Sultan Ahmed Mosque also known as the Blue Mosque should not be missed by any tourist in Istanbul. Set on one side of the magnificent Sultanahmet Square, this vast mosque with high-domed ceiling is accessible to non-worshippers only at certain times of the day.
But don’t let the time of its closure put you off! The beautiful exterior can be considered one engineering marvel. It is tagged to be one of the most impressive monuments in the world. And its interior is a beautiful display that exudes peace, harmony and goodwill.
Can’t say much about this place for I was astounded by the massive beauty of the Blue Mosque. Let me just post numerous photos I took of this majestic world wonder.
Let me start featuring my Turkey solo journey posts not based on chronology of events. Instead, let me commence by featuring one of the holiest spot in Turkey for the Christian Catholics like me.
I have been to the holy house of Mother Mary.
When the tour guide of the tour group I joined announced that the first site to be visited was the Holy House of Mother Mary, I got a bit worried. I became so nervous and anxious because the guards of this pilgrimage site may see my invisible wicked horns and would not allow me in. Hahaha!
Anyway, the time of my specific visit to the House of Mother Mary according to our Tour Guide was something bizarre. According to him, this Catholic pilgrimage site is often visited by hordes of tourists and pilgrims. But on the particular instance that we visited, only me and my tour mates (a Singaporean couple, a Vienna-based Korean solo traveler and a Chilean lady physicist) were the only people at the site.
The Tour Guide who can’t seem to fathom that there was no people around justified that we must be some very special visitors of the house. He mentioned that this must be some sort of a gift from the heavens so that our group would be able to deeply marvel and appreciate the beauty and sacredness of the holy site.
Except for the Chilean lady physicist everyone in the group were non-practicing Christians. But I was the only Catholic and was the only one who took the rare opportunity of lighting a candle and writing a note and tied it along with the bunch of other written wishes and prayer intentions on the humongous wall of notes.
When we left, the Tour Guide asked the group if someone wrote on a piece of paper and tied it on the wall of notes. The Vienna-based Korean pointed at me. The Tour Guide then told me not to divulge to the group the wish and prayer intentions that I have written on my note so that its realization would not be spoiled. I then zipped my mouth and kept quiet.
But let me reveal what I have written.
I actually did not wrote any request or any appeal. I simply wrote a thank you note gor I consider my Turkey journey a gift from the heavens. I did not wrote any desired intentions anymore because my being at the House of Mary and in Turkey (for that matter) is already a realization of a ginormous wish.
My Holy Week last year would most probably be the holiest Holy Week I will ever have, it is because I got to spend it right where the holy Holy Week happened, in Jerusalem, Israel. This year I am in San Francisco USA. And though it is definitely less divine compared to last year, I nevertheless got to observe Holy Week here.
I got to attend and celebrate Holy Mass at Grace Cathedral last Palm Sunday. I actually arrived 30 minutes before the mass started that is why I got the opportunity to take photos and go around the holy church.
One funny thing happened though. As I was about to leave the church after dipping my fingers into the Holy Water to make the sign of the cross, a lady approached me with the biggest smile. She expressed that she was so glad to see such a young man like me attending a Holy Mass on a Palm Sunday. She further expressed in a very gentle voice that new generation whom according to her I belong no longer attends a Holy Mass. She then uttered “God Bless you young man!”
I did not say anything. I just stood there. Listened to her and smiled. If she only knew how old I am and that I may actually older than her. I decided not to correct nor rectify her statements. Besides, I don’t want to ruin her beautiful morning. I just left the church smiling and thinking how much love I have for my anti-ageing cream….
Lumelebel… o baka naman malabo lang ang mata ni Inday.
One of the highlights of Nengkoy’s birthday celebration last week was my whole family’s visit to the National Shrine of Padre Pio located in Sto. Tomas Batangas (80 km south of Manila). Except for my younger sister Joie, it was everybody’s first time in the church.
Before proceeding to the main church area all of us took time to roam and check out the grounds of the holy national shrine. We even lighted a number of votive candles to give thanks and pray for some groovy and awesome intercession.
We failed to attend and listen to a Holy Mass but we were nevertheless lucky and were at the perfect time to have attended an awesome Healing Liturgy. And part of the blessed ceremony is that people got to kiss a sacred relic of St. Padre Pio followed by an anointment of a fragrant oil on both palms and the forehead.
