Holy Tuesday was spent in prayer and a mini pilgrimage at a contemplation site in the outskirts of Tanay, Rizal. Such a good feeling to have done something fulfilling and meaningful this Holy Week. I’ve gotten used to staying at home and hearing Mass during this week of Lent, and if I’m lucky, I do Visita Iglesia with my relatives. What I did for this year was different, and a first: a Lenten recollection with the sight of a big, beautiful golden Marian statue, surrounded by a really picturesque view on top of a hill.
My grandparents are religious people and they love to go on pilgrimages here and there. Oftentimes, they tag me along to visit monasteries (to take part in fiestas or to hear Mass), as well as to have little chit-chats with nuns and mother superiors. My lolo signed me up in this recollection and in all honesty, I wasn’t exactly looking forward to it because I was lazy to get up so early on a day of summer (woke up at around four in the morning!) and because of the reason that I might be the youngest among the group. Again. As always.
And I was, but it wasn’t all that bad. More on that later.
It was a two-hour road trip to Regina RICA (Regina Rosarii Institute for Contemplation in Asia) in Rizal province. They are closed on Tuesdays, but since it was Holy Week, they opened it for pilgrims. It was the only Tuesday open for the whole year, and I felt very blessed having been part of that once-a-year opportunity. The place was located in Tanay, the same municipality Daranak Falls (our field trip) is located in. Felt good to be back!
Knowing myself, I would never sleep in a road trip because I know if I would not look out the window of the car, I would be missing something. But because I barely had four hours of sleep, I ended up catching a few zzz’s during the trip. Lucky and unlucky for me.
And we ended up here, a place quite far—away from the city, located on high altitude. Clear skies and cool breeze greeted us as we stepped down of the car. It was situated on a beautiful piece of land which reminded me of my dream university—so many trees.
The experience was sort of a healing, as cliché as it sounds—spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically. Physically, because the meals served were all light dishes and absolutely had no meat. We had pancit and lumpia for breakfast (woo!), and my stomach felt weird, but in a good way. My own sacrifice for the remaining days of Holy Week.
At first, it disappointed me that I was the youngest in the group—nobody to talk to, nobody to relate to. What’s funny is that the people I was with were people I had never met before, and they were my lolo’s classmates way back in high school and college. Can you believe that… what is a sixteen-year-old doing in a sea of senior citizens? This is why I sometimes hate being tagged along.
But I proved myself wrong this time. At some point, it felt awkward. Sure, I couldn’t relate to the oldies’ talks, but it was actually a pleasure listening to their conversations. Grown-ups are full of sense and I appreciated the wisdom I took from them and they subconsciously imparted. Their humor made me happy. I loved hearing them catch up on each other’s lives and seeing them tease each other like it was high school (for them) all over again. You should listen to old people talk; you will learn a thing or two from them!
They were old, yet their youthful outlook reflected greatly on their faces, and it was something I envied of them. It made me think… in 50, 60 years? Will my classmates and I share the same laughs in the future?
On an unrelated note, one of them said, “You know, you could be mistaken as a…” I seriously thought he was gonna say old or college student. Seriously. It happens all the time. Then I mentally prepared myself for a split second.
Whaaat. Not again! In my recent travels, he was the fourth person to say so. And all of them had never met me before, so I guess there’s no lying or bola involved? He said it was because of my eyes, but I honestly don’t know what it is about them. I don’t know anymore if being mistaken as a foreigner is a compliment or a degrading factor, really. Hmm… I guess it’s my champion eye bags that set me apart from the rest, hahaha.
Sister Eppie Brasil conducted the “bite-sized recollection”, as she coined the term. It was short, but substantial. It made me realize that recollections need not be long (like how we have our annual recollections in school for a whole day), if in a span of an hour, you can learn so much and reflect on the most necessary things. I learned after that she was the voice you hear when you listen to Radio Veritas. Starstruck! Haha. She was a really good recollection master, and I must say that I was genuinely impressed with her words.
I don’t aim to preach on this little space on the interwebz, because I don’t know how to, but allow me to write down The Four Agreements shared with us, the little rules of life we tend to overlook:
- Be impeccable with your words.
- Don’t make assumptions.
- Don’t take anything personally.
- Just do your best.
And in the words of Ranchoddas Chanchad, AAL IZZ WELL!
Right after the recollection, we heard Mass. These pictures won’t do justice to the amazing architecture the place had! Everybody should hear Mass on this chapel on top of a hill (literally) at least once in his or her life. No air conditioning units, no fans, just the natural winds that breeze through your hair.
And off we walked under the scorching heat of the sun at noon to see the Lady on top of the hill.
The altar was actually located inside and under the statue’s dress, which I thought was so cool and clever! Picture-taking wasn’t allowed inside, but once you get out and look out of the veranda, the scenery was just… breathtaking.
“If at the end of the day you can smile and say you have done good, then be at peace! Let go, just be calm if you discover you have done something wrong. Thank God you are aware.”
-Sr. Eppie Brasil, OP and sisters
Here’s a really stupid picture, but whatever, haha. Attempt one, fail. Second attempt, still a failure.
The place emphasizes that it is a prayer site and not a place for picnics. So that picture above shows how I, well, defied the rules of the contemplation site. I’m such a kid… tsk, tsk.
Let me share a pretty hilarious conversation at the place:
Seller: Panoorin niyo kami bukas! Ma-feafeature kameeeeeh!! Sa channel 7!
Me: Anong palabas?
Seller: Umagang Kaygandaaaaa!!
Me: Diba sa 2 ‘yon?
Seller: Ay maleeeeeh! Unang Hiriiiiit!
Haha, swear, I kept on laughing. The way she said it was so funny, and only if I could mimic it virtually. Fail!
The place was pretty bigtime actually. There were also media men from channel 2 filming a segment for their online platform, probably saying that a good way to spend Holy Week was to be there, and I’d have to agree.
It was a great feeling to be surrounded with people unknown to you, who reign from different island of the Philippines (there was even a family from Germany) exchanging smiles, who all shared the same purpose with you of being there to contemplate and reflect. I admire how the nuns are able to keep these hectares of land well-maintained for pilgrimage, peace, and prayer. Hopefully it would be able to maintain its beauty enough for it to become recognized as a world heritage site or something—really, that’s how beautiful and serene the place was.