Jan 30, 2013
Visit to the Monastery of the Transfiguration
GPS waypoint of road junction to the Monastery: N 08 06.361' E 125 07.719'
I was already on my last day in Malaybalay without having gone anywhere - just work and walks around town. I decided to make a last hurrah by visiting the much talked-about Monastery of the Transfiguration. Transfiguration...hmmm...big word...I had to look-up the definition - a momentary transformation of a man or woman into someone having the aspect of the divine. Ah...almost like my fleeting moment of enlightenment.
The monastery is a pyramid-like structure designed by the late National Artist for Architecture Leandro Locsin (same guy who designed the Cultural Center of the Philippines). It has a huge rock at center serving as the altar. The place has a new-agey feel to it...maybe modern might be a better word.
From Malaybalay city proper, it was a short jeep ride to the junction. From there, I decided to do the 30-min walk instead of riding a motorbike. It's actually a good idea. The walk takes you to a winding rugged road where you can start being mindful of your steps...of your breath. It's an excellent meditative walk. It's more like priming yourself to the transfiguration that awaits...ha-ha. But seriously, try to walk it.
Upon reaching the church premises, I was turned away by the guard because I was wearing shorts. He said it violated policy and it was disrespectful. My shorts were knee level and they were casual cotton shorts. After having walked 30 minutes, I'm being turned away? I was pissed. I let it out on the guard. He offers me a skirt. Yes, a skirt! He says policy will allow skirts but not shorts. I asked him if he realized how ludicrous it was - let the guy take his pants off and wear a skirt out of respect to the church! I walked away feeling that the church did it again! Turned away another sheep over something dogmatically out of touch with the times. But then I realized I wanted to let the head priest get a piece of my mind too. I told the guard I wanted to talk to the big boss himself. He pointed to the right direction and said I should look for Fr. Elias.
It wasn't long until I caught up with Fr. Elias, who was busy for his next service. I wasn't upset really, but I wanted to ask him why the church, the shepherd, would turn away a sheep because the sheep's wool didn't suit him. Fr. Elias was such a charming priest he completely disarmed me with his humor, his openness and spontaneity. We talked about other things as I picked his brains with semi-irreverent questions (eg. - why the fascination with the Black Nazarene when there is no such thing...Christ wasn't black). However, I would qualify my question first saying, "At the risk of sounding irreverent, why did .....". He was smiling the entire time and addressed my questions. Those that he didn't, he shrugged with an unfathomable laughter. When I told him that the church is intolerant, that it's even blasphemy to question it, he laughed and dismissively said, "Oh...that's still Vatican 1. We've moved on.". Later, he invited me to help myself with their famous Monk's Blend coffee. He even added that drinking it might mean my salvation...and laughs out loud again. I was really liking this guy.
Pray Hard, Work Hard
In between laughs though, he educated me on what the whole monastery deal was all about. They are 'confined' to the monastic life for their entire lifetime, but allowed to leave the premises when needed. They do a lot of praying, mostly for our sins (I didn't know if I should say 'thank you'), but they also roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty but living off the land. The coffee business is what mainly supports them.
After Fr. Elias left for his service, I started reading the magazine articles about the monastery as muraled on their walls. I read something catchy. There is a Dom Martin who has been living in the monastery for 23 years already. But get this: he used to be known in Manila's fashion industry as Gang Gomez, the guy who dressed-up Manila's rich and famous, back in the day. Wow! I had to meet him. I asked the guard again how I can talk to Dom Martin. He texted and said Dom Martin will see him at the guard house. Woohoo!
Glitzy Life to Monastic Life
He finally arrives and the first thing I asked him was, "...from Manila's glitzy life to a monastic life? That is a broad spectrum to span. What is your story?". He laughs. We kept talking while walking towards a museum for religious vestiges (priest clothing). He excused himself but said he'll come back. I went around the museum admiring the finely crafted articulated vestiges made from all over the Philippines. I was done and Dom Martin wasn't back yet. I had to leave.
I chose to walk back again, but instead of feeling pissed for being turned away, I was really elated for having the good fortune to meet the wonderful and animated Father Elias, and the enigmatic (because I didn't get my story on him) Dom Martin. At some point, I'd like to come back and attend their Sunday mass where they offer a lavish farm-harvest breakfast every 2nd Sunday of the month. Moreover, I was left hanging with our unfinished conversation. These venerable priests are not really any different from you and me. I suspect that they also want people to behave in their normal sense when with them. The fact I ask them irreverent questions is perhaps even a sigh of relief from the epidermal 'I am not worthy' demeanor people usually bestow on them. They are probably wondering at times, "...how would these people really behave in front of me if they didn't know I'm a man of the cloth".
ps - If you want me to objectively cover your resort for this website (beach resort, mountain resort, island resort, etc.), email me.
- take a jeep on the main road that goes to Valencia. Tell the driver to drop you off the junction for the monastery (in San Jose). 15 mins, P10. From the junction, there is a motorcycle you can hire for P30 one-way.
- try to go there with pants and a polo shirt or they won't let you in the church. For women, look conservative...no camel toe shorts please
- go there on the 2nd Sunday of the month and join everyone for a farm-harvest breakfast after the service
- I didn't ask the buffet price, but a blogger in Oct. 2011 said it was P170/head
Jan 30, 2013
»» next Traveling story: Abundance in Cagayan de Oro
»» back to Traveling
»» back to Homepage
ALL YEARS |