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Formation Philippines: Holidays Curtailed by Corona Restrictions

It has been three years now getting to four years ever since I was with my family. I have been working in the Philippines for over two years now and after all this I was looking forward to going home when the opportunity presented itself. I was due for home leave last year, 2020 and my flight was already booked for April 2, 2020, but just two weeks before there was nationwide lockdown. Everything had to be canceled but I was not the only one affected by this lockdown as this was a global crisis and everyone everywhere was affected. I was looking forward then to making it home in the first months of 2021 with the hope that everything would be fine by then and it had to be because my International Passport was expiring on April 12, 2021. But things never got better and I didn’t travel because then the new protocol was that only Filipinos returning home were allowed into the country. Foreign nationals even with existing visas were not allowed in. So I couldn’t risk going home then and the consequence of that was that my passport expired.

Seeking the advice of the embassy, they agreed to put a special stamp in my passport extending the date of validity of my passport until September 30, but not valid for traveling. But how could this be of help if I couldn’t travel with it and my visa was also going to expire in October. I was advised again by the embassy to get an Emergency Travel Certificate and this was the breakthrough. Then all was set and I had booked my flight for July 6 and that would be two days after the students went home also for their vacation. On the same July 4, I went for my Covid 19 swab test and unfortunately for me the results came out positive to Covid 19. I was immediately contacted by the Department of Health who informed me that I wouldn’t be able to travel. The news came just two hours before leaving home to catch the local flight to Manila.

What a terrible feeling to unpack my bags and be isolated for 14 days again. 14 Days later I managed to get a negative swab and managed to travel home. I only spent 3 weeks at home as the students were supposed to report in the first week of September. On my way back, I spent 14 more days in a quarantine hotel then finally made it to the formation house. In the end I realized that out of the 7 weeks of my holidays, I spent 4 weeks on quarantine and with altogether 8 swab tests. So where did I actually spend my holidays? It is great to be on holidays but before you set out to travel you must use your tongue to count your teeth.

The new formation year was launched on September 6, 2021, and it was all exciting. The students came back with renewed energy after spending a good time at home with their families and friends. I also went home for a three weeks’ vacation and it was a great time to be with family for this short while. Those who were in Basic Formation last year were all busy with their enrolment to start off their Philosophy, others looking forward to new courses in their new classes and those in the last year getting ready for their theses and comprehensive exams. Most exciting was that this year we have a full house with all together 16 students. Above all we were blessed with five young energetic young men who are joining us for the first time as Basic Formation students. We are very glad that they chose to discern God’s will for them in our Formation program and it is an honour to have them.

Please pray for our formation year and pray for more vocation to the missionary way of life

Fr. Tony Emeka MHM

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