On the island of Negros in the middle of the Philippine archipelago, in the outskirts of San Carlos City, is a beautiful new Unitarian Universalist chapel – UUSM’s Partner Church. The Church is one of 27 member congregations of the UU Church of the Philippines. Most of these congregations are located on Negros Island in small farming or fishing communities. One congregation is located in an impoverished area of Manila.
The Ulay Chapel is an attractive one-story, one-room building with covered patios for RE and sharing meals. The congregation consists of about 45 families, with many children and youth. Since our partnership began in 2001, and our first visit in 2009, UUSM and the Ulay congregation have worked together to strengthen our trans-Pacific relationship. Our support has made a tangible difference in their lives, and their partnership with us has transformed our lives and faith – especially those of us who have been fortunate to meet them in person or via correspondence with Ulay students.
When we first met the Ulay families on our January 2009 pilgrimage (as shown in the accompanying photo), most children did not complete elementary school. Now, through the Education Partner program, UUSM members, families, and groups provide a modest annual sum that makes it possible for about 25-30 Ulay children to complete elementary and high school. Outstanding students continue their education at local colleges, and UUSM Education Partners, along with our annual Alternative Gift Faire and Partner Church Special Collection, provide them with funds for tuition and a stipend.
There is no actual Ulay village. Ulay families live on scattered farms, some closer to and some more distant from the Chapel. The main mode of transportation is walking. Most families live in bamboo houses, many without water or electricity.
Health and nutrition are major concerns. Through our annual donation to the Share-A-Meal program, $20 per week provides a healthy meal to the entire congregation following the Sunday service. We also send an annual Christmas “Balikbayan” box with a gift bag of food, toiletries and Christmas treats for each family.
When our partnership began, the congregation called themselves Ulay-Cabiguhan. Cabiguhan was the name of the place that the original chapel, more like a lean-to, was built. Then the congregation moved to land owned by former minister Rev. Rogelio Lopez. The current congregation split off in 2017 and their new name is Ulay-Bago, reflecting the new location. With our help, and with grant money, the UU Church of the Philippines purchased a lot and built a beautiful new chapel along the major highway that leads from San Carlos City. In the new location, the Chapel has access to water, electricity, and wireless connection.
For more information, contact the UU Partners Church Committee Co-Chairs.
UUSM pilgrims who visited the Philippines in April 2019 attended the Ordination Ceremony of Arman Pedro. The next day, Rev. Arman was named Vice President – Church Administrator of the UU Church of the Philippines.
UUSM Partner Church Co-Chair Carol Cook with Susan Grieger and the UU Church of the Philippines banner -- waiting in line for the Banner Parade to begin at the 2011 UUA General Assembly.