In September 2014, a group of 16 ACU postgraduate students spent 10 days in the Philippines visiting local schools, shrines, churches, communities, and villages, particularly in Manila and Pangasinan, a regional area that is 5 hours north of Manila.
The tour group was made up of a diverse range of students from across the country representing four different ACU courses - Master of Education, Master of Educational Leadership, Master of Religious Education and Master of Theological Studies. Not only were the students selected from a variety of courses but also from a variety of backgrounds – from parish priests to teachers and staff in senior leadership positions within schools.
Tour Leader, Dr Gemma Cruz, spoke about why the Faculty offers students the opportunity to participate in the Philippines Study Tour.
The Philippines Study Tour is an opportunity for learning without borders, education for social transformation, and theology from the heart of the people. It is an experience of a life lived in faith and hope in the midst of struggle, and of a faith nurtured by community and a sense of social responsibility in the midst of privilege and poverty.
The educators in the group found the visits to the various schools challenging and, at the same time, inspiring. From meeting the students of Tuloy sa Don Bosco Street-Children Village and its founder Fr. Rocky Evangelista to the classroom observation and conversations with students and staff of St Scholastica’s College (an affluent Catholic school with strong social justice orientation), and the tour of a struggling Catholic school as well as public school in a regional area, each educational institution left a profound impact on the participants.
Everyone in the group was also deeply struck by, as well as pondered on, the pervasive role of faith in the lives of Filipinos be it in the urban or rural contexts. In the words of Sandra Freeman, a Religious Education teacher in rural Queensland:
This experience has significantly broadened my own understanding of what it is to be Catholic and I left the Philippines with an overriding desire to live my faith more fully while wondering how I could share this understanding in a way that would influence not only my students but the greater Parish community.
Ten days spent immersed in life in the Philippines had challenged the participant's view of not only their faith, but of life, providing an impetus to rethink the way they view humanity. Reflecting, in particular, on his experience of the visit to the slums and the North Cemetery, Father Stephen Hill (parish priest at the Parish of St Ninian & St Chad in Maylands, Western Australia) says:
As a Catholic Priest, I tried to see my experience through pastoral eyes. In the poor I saw people not just trying to survive, but trying to live a life of dignity. It is so easy to see injustice in the world in terms of statistics. However, a personal encounter reminds us that injustice needs to be seen in terms of persons and human dignity.
This tour represented the first visit to the Philippines for an ACU Study Tour.
For more information on current opportunities please visit our Study Tours page. To read more student reflections of the tour please visit: