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One of the main impressions I had of my previous fieldwork was that this type of research is very inefficient; despite the comparatively much amount of time being spent in the field, not much data is produced (I speak of my own experiences here, of course, other anthropologists might have produced more in the same period of time). Today I had such an experience again, not surprising perhaps since I after all am in the Philippines, a country notorious (along with most other countries in the world, perhaps?) for its relaxed attitude to time.
One of the Pentecostal churches in Banaue, the small town where I at the moment is spending time (a suitable expression, it feels), would this Sunday celebrate its 20th anniversary. During last Sunday service the pastor made a point about changing the schedule for the anniversary service from 10am to 9am so they could have time for all the extra numbers, the extra worship songs, and based on my previous experiences from these churches, I guess also an extra long and perhaps even extra tedious sermon. Barely managing to pressure myself to get out of bed at 8am Sunday morning (the lack of motivation I wrote about earlier is still there), I headed down to the large iron sheet house that is the church of the Banaue Christian Fellowship. It was perhaps the long, sleepless night before, sleepless partly because the town’s dogs keep barking raucously at each other all night, sometimes competing with the crowing roosters (that roosters only crow at sunrise must be myth!), that made me a bit drowsy and therefore surprised by the lack of people who had turned up for the early service. Not a single soul was in sight, expect a young boy who sat chewing betel nut on the wall outside the church. He gladly announced that service was to begin at 9am, in five minutes that was. I kept on waiting, sat down on the hard wooden benches (regretting that I didn’t instead go to another church, the Chris is the Answer Church, where they at least have some comfortable plastic chairs) and waited. And waited. When the time had passed 10:30 am, enough people (and a dog!) had arrived so the pastor decided that they perhaps should think about getting started. Striding as confidently as a self-confident Filipino Pentecostal pastor can towards the podium, he grabbed the microphone, exclaimed a loud “amen!”, but realized that the microphone did not at all respond to his praises, and followed up with a disappointed “ay, no electricity.” This created a minute or two (Filipino minutes, that is; they are a bit longer than ours) of confusion in the congregation. They decided that a short prayer was appropriate and thus the service slowly commenced, over one and a half ours later than announced, and this was when I realized that I had almost forgotten about the occasional inefficiency of anthropological fieldwork.
The rest of the service followed in the same fashion. A part of the anniversary celebrations was contributions from the different groups in the church. The young adults played (when the electricity finally came back) songs of worship that seemed to never end (or perhaps they were competing in a how-many-times-can-one-repeat-this-verse-competition). When the children should perform their special number, they had first to be called in from their playing outside, before they were dressed up in yellow paper hats and were supposed to jiggle their heads while one of the elderly women sang “I want to be your sunbeam” (I guess the kids were supposed to sing as well, but no-one did). Anyway, every contribution was preceded by a long wait while the contributors prepared themselves. This turned out to actually be quite fortunate, as the pastor suddenly announced that their visitor, Brother Jon, had to come to the stage and give a special number. I sat there, almost petrified, not knowing what to do. I was asked to sing a song, which I of course did not want to do. Instead, I took my time, the appropriate waiting time, and eventually headed for the stage, where I grabbed the microphone, did not (!) exclaim “amen”, but thanked them for receiving me in their church. After that, I just wanted to run out of there, but rested a few minutes on the wooden bench, before sneaking out during their worship songs.