It took me months to finally get there. Initially, I wanted to share the experience with someone, but due to unfortunate circumstances, I was left to plan the trip on my own. After days of endless researching, saving up enough courage, and waiting for a weekend off from work, I finally decided to do it.
It was my first trip alone to a place I am going to visit for the first time. So I was all pumped up with excitement and nervousness.
I rode a Victory Liner bus which left Cubao at 5:30 AM. It was a 3 hour ride, but I never dared to snooze. As always, when on transit, I choose to sit by the window, to enjoy the view.
I got off the bus past 8AM at SM City Tarlac, hailed a tricycle to take me to the jeepney terminal going to Brgy Lubigan, San Jose, where I plan to ask around for someone willing to take me up to the monastery. When I got there, I was informed that the earliest trip going to Lubigan is at 9:30AM! I was hoping to catch the 10:30AM mass. Disappointment must’ve been raw in my face, the driver told me he knows someone who takes visitors directly the the monastery. After a couple of minutes, he came back with Kuya Carlo, the tricycle driver/guide who was my hero that day. He said the asking price to the monastery is 300, since I have no idea how to get back down to the city later that day, I hired his service for a full day. Both of the men where wondering loudly why I am alone. Kuya Carlo kept asking me why. I just shrug and told him it’s fun. They were nice by the way!
In less than an hour, we would reach the monastery, but the sights along the road, again, entertained me.
My butt went numb because of the ride. The road was not really bad but the uphill/downhill curves were crazy! But then, I noticed, there were bikers going up the park as well, tough people.
Kuya Carlo/the driver kept on talking, even if I was having a hard time listening because the engine was so loud. Every time we round off a corner where the statue is visible, he would shout, “Ayan na Mam!” Kita mo?” He would even slow down when he sees me trying to get a picture.
I got off the trike to walk up a little more because recently, parking is no longer allowed near the church, as per Kuya Carlo. Here’s a sweet reminder which welcomes every visitor (and there were so many that day!).
I was really happy about the place, there were a lot of people but it’s quiet, as if everyone is in vibe with the Monastery’s solemn aura. And the mountain view was just so pretty I didn’t care if the morning sun was too hot. I took pictures. Lots of them!
I also noticed an area where visiting families can have a picnic.
And to my delight, I found a castle!
The mass then started, I was early so I was able to sit inside. The church which hold a relic of a genuine piece of the Holy Cross, is quite small. Inside where only 12 rows of pews in all. But there were a lot of seats on both sides of the church for pilgrims.
It was a 3 hour mass. It was beautiful and touching. I love how solemn it was, I felt goosebumps all throughout. Some cried, I almost did. I cannot explain it with my words, one must go there to feel it.
The monastery is managed by monks. They wore robes, and large rosaries on their hips. They were not bald as I have expected them to be. I didn’t took a picture, I wasn’t sure if it’s proper.
At the end of the mass, everyone were given the chance to touch the box with the relic. (*The relic is exposed only twice a year sometime January and November, and they say, miracles happen each time)
At 1 PM, it’s still early to go back to Manila, so I decided to stay for a couple more hours. There is a canteen to have your lunch if you don’t have baon like me. There’s also a memorabilia shop where they sell religious items.
Here are more pictures. Enjoy!
It was one memorable trip. A bundle of faith and nature adventure in one. I am hoping to do more of this.
Cheers to a beautiful life, Zai.