Though it initially freaked me out, because I thought my lips are gonna burn (hahaha!) when it touches the relic, the experience was something serene, calm and divine. I definitely felt God’s blessings and Padre Pio’s embrace.
Visiting Padre Pio church in Batangas was one beautiful experience. It was one blessed experience!
According to history, Old Jaffa in Tel Aviv was a place that was monopolized by the Canaanites and Philistines. It was also the ancient town brought to knees by Biblcal King David, ruled by King Solomon and vanquished by the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Persians and the Phoenicians. It was the historic site where Alexander the Great stationed his troops. And it was reconquered by the Jews through the Maccabean rebels and also fell into the hands of the Romans. Old Jaffa is also where some of the stories in the Holy Bible about Jonah and Apostle Peter took place.
Old Jaffa is also even written about in some Egyptian letters by an ancient pharaoh. It is also believed to be the place where Andromeda (of the Greek mythology) was chained to a rock by her king father so as to pacify the tantrums of Poseidon.
And in the event I happen to become very famous and significant, let me pronounce and put in writing (so that people would know) that this historic site is where I attended my first Holy Catholic Mass in Israel. Not in Jerusalem, not in Nazareth neither in Bethlehem. It is in old, historic and colorful Jaffa! This I guess would be one notable event that will be recognized in the future!
And for the record, the Holy Mass me and my sister fortuitously attended was celebrated in the Spanish language. It was a special Mass for some Latin American looking tourists. Too bad I did not intently listened to my profesora in Spanish language subjects during my schooldays, only little could I understand on what the priest was saying.
But since me and my sister knows the dynamics of the Holy Catholic Mass – when to say amen, when to kneel, when to do the sign of the cross, when to pray a specific/standard prayer, when to stand and bow the head, when to respond (our response was in English though), when to say “peace be with you”, etc. – the experience was as divine and as hallowed like attending a Holy Mass which we could totally understand.
No, I don’t have plans of conquering this awesome place but it can now be said that Old Jaffa is now a part of my soon to be famous life. Or the other way around, that is, I have at least in some strange twist of fate have been part of the historic Old Jaffa.
Parang gusto ko tuloy sakupin at ikongker ang baryong ito.
The Western Wall (which others call The Wailing Wall) has been regarded by the Jews as the sole remnant of the Holy Temple. It is considered to be the closest accessible site to the holiest spot in Judaism known as the Foundation Stone which lies on the Temple Mount. Because of these, the Western Wall has become a place of pilgrimage among the Jews around the world.
Since it is the holiest accessible site, the Western Wall would be the site where Jewish believers would lament about the obliteration of the temple as well as the site where they would pray for intentions. As a tradition, people would write a note on a piece of paper about their intentions, their petitions, their requests, wishes, longings and yearnings. And insert the paper into the crevices of the walls for the heavenly beings to grant such wishes, requests and appeals.
Though a non-Jewish, I have been gifted by the heavens to set foot, see, smell and feel the massive and majestic walls of the Western Wall. Some perhaps must be envious that a pathetic underachiever like me was granted the rare chance to pray and ask for anything that I need and want to the Holy God of the Jewish world.
But honestly, I failed to write any petition neither did I fail to even murmur on the stones about any wish. It is because I was too overjoyed and too thankful to ask for anything at that moment. The mere fact that I was blessed to be in the Holy Land is already a massive and colossal gift from the heavens. I was so thrilled and delighted I could no longer ask for anything else at that moment.
I would like to believe that I must have done something beautiful in my past life that my present one has been so blessed. One particular blessing is the opportunity to go and visit the beautiful and mystifying Koyasan, a unique Buddhist town nestled high in the peaks of Mt. Koya in Wakayama, Japan.
But what is so amazing by such a blessing is that I did not only visited this UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the holiest places in Japan once. I was given by the heavens the generous chance to visit Koyasan twice. First was during the springtime of 2014 while the second was this year’s richly colored autumn season.
Selected 2014 Photos
Selected 2015 Photos
What captivates me most about Koyasan is the peaceful aura and zen-like atmosphere it emits. Visitors will truly feel the positive serenity and explicit spiritual side of Japan. I am not religious, but each of the visit I did in this holy place made me feel so moved, it makes me wanna pray!
Koyasan is one great travel destination, no way will I hesitate if in this lifetime, I would be given the chance again of visiting this holy place for the third time.