maligayang pasko!

maligayang pasko!

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merry christmas hello everyone! where have i been? what did i do over the holidays? here it is! πŸ™‚

Home for the Holidays
Β Β Β Β  One of the big blessings I have here in the Philippines, is that I have family in Manila (only about a 5-6 hour bus ride away). This is a place where I can go to retreat, celebrate holidays, and be rejuvenated. That being said, this Christmas/New Years holiday, I did just that, and it was perfect! This was my first Christmas/New Years away from my family in California, but that was actually not as bad as I thought – I made them a little slideshow with some pictures of me and some of the things that I have been doing here in Baguio, and they loved it! Yes, exactly what I was going for πŸ™‚ That way, I had to make sure they didn’t forget that I was missing. Haha, I don’t think they did.

Here is one of the pictures I included in the slideshow (this is a picture of me during the medical mission here – one of the child patients took this picture):

And here is my family’s response:

yay! love them! πŸ™‚

meanwhile, in manila, i got to do lots of fun things, including, getting myself a yoga mat and a pair of 3 lb weights to assist in my efforts to get active over here! i have been finding that because i no longer have my yoga outlet, i have had to resort to workouts that i can find online and other resources i can find via the wonderful world of the internet. good thing, because otherwise, i would be in big trouble! AND, because of all of the delicious treats here in the philippines, i am learning to be more disciplined with the way i eat too. πŸ™‚ haha, who would have thought!

i got to spend a lot of time with my cousin, and where did we go? check out good places to eat…

soft boiled egg with some soy sauce and a sandwich…BEST combination ever! really.

butter and coconut jam sandwich

the instructions! this was at TOAST BOX (origins in Singapore) DELICIOUS.

sonya’s garden in tagaytay – everything they served was organically grown in their garden!

we met “sonya!” – she came over to our table, and taught us how to eat the sweet camote – she picked off a piece of mint from the plant on our table, placed it on the camote, and said, “it is a lot better with that! enjoy!” and she was right!

during my time in manila, i also got to attend mass at Quiapo Church. Now, it was really good visiting, and to be back at the church, and to reflect on my ties with this church. One of the first times I visited this Church, was with my mom, wayyyyyy back when, and i never really understood the concept of the Black Nazarene (Jesus) . when i visited the philippines during my first missions trip back in 2005, i remember walking into the doors of the Church, and really STILL not understanding the concept, and could not even get myself to WANT to understand, because i was distracted by all of the religious items/articles being sold outside, all of the various practices that i now realize stem from a hodgepodge of other “religious” practices, and i just didn’t understand who this Black Nazarene was.

well, i know that my grandpa has a strong devotion to the Black Nazarene, my home has had a figure of the Black Nazarene since i could remember, and now, 6 years later, i was back in this Church.

who is this Black Nazarene? it is Jesus, but depicted with the cross, in a lavish red robe. Quiapo Church is a place where Filipinos from all over, come to pilgrimage. more specifically, during the Feast of the Black Nazarene, this is where people have a procession through the streets, mostly barefoot, and carry the Nazarene, in front of the Church, around the city. many times people will try their best to touch their handkerchiefs to the Nazarene, with the hopes that it would touch the figure, and treat it like a relic. well, i have never witnessed the procession, and i have never had a strong devotion to this Jesus, but it is all beautiful, nonetheless. πŸ™‚

the Black Nazarene
this is what the procession looks like in the street during the Feast

Β what hit me this time though, was the faith of the people. this time around, 6 years later, my aunt and i were able find some breatheable space in the back. i realize i am somewhat taller than the typical filipino here, and so i would go on my tippy toes, trying to gasp some air! i remember thinking to myself, “make yourself small, crystal. make yourself small!” haha! when it was time for communion – wow, yeah, that was a hardship – squeezing through people, but it somehow got organized. how was that even possible? haha, we all got disciplined in that moment, it seemed! good thing.

something beautiful that i witnessed during my visit to the Church that morning, was the body of Christ. yes, there were probably a thousand or more people in that church, and at any given point, there were probably 16 people touching me at any given time, but i felt the spirit really moving in that church. i wanna say the “our father” has never been sung more beautiful, the “amen”s were never so confident, and people’s faith were really written all over their faces. after i received communion, as i was looking for my aunt, i was looking at the communion line – i saw people in tears, i saw some of the pains and health complications that were physically on people’s faces, and as i walked, i found i was not praying for myself – but praying for the people i saw, and in thanksgiving for being witness to the body of christ in this way.

something that is really difficult in terms of the spirituality here in the philippines, is that while people are catholic (the majority), sometimes there is such great emphasis on the saints and on mama mary, that sometimes some churches don’t even have a picture,statue, or figure of jesus, but they will have every other saint, mary, and maybe joseph, in the church. it’s really interesting, and the spirituality here is similar to Spanish descent because of its influence in the philippines.

and then, one of the best parts of the holidays…was the fireworks!! for new years even, we bought every kind of firework they had – we joined the neighbors all over the streets, and in the sky at any given time, there were about 5 different “firework shows” going on! here is some of the goodness:

happy 2011!

lastly, i want to share with you a tradition we have here in the philippines called simbang gabi. in other words, “night/dawn mass.” this is a novena (9 days) of consecutive mass (once a day) leading up to christmas time. more specifically, it is a novena to the blessed mother, to prepare as she gives birth to her child, Jesus. well, this being my first christmas in the philippines, i was all game to participate! well, what i realized, is that the masses are at 5am. yes, that is right, 5am or 5:30am! BUT, i also heard that good shepherd had masses with a Jesuit priest in the evening for simbang gabi! so, that meant, i had options! yes! well, because i wanted to see as many “simbang gabi” masses as i could, i ended up doing some two-a-days. going to good shepherd in the evening, and attending the morning masses at either SLU or the cathedral. one of my biggest motivations to go to these early morning masses, was this:

bibingka!

YUM

puto bumbong! fresh!

available right after mass!

because some of the novena was still going on when i got to manila, i got to attend simbang gabi masses at the padre pio church in eastwood, and also in the neighborhood. they had delicious morning treats after too. i made it all the 9 days! YAY! the experience was beautiful, and i can’t wait till next year! πŸ™‚

and that, my friends, in a nutshell, was my christmas and new years in the philippines. it was a great time. πŸ™‚

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