The study trip is on Catholicism, Catholic education, and social justice. It is aimed at increasing the participants’ knowledge and understanding of the character and role of education, particularly in Catholic schools in a developing Asian country, as it is influenced by social inequalities and the socio-religious culture of the society. The social justice and Filipino (folk) Catholicism dimension of the study-trip will provide an experience of religion as the “sigh of the oppressed” and theology “from the heart of the people.”

Tour details


Saturday 26 September to Sunday 4 October


THEL645: Theology Study Tour


This study trip will take place in the Philippine metropolitan capital of Manila and the regional area of 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.
  • San Agustin Church (and Museum), the oldest church in the Philippines. The church is on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
  • Central sites of Filipino Catholicism: Quiapo (Minor Basilica of Black Nazarene) in Manila and Manaoag (Minor Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary) in Pangasinan for an experience of Filipino popular piety, particularly the idea of religion as the "sigh of the oppressed."
  • 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.
  • Visit to an elite Catholic school in Manila and a struggling Catholic school in a regional area to have a sense of the gifts and challenges of Catholic education in the Philippines in urban and rural contexts.
  • Stopover at a popular site, the half-sunken San Guillermo Church - a church half-buried by lahar (volcanic ash) during the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the 1990s.
  • Immersion in a public primary school in a small barangay (village) in a regional area. Activity highlights include feeding program for underweight students and experiencing village life by walking the schoolkids to their homes.
  • Immersion in the festive spirit of Filipino culture through a "boodle fight meal," cultural performance featuring dance from different parts of the country, and dinner at Singing Cooks and Waiters.

Topics covered will include:

  • Contemporary social issues in the Philippines
  • Liberationist theologies and the relationship between faith, hope and praxis
  • Theology of struggle and key theological themes in the Philippines, e.g. resilience and hope
  • Education and the faith that does justice
  • Character and role of Catholic education and the Catholic faith, particularly in relation to the struggle for social justice
  • Catholic Education and the Catholic Social Teaching principle of option for the poor
  • Pastoral perspectives and approaches to popular piety

Register your interest for this study tour

Register here


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

  • Graduate Diploma in Theological Studies
  • Master of Theological Studies
  • Master of Professional Studies in Theology
  • Master of Education, Master of Religious Education, and Master of Educational Leadership subject to the approval of Course Coordinator

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.

Costs and funding

Study tour cost: $1,950

Included in the study tour cost: hotel accommodation and some meals, tour/entrance fees, gratuities, feeding program for underweight public primary school students, study trip materials, souvenir bag, 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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