Month: June 2015

Blissful Encounter with the Lady Named Caysasay and an Angel Named Mark Vincent

It has always been my belief that entering a house of prayer or a religious temple for the first time goes with a lot of perks.  I am with the faithful belief that you can ask for three wishes if it is your first time to enter a church.  This of course is aside from the opulent opportunity to pray for your loved ones, express your heartfelt gratitude, catch-up with God and in a way save your soul.

simple yet powerful!
simple yet powerful!
mystifying
mystifying

But my first time visit to the church of Our Lady of Caysasay in Barangay Labac, Taal has more than what I expected.   I only knew through a brochure write-up of the hotel were we stayed in Taal that pilgrims and visitors of this church as decreed by Vatican may actually receive the rare and priceless plenary indulgence.  This means, if you visit and pray at Caysasay Shrine all your sins, wickedness and impiety will be washed away.  Upon knowing this, and since my wickedness is already up to the brim, I made sure that I and my friends must go there.

Aside from washing away all my evilness, I also got to meet one remarkable kid in Taal.  His name is Mark Vincent.  I actually met him right inside the church.  After saying a solemn prayer, this kid approached me and asked if I wanted to personally hold the image of Our Lady of Caysasay.  I of course agreed.  He then told me to follow him outside, led me to the back of the church and asked me to go up the stairs which leads me to the back of the high altar.

the angel and the wicked
the angel and the wicked
our lady of caysasay
our lady of caysasay
feeling blessed
feeling blessed

When I reached the top floor, the main backdoor of the church was locked.  Mark Vincent noticed that I could not get in so he hurried downstairs and told the church’s personnel to open the door for me and my friends.  This is where the amazing and rare opportunity of touching the miraculous image, her vestment and even the hair of Our Lady of Caysasay happened.  This beautiful experience was indeed sublime and mystifying.

When I told Mark Vincent that he is supposed to be in school that Wednesday morning, he told us that his teacher ordered them to report halfday after lunch because it’s the feast day of St John the Baptist.  In Batangas province, part of its local tradition is to splash water to people passing by the streets from morning ‘til noontime during San Juan day.  The teacher then, as I supposed, must not want her students reporting at school in the morning all drenched wet.

I was expecting Marc Vincent to ask money from us upon making sure we experience what we experienced.  Usual Pinoy cunning and scheming kids would charge or ask tourists for money for the service they believe they’ve rendered.  But what is so remarkable about this kid is that he never asked anything from us.  He simply wanted us to have a deeper encounter with the Lady of Caysasay.  This is the point when I surmised that Mark Vincent, the genteel and well-mannered kid, must be some angel sent by heaven.  (I will write further about my encounter with this remarkable kid in the days to come…)

Sa wakas nahuhasan din.  Grabe. Ang linis linis ko. Hahaha!

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Taal: You’re My Kind of Philippines

There is a prevailing notion that Filipinos behave more than the usual when they are abroad.  Me and my fellow Filipinos are more cooperative, more patient, more obeying and more respectful when they are out of the country.

But it is surprising to know that this better-quality characters seem to exist in a Filipino populace not living abroad but right here in the Philippines.  It is so delightful to find out that such pleasant characters exists in a Filipino community here in the Philippines.  I am talking about the heritage town of Taal, Batangas.

escuela pia, the cultural center of taal
escuela pia, the cultural center of taal

With the rise of animosity, distrust and hostility in Philippine society, it is now rare to encounter the pleasant events and circumstances that I personally experienced during my short visit in Taal.  These encounters would normally be an impossibility and would normally not happen if it occurred in another place or town somewhere here in the Philippines.

Incident One

mystifying
mystifying

At Caysasay Church, I and my friends were the only customers inside a store that sells religious goodies. I wanted to have a rosary and a small image of Nuestra Senora De Caysasay.  I handed the attendant a five hundred peso bill.  But the young attendant does not have any change for such a huge amount, he instead asked my permission that he would have to go out of the store to have the money changed into smaller bills.  When I agreed, he stepped out and without any suspicion left his store all in our care and custody.

As a usual scenario in a lot of places in the Philippines, the attendant would either call another person whom he trusts to man the store or would order us to get smaller bills for ourselves or would simply deny us any purchase because he doesn’t have a change for the huge bill handed to him.

Incident Two

a classic street
a classic street

On the day of our visit, we were unaware that it was the Feast of Saint John the Baptist.  During this day, the locals of Batangas observes the tradition of splashing water to anyone they would see and encounter on the streets from morning until noontime. Getting splashed with water on this day is actually a symbolism of being baptized with Holy Water.  While we were walking on the street of Calle M.M. Agoncillo, we were approached by a uniformed traffic enforcer (though there literally was no traffic on the streets) and told us to expect that people may splash or squirt water on us.  That we would have to be mindful of the cameras and gadgets that we carry and not to get “pikon” (pissed-off) because it’s their province’s tradition.

As a usual scenario in a lot of places in the Philippines, uniformed traffic enforcers would simply ignore our presence.  They would simply not care.  They may even be the first to laugh and mock us in case we got wet for not knowing the day’s tradition.

Incident Three

picture first before i knock
picture first before i knock

Casa Villavicencio, a pre-1850’s stone house turned into a private museum is one of our desired destinations in Taal.  When we arrived, the house/museum was closed and indicated on a hanged signage that the house is only open to public every weekends.  I nevertheless knocked on the humongous wooden door.  When a young man who was passing by the street saw me, he called out one of the lady servants cleaning the garden of the museum and informed her that we were at the door wanting to enter.  He told us to wait by the door to be acknowledged.

