Mar 15, 2015


Barely a month ago, I left this crazy city for a while, off to a far, green, hilly area of Malaybalay City, Bukidnon and went straight to my self-imposed silent retreat at the Monastery of Transfiguration of Benedictine Monks. It was my first, part of this Never Before at 34 Agenda! Three days and two nights in a guest room, in an observed  silence except that of my mind and heart and some casual conversations (think about the Manangs and the Manongs) along the way. 

Earlier this year, as soon as I read the place on the website and what it offers, I booked a flight for an early airfare price and I did not know what to expect afterwards. I do not usually go a retreat where everybody tells their stories. I just needed a 'place'. If only I could have brought my laptop, I could have produced a novella. Back to the Monastery, it turned out to be almost perfect. No guided retreats, no special instructions. You are encouraged to attend five prayer sessions with the monks in the nearest chapel. I attended twice a day. There was a cute monk though.

The room is quaint. A laminated complete guidelines has all the details for you to read. They encourage visitors to observe 'deeper silence' after 7:00 pm. I hope they remind the kuligligs around. At night, the place is a full utopian blank space. The monastery is almost 50 hectares of coffee plantations, pinewood nursery, mini-falls, and hilly grasslands. Pretty big. 

'Why did you come to this place? You're far from here', said the good lady to me during lunchtime in the pantry. Technically, she is my only companion in the guest house.  She visits the Monastery four times a year to teach the Benedictine novices on personality development (that's what I could recall for now). She makes sure that the novices will have no problem why they want to be monks in the first place. 

Me: I need some place quiet. It is my birthday week. So this is a good treat to myself
Lady: Are you in a point of transition in your life? Do you entertain the idea of entering the monastery?
Me: No.
Lady: Why not?
Me: I am a sinner (with some few casual laughs)
Lady: Dom (that's how they called the full-fledged Benedictine) Martin was at his peak as a fashion designer in Manila when he decided to leave everything behind and went here. 
Me: Yeah, I read it online. 
Lady: So why are you here? 
Me: I am not exactly at a crossroad. But I need a kind of discernment. I need to do a lot of things and it can be so tiring. But I need to do it. 
Lady: Maybe the Lord wants you to just do it. 

The lady was cordial and she left me her contacts.

On a separate occasion, there was novice Brother Jerome, only six months in the Monastery.

Me: What do you do inside in the Monastery?
Bro. Jerome: After a day's work, we pray in silence and read.
Me: Will you have a chance to go outside?
Bro. Jerome: Pag kailangan. Last time, I asked permission because I needed to visit my mother.
Me: How many years before you become a monk?
Bro. Jerome: Six years.
Me: Good luck Bro. Jerome. Six year is short if you like what you do (hashtag counselor)

I have my full admiration on these people. I am never a stranger to any religious orders - the Jesuits, Franciscans, Dominicans, and even Pink Sisters. Unfortunately, I never have a close friend from any religious order who can enlighten me further of what they do. For some strange reasons, I spent some nights 'you tubing' and 'googling'  what it is like to be Benedictine in the guest house. I felt I had a crash course on St. Benedict.

During my last night, I felt the serenity of the place. I got the 'discernment' and the 'resolve' that I needed to. It was rather inexplicable. All throughout my stay, to my mind and heart, I kept praising God and asking him to always take good care of me, my family, and friends. A fitting end before my birthday.

On my birthday, I was commuting for a five-hour ride to Davao City to visit my friends. The Bukidnon-Davao road is so scenic. The pines, the plains, the rough hills, and the Mt. Apo mountain ranges in the backdrop complete the Mindanao landscape. Plus some thoughts on Mamasapano (but it is far from the place)! Char. I just learned last week that on the same road, a bus was stopped over and burned down by the NPA! No one was hurt because they let the commuters out of the bus and are left to waiting on the next bus while seeing their supposed bus burning. Crap. Rule no. 1. Do not travel by night. Always in the bright light of the day. 


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