The first event was on Friday, the 40th birthday of one of the brothers in the community. By dinner time, the dining room was transformed with balloons, banners and table cloths on the tables. There are usually a few people at dinner each evening, but it was clear an effort had been made and virtually everyone was present and sat down together, along with a couple of Salesians from other communities who showed up for the party. A special meal complete with very ugly fish, delicious chocolate ice-cream and birthday cake: special because of the food, but also because of the commitment to sit down together, to take a bit longer over the meal, to talk and to laugh.
On Sunday the community were virtually all present once again, this time to watch the boxing. If I am honest, it is probably not something I would generally associate with religious community life, but after the build up all week it was clear this was going to be quite an occasion. Boxing isn't something I would usually choose to watch, but although at no point in the contest did I have any idea who was winning, and in spite of my mild aversion in principle to the idea of people hitting each other in the head and calling it sport, I was very glad to be present in the community room and part of something that was not only a community experience, but a national one.
International sports stars aren't exactly two-a-penny in the Philippines, so boxer Manny Pacquiao is something of a national hero. Few Filipinos can afford to the pay-per-view coverage in their homes, but that doesn't mean any of them are going to miss seeing their hero perform: the fight was being shown in cinemas and on big screens put up for the occasion by local areas clubbing together. Ours was probably not the only school canteen showing the coverage. And, as Pacquiao won, albeit not as convincing as they'd have liked, I am probably not the only person round here who has had an uplifting community experience this weekend.