When the lady servant opened the old wooden door, she allowed us in but informed us that the house is closed to public on that day.  But surprisingly, without my being too pushy she allowed us in and told us that we can pay the entrance fee at a student rate of 80 pesos per person.  Except for me, my companions obviously no longer look like students but she explained that it is supposed to be 100 pesos but since they could not serve refreshments, we are given a discount.  After letting us watch a short film about the legacy of the owners of the house, the servants left us for ourselves and we of course toured, marveled and enjoyed the preserved heritage of Casa Villavicencio all by ourselves.

As a usual scenario in a lot of places in the Philippines, we will simply be ignored by passersby on the street and we will definitely be denied entry because their establishment is closed.

Incident Four

taal basilica
taal basilica

Aside from the marvellous preserved Spanish-colonial stone houses, another must visit in Taal are the churches.  Two most popular of which are the St Martin De Tours Basilica and the Our Lady of Caysasay Church.  In both visits, we were never approached by a “pulubi” (beggars).  There seem to be no pulubi in Taal.  Anyway, in both churches we were approached by smiling children (one for each church) selling candles.  These children are not the typical pushy types found in other places in the Philippines.  They simply offer us to buy their candles so that – according to both kids – we can solemnly pray for our loved ones.  After our purchase, in both church scenarios, these kids accompanied us to the area where the candles should be placed and lighted.  After praying, these young lads in both churches in their very welcome-y demeanour then told us where are the nearby interesting spots where we local tourists can proceed.

As a usual scenario in a lot of places in the Philippines, street children or beggars would obnoxiously irritate foreign and local tourists.  They would not stop until you hand them some money.  And what is so heart-breaking is that oftentimes these children are victims/members of a loose gangsters or organized crime syndicates.

In Conclusion

europe? no. that's taal, my kind of philippines
europe? no. that’s taal, my kind of philippines

With all these remarkable encounters, I can assert the impression that Taal is my kind of Philippines.  Taal definitely lives up to the country’s tourism slogan, “It’s more fun in the Philippines”.  And I just hope Taal remains the way it is today.

Oh? ‘San ka pa? Pasyal na.

Taal: An Unexpectedly Beautiful Town

i love taal
i love taal

Prior to visiting Taal in the province of Batangas I never expected so much about this place.  It is actually only 2 hours away from the bustling capital of the Philippines.  Because it is so close to Manila the range of my expectations on what this town can offer is so low.

All the while, I thought, Taal would just be another usual town that aspires to become a modernized place near Metro Manila that is vehicle-congested, mall-infested and overly-populated.  But my short one-night and one-day glimpse of Taal tutored me otherwise.

a nice sunny weather...
a nice sunny weather…
yey!
yey!
this is what philippines should be like... i love it!
this is what philippines should be like… i love it!
a dungeon like stairs leading to a church belfry
a dungeon like stairs leading to a church belfry

This place was able to preserve the calmness of a Filipino barrio, the gentleness and courtesy of the Filipino people as well as the elegance and beauty of the 19th century Philippines.

According to Wikipedia, Taal is classified only as a third class municipality.  Yet the feelings and thoughts I experienced during my recent visit in this bucolic Filipino town has surprisingly been first class!

I would definitely be back to further explore the culture and the beauty of this calm, naive and gentle place.

Ang gara! Ang ganda! Ang galing!

Japanese Broadway Musical: My New Yearning

This blog is a living proof that I absolutely without any doubt love anything about Japan.  From its food, to its beautiful weather, to its magnificent sites, up to its exquisite culture and gentle people.

This blog also is a testament to the startling fact that I love Broadway musicals.  From its ingenious production designs, to its mind blowing choreographies, to its incredible story plots up to marvellous musical tunes and talents.

Amazingly, the recent Youtube video which I stumbled upon is a surprising mix of both.  This video gives me a reason to again visit Japan and see their unique version and remarkable rendition of western musicals.

wow!
wow!

What is so delightful in watching this video is that I don’t have to have the lyrics translated in a language that I understand.  I already know the story, the uttered lines as well as the music.  The only thing that I got to do is to witness the stunning visuals, hear the pleasing musical tunes and savour the delightful experience.

This is so beautiful…

Now I wonder how my favourite nemesis Ursula is interpreted by this Japanese musical company.

Kakaiba ‘di ba?

Offertory With My Father

tatay joe
tatay joe

Last week before spending a short weekend escape in Baguio, I and my friends stopped over and heard a Holy Mass in the Shrine Our Lady of the Rosary of Manaoag in Pangasinan.  And during this very Holy Mass only did I realize that every time the Offertory is about to begin the person that enters my mind is my father.

Offertory would always remind me of my childhood, my father and the numerous episodes of my family hearing Mass in Baclaran Church.  When the choir starts singing to indicate the start of the Offertory, my father would automatically dig his hand in his pocket and would hand me and my siblings a couple of coins.  These are the same coins that we would naively put inside the collection bag being reached out and brought around the church to collect cash donations.

This simple episode that constantly reactivates in my memory every offertory, I guess is the modest and humble symbolism that reminds me about my father being the family’s able provider and role model.  This simple act (I guess) is the symbol which in a way developed in me the concept of charity, kindness and sharing.

Aside from enriching my soul and taking the opportunity to thank the Heavenly Father for all the blessings he showers me, attending the Holy Mass is also an avenue to remind myself that I actually had a “good” father.

Happy Father’s Day Tatay…