MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A Minnesota priest stuck in the Philippines has spent weeks trying to get home as the pandemic spreads across the world. We got a glimpse of his life in isolation and his connection to another trip where his faith was tested.

A Pelican Rapids priest, Father Jeff Ethan spent the last year planning a scuba diving trip to a Philippine island.

“Our trip really ended about three days into our two week trip,” Father Ethan said.

“We felt the Philippines were still safe because they were on top of this in the first place isolating and we thought we’d be able to get in and out without a problem,” he added.

He landed with a group of Minnesotans on March 6. His pictures capture the dramatic change since.

They’ve had seven different reservations to get home. Father Ethan calls it an international game of chess to make it back. As different airports close and some airlines stay grounded.

In some ways he says the feelings are similar to the uncertainty he felt on September 11th.

“Our lingering over the coffee and our getting in late the night before I really believed saved us,” Father Ethan said.

That’s when WCCO first met Father Ethan walking the streets of New York City. After he’d planned to visit the World Trade Center the morning the towers fell.

“This is similar again, you’re not in control, you don’t know when it’s going to end and it’s just a life changing type of thing,” Father Ethan said.

He’s now told to stay in his hotel room in Manila. Stores and restaurants are all closed and closely watched over by armed guards. Elevators taped off where just two people are allowed on at a time.

“Even riding tandem on a motorcycle which is very common here is illegal,” Father Ethan said.

Father Ethan’s group now has tickets to fly home on Sunday.

“We don’t want to get our hopes up,” Father Ethan.

Acknowledging the others in the world in worse circumstances.

Yet, the stress they’re feeling waiting to head home.

Father Ethen and his group have been in touch with Senator Amy Klobuchar and Representative Angie Craig’s offices in DC.

They told the group it’s best to cooperate with local officials at this point to be able to get home.

Liz Collin

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