Connections. They’re wonderful, they’re great. It was only supposed to last no more than an hour, entering the meeting/place without expectation, and boom. The next thing you know, it’s 5 hours later, and I had stayed with enough to keep me busy…two meriendas (snacks) which consisted of super tasty sweet bread and coffee, some oranges, and a delicious lunch shared with the staff, administration, a maryknoll father, a maryknoll sister, and 4 seminarians. It was absolutely amazing! An hour of that time was spent at the Maryknoll Ecological Sanctuary. YUP. Crystal and nature. Crazy as it sounds…I LOVED IT. I loved EVERY part of it, and it may just be in that Sanctuary that I discovered my appreciation for nature and the universe. Woohoo! We’re making progress, people!
so, let me back up. during the maryknoll international service orientation that i attended way back when (haha, seems forever long ago!), one of the workshop leaders had spent quite some time serving in mindanao with the maryknolls, as a lay missioner. well, when he found out i was going to the philippines, he provided me with wonderful contacts! i was very happy about that. i decided to reach out to them, and the next thing you know, my contact already knew the cabrini community, and she had already heard of my coming! it was so great!
so i took a cab over to the maryknoll site, walked around the grounds, took a tour of the whole ecological center which focuses on environmental education, while incorporating the arts and spirituality. it’s a really neat place.
at this ecological sanctuary, in the garden, there are about 14 “cosmic stations” which take you to individual stops on this “cosmic journey.” this journey is located all up in the hills of the maryknoll ecology sanctuary, and you experience the “different moments in the unfolding of the earth.” it was created to capture the essence of interconnectedness among all beings and creations on earth. basically, it is a story of how everything came to be.
the cosmic journey
you begin your “journey” or your “walk” by ringing the bell, marking the beginning of your journey – so you may say a prayer if you will. i can’t even describe how awesome everything was and how large and expansive these grounds were. i seriously felt like i was in a rainforest the whole time. the trees were creating canopies, and there was just life, EVERYWHERE. one of my favorite stations was the “dinosaurs on the scene” station, where there was this statue of a large egg, and inside, a makeshift baby dinosaur. this is to symbolize the parental love that the dinosaurs had and set the foundation for…once the dinosaurs were extinct, the mammals then came to the earth, and here too, we see the mammals nourishing their newborn offspring.
then! there was a bird station, and that was awesome because there was this HUGE nest on the floor, made of twigs, leaves, all random stuff, and as tours go by, the kids are instructed to add twigs and leaves, to symbolize their contribution to creation and to perpetuate this cycle of growth. it was cool cause there was also a bird carved in the trees! a couple of stations later, there was a cave, to show the development of early humans living in caves. then, in the burial cave that they created in the Sanctuary, they had a depiction of a hanging coffin (native people in the northern part of the cordilleras, especially, believed that the spirit would be more free and feel more liberated through a hanging coffin, rather than being buried), and they also had the depiction of the “manunggul burial jar” which “represents the journey of life to death and the profound and noble human quality of helping each other through life’s difficult and transforming moments.” this jar was such a huge discovery back in the 1960s, that the original jar is now in the National Museum in Manila.
back then, native people would use these burial jars to either bury their young, or, in the event where someone had died 5 years ago or something of the sort, the body would then be dug up, bones would be washed and cleaned, and then the bones would be placed in the jar. that kinda thing. so interesting!
there was an awesome bridge we walked on – i seriously thought i was gonna fall. like, there was possibility there…and then there was this huge hut symbolizing the creation of communities and villages, and then, there were my last two favorite stations!
station number 1 (station #13)
it was the emergence of the religious traditions – they had the major religions represented, judaism (complete with a wailing wall, where you could insert your prayers), islam (with a minaret), buddhism (with a buddha), christianity (jesus on the cross) – it was so beautiful. each religion had their own area, and there was also an area with a statue that just symbolized “the awakening,” or rather, the place where you can contemplate/reflect on, the meaning of life! i know, awesome. 🙂
station number 2 (station #14)
this station was the bio-shelter! it was awesome! it’s located near the home of the sisters, and it is operated through solar energy, and the natural lighting in the place was just amazing. so beautiful! not to mention, super close by, was the sisters’ quarters…and i got to see their rooms. i’d never seen anything like it! in each room, there is a staircase, leading up, and when you go up the skinny stairs, you have your own little closed off sanctuary area, to pray! and it was cool because there would be 3 in a section, and so, the ceilings would all meet at a point, but they were individually closed off, for your own prayer space. like, amazing. i was just thinking, wow, so many places to put pictures and fun quotes! haha!
sooooo i think that tour that i did not even anticipate going on, lasted for a couple hours or so. the grounds were that huge!
at the entrance of the house is the form of a lizard made with the rocks on the floor. tita explained to me that lizards can be found almost anywhere – on baskets, in artwork, on many items here in the cordilleras, and the reason for that, is because the lizard is seen as a sign of transformation, and they are good at chasing rats, and eating mosquitoes. haha, when she told me the transformation part, i was like, ok, so mr. lizard man in my room is clearly aware of this new inhabitant of his space, thus, the transformation i am undergoing! so that was kinda cool. 🙂 now i see mr. lizard man more as a symbol of transformation, change, and renewal (symbolic of this due to the changing of their colors) and what a good symbol he will stay. i also learned that at 6am and 6pm, the lizards kiss the ground. there’s a filipino story behind it – i just don’t know it off the top of my head!
i learned so much at the maryknoll center today – not just about the earth and the environment, but also about the cordilleras region (which includes baguio), the story of the native people, i got to interact with people who i felt SO comfortable with, even when they would speak ilocano, and it’s crazy, but in a way, i felt like i was having an orientation (to baguio city) with them! they answered some of the questions i had, they gave me tips, they basically told me that i am part of their family and i am welcome to come at any time! it was so fun! they also have a BEAUTIFUL labyrinth in the middle of the blacktop – it’s in the shape of a flower. when i saw it, i was like, omg, i love it!
i also learned that tagalog means: taga (from), ilog (river), so that’s why the universal language of the philippines is tagalog – because the philippines is surrounded by water, and therefore, the language is called tagalog. and yes, there are hundreds of dialects spoken all throughout the philippines! and when we say “opo” to say yes or to confirm something with another person, as a sign of respect, the reason behind that, is it comes from “Panginoon,” which means “God/Lord” in tagalog. so that’s interesting too. such a religious-oriented country!
i was so happy with my time spent at maryknoll. one of my highlights there, was sharing with them the video i made, from my visit to the Maryknoll Museum. i think they really enjoyed it, and i told them how important it was for them to see that their work, even as administrators, plays such a big role in this whole realm of mission. haha, it was hilarious – they were like, you’re so contaminating! you have such contagious laughter! you brought laughter to us! haha, i was ilke, ok, let’s not say contaminate. let’s just stick with contagious. haha, they also said that i’m good at teaching, so that’s cool. response ability training last year definitely paid off! i was so gracious to them for their wonderful hospitality and warm hearts. they even asked me to pray for our meal – the delicious meal that the father prepared for us, and with legit longanisa from pangasinan – complete with toothpicks and everything!
my day was packed with goodness. i then met a christian missionary from northern carolina who had been here for 22 years now, i did NOT sing karaoke, and all in all, i was pretty productive today.
and now – time to rest. running in the am! hahaha…i know. who would have EVER thought.
i also saw legit limestone in the far off distance today at maryknoll, and i vaguely saw the south china sea – vague, because of the fog layer. all very cool environmental stuff, that i usually don’t even think twice about, but am now totally inspired by!
thank you Lord, for yet again, another community that I am a part of on this island. woohoo!