishop Sotirios of Zelon. On January 19, 1994, Metropolitan Dionysios, assisted by Bishop Sotirios, received by Holy Chrismation several Filipino Christians in Manila.

In 1996, the Orthodox Metropolitanate of Hong Kong and Southeast Asia was created for the needs of the faithful under the Church of Constantinople. In 2004, the Theotokos Orthodox Church in Bajada, Masbate was consecrated by then His Eminence Metropolitan Nikitas of Hong Kong and South East Asia. At present, the nuns of the Theotokos Orthodox Monastery in Bajada run a kindergarten.

Orthodoxy in the Philippines today [5]

Within the Ecumenical Patriarchate's Orthodox Metropolitanate of Hong Kong and Southeast Asia, there are currently six (6) active Filipino Orthodox priests in the Philippines (Fr. Vincentius having already retired from active service), along with a couple of nuns, and are now administratively under His Eminence Metropolitan Nektarios of Hong Kong and Southeast Asia. In these communities, the Divine Liturgy and other Orthodox worship services are said in English, Greek and Filipino.[6]

There are also some independent groups in the Philippines that use the term Orthodox in their names but are not in communion with or are recognized by any canonical Orthodox church. The Greek Orthodox Church is the only canonical Orthodox church in the Philippines as far as the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople is concerned.[7]

In August 2013, Metropolitan Hilarion, First Hierarch of the Russian Church Abroad, sent Archpriest Seraphim Bell and Fr. Dcn. Silouan (Thompson) to help re-establish 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. 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.

Philip Balingit was a former layman under the Greek Orthodox church, and for these uncanonical actions a notice of excommunication was immediately issued by the Ecumenical Patriarchate Orthodox Metropolitanate of Hong Kong and Southeast Asia. [8]

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