This study tour is an experience of “doing theology” in the context of immersion to key social challenges of the Philippines and the faith-related – as well as education-based – responses to these challenges. It is aimed at increasing your knowledge and experience of the relationship between theology, immersion and service learning and, in particular, the character of theology as “faith seeking empowering understanding” and as “a hermeneutic of hope”.

Through this study tour, you will experience theology “from the heart of the people” and the practice of “faithful citizenship” or faith-informed community and civic engagement among the “underside of history” in a developing country.

Tour details


Tuesday 26 November to Friday 6 December 2019


THCP615 Theology, Social Justice and Mission


This study trip will take place in the Philippine metropolitan capital of Manila and the regional area of Zambales and Pangasinan, with a site visit to the regional area of Pampanga.

What you can expect

As an experience of doing theology “from the heart of the people” the learning for this unit largely takes place on the road and from/among peoples. That is, through site visits and interaction and volunteer work among the marginal(ised) in Filipino society. Debriefing sessions in the context of prayer and liturgy are also central to the activities for this unit.

Tour leader

Dr Gemma Tulud Cruz is a Senior Lecturer in Theology in the Faculty of Theology and Philosophy, based in Melbourne. Dr Cruz teaches units on social justice and Catholic Social Thought offered by the School of Theology in its various campus across Australia and overseas. She has been leading study tours to the Philippines since 2014.

Read more about Dr Gemma Tulud Cruz

Study tour highlights

  • Tour of Old Manila (Intramuros) and Makati City for a glimpse of: Filipino history, culture, politics, religion and economics; the social inequality that plagues the country; and the juxtaposition of commerce and religion as well as poverty and affluence.
  • A visit to Gawad Kalinga’s Lupang Pangako (Promised Land), an urban poor community in Payatas, Quezon City. Lupang Pangako is located in or near the Payatas dumpsite, which serves as the main terminal for collected solid rubbish or waste around Quezon City.
  • Tribes and Treks Tour: Exposure in an indigenous (Aeta) community. Activities include village tour, archery and cooking with the tribe, lunch with the tribe, traditional tribal dance and music, trek to nursery via walking and/or riding water buffalo carts, tree planting to help rebuild a 3,000-hectare rainforest that will provide food, medicine, and sustainable income for the community and dinner at Chief Iking’s house.
  • Stopovers at popular sites, including Hundred Islands in Pangasinan and the half-sunken San Guillermo Church – a church half-buried by lahar (volcanic ash) during the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the 1990s.
  • Immersion into the festive Christmas spirit in the Philippines, which holds the record for the longest Christmas celebration in the world, from city to country, malls to schools, churches to business centres. You will also learn a short Tagalog Christmas song that they will present to the host school community as a means of immersion into the Filipino Christmas culture and expression of gratitude to the school.
  • Immersion in a public primary school in a small barangay (village) regional area. Activity highlights include volunteer work, eg feeding program for underweight students, and various cultural exchange activities, eg teaching an Aussie sport to local school kids and learning and competing in a Filipino rural “sport”.

Topics covered will include:

  • Contemporary social issues in the Philippines
  • Liberationist theologies and the relationship between faith, hope and praxis
  • Filipino contextual theologies, particularly the Theology of Struggle
  • Education and the faith that does justice
  • Spirituality of Immersion and Service
  • Service learning in the Christian, especially Catholic, tradition 

Register your interest for this study tour

Register here


This study tour is available to ACU postgraduate students enrolled in the following programs:

  • Bachelor of Theology
  • Bachelor of Theology/Bachelor of Philosophy
  • Master of Theological Studies students doing 10cp project unit(s)

Students enrolled in other ACU courses may be eligible to take this study tour for credit. All ACU students are required to get the permission of their course coordinator as part of the application process. This will ensure that the study tour will count towards your course.

There are limited places available for interested students from other institutions, as well as members of the public who wish to participate in the unit in an audit capacity. If you are interested in taking part as a cross-institutional student or as an audit participant, please contact Dr Gemma Cruz directly.

Subject to the approval of your course coordinator, this study tour can be taken as 10 cp or 20cp by the following students:

  • Bachelor of Theology, Bachelor of Theology/Bachelor of Philosophy students and other eligible undergraduate students wishing to complete this study tour as 10cp can enrol in THCP306 Theology, Immersion and Service-Learning.
  • Bachelor of Theology, Bachelor of Theology/Bachelor of Philosophy students and other eligible undergraduate students wishing to complete this study tour as 20cp can enrol in THCP306 Theology, Immersion and Service-Learning and any of the following: THEL300, THEL301, THEL302, THEL303 and THEL304.
  • Postgraduate Theology students undertaking the Master of Theological Studies can enrol in this study tour as 10cp by using THEL621 or THEL622, or as 20cp by using both THEL621 and THEL622.

Costs and funding

Study tour cost: $1,295

Included in the study tour cost: accommodation and some meals, tour/entrance fees, gratuities, feeding program for underweight public primary school students, study trip materials, small bottled water on most days, and ground transportation, including pick-up and drop off at Manila airport.

Please note: Unit fees are also applicable upon enrolment.


ACU students may be eligible for financial assistance to support the cost of travel and incidentals, including the $500 ACU Vice Chancellor and President’s Travel Grant.

Learn more about available financial support on the ACU Student Portal 

Please note: You will need an ACU student login to access this information. 

How to apply

To enrol in this unit, you’ll need to complete an application form and receive email notification from the study tour leader.

Register your interest using the online form below and/or receive an application form by emailing the study tour leader Dr Gemma Cruz directly.

Please return the application form to Dr Cruz, on or before the due date indicated on the form.

We’ll assess and approve your application on a “first-come, first-served” basis until the maximum number of participants is reached.

Register for this Philippines study tour

More information

For more information about the upcoming Philippines study tour, please email Dr Gemma Cruz  or call her on +61 3 9953 3827.

“This experience has significantly broadened my own understanding of what it is to be Catholic. 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.”
Sandra Freeman, Master of Religious Education
Catholic Education and Social Justice Tour, September 2014 

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