In my 50 years as a Filipino citizen, I never set foot in Malacañang Palace, the seat of power in the Philippines. As the office and official residence of presidents since a century ago, it never piqued my curiosity even as a historical site. A palace implied royalty; last time I checked, our form of government was never a monarchy. The opportunity came in the form of an invite from a colleague and docent-in-training. Her connections in the Presidential Museum secured our group a spot in their weekday guided tours.
…Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.
Mokattam Mountain in Cairo had been moved by mustard seed faith. Jesus may have meant His statement metaphorically – He spoke in parables after all – but the Copts took it literally. This mountain’s solid rock face had been heavily quarried, either for practical reasons or mystical qualities, to become building blocks of pyramids and temples. That said, the miraculous geologic movement was not its only astounding aspect. Mokattam stood over a city of trash. Coming from a developing country, our group was familiar with landfill slums, but we had not expected to find ourselves in the middle of one in Cairo.
Superstition had it that whatever you did on New Year’s Day predicted how the next 364 days would go. Nothing could be farther than the truth. The first day of 2020 was our last day in Taiwan and, as it turned out, on the road. Unbeknownst to us, a new coronavirus strain was starting to make the rounds in Wuhan, China. In just a couple of months, global travel would completely be paralyzed and then altered by the new normal.