Due to this fast-paced world, where people are caught up in too much work just to survive, people often forget to give themselves a break and relax for a moment. Once a person had reached the point in which everything seems to be unbearable and all he can ask for is a little time to rest, this country offers a safe haven—Caleruega, Philippines.
Caleruega-Philippines is a retreat center built in 1995 and administered by the Dominican Fathers and Brothers in the Philippines. Initially, Caleruega is a small town in Spain where the father of the Order of Preachers—St. Dominic de Guzman—was born. In honor of their founder and his legacy, the Filipino Dominicans established a place named after Caleruega here in the country.
Caleruega-Philippines is located at Batulao, Nasugbu, Batangas; a few minutes-drive away from Tagaytay, one of the most visited Philippine tourist spot. Upon arrival, visitors are asked to pay thirty pesos (0.68 USD) for the entrance fee. This amount is very cheap and affordable, especially in exchange for a rest-assured peaceful moment and outstanding scenery to ponder.
The first structure to welcome you is called “Cenaculum,” a Latin word that means refectory, referring to a room used for communal meals of an educational or religious institution. In the Holy Bible, Cenacle (English term for cenaculum) is also known as the “Upper Room.” It was identified as the location where the Last Supper and other significant Christian religious events were held. The “Cenaculum” structure in Caleruega-Philippines is made of brick walls with stained glass windows in the middle portion, two religious statues on the lower part of both sides, and a bell tower on top. Inside of it can be found are the Dominicum’s grand staircase, the Blessed Virgin Mary statue, and other framed religious pictures hanging on walls.
As you walk through a path surrounded by trees, plants and a wide variety of flowers, a breath of fresh air will certainly soothe your tensed nerves and your troubled mind. Walking a little further, you will pass by a statue of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary; one of the titles of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the mother of Lord Jesus Christ. The Holy Rosary is a necklace-like contemplative prayer composed of 59 beads and a crucifix pendant. There are four mysteries of the Holy Rosary specifically: joyful, light, sorrowful, and glorious mystery. Prayers like Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory be to the Father are recited while praying the Holy Rosary.
Right around the corner, you will notice several hand-made wood carvings demonstrating the 14 Stations of the Cross. The characters in each carving are represented by an ethnic group who portrays the role of Jesus Christ, his apostles and disciples, and other important individuals present in the story of our Lord. The Stations of the Cross are a narration of the final moments of Jesus Christ when he was condemned to death and carried the burden of the Cross for the sake of mankind’s salvation. Filipinos, as devoted Catholics, reminisce and honor the great sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ and his unconditional love during the Lenten season. This is when the 14 Stations of the Cross are visited along with a prayer of the Holy Rosary. The Philippines, according to the US based Pew Research Center study, remains to be the bastion of Christianity in Asia.
After a few minutes of strolling around, it is time to take a step on the elevated steel stairway. This is of course engulfed with the wonders of nature as the branches of trees embrace you and a majestic Koi fishpond awaits, for you to look down and appreciate its beauty. The Koi fish, rooted from Chinese Feng Shui, symbolizes good fortune and success. It is believed to have a powerful life force because of its ability to swim against current and travel upstream.
The Caleruega experience would be boring if everything you do is simply sight-seeing. Challenges are always present in people’s lives. And one challenge to overcome in this area is to take a risk and bravely walk across the hanging bridge
Another challenge requires great effort and endurance. This is for you to climb up a hill and reach the top where a worth-climbing view can be found—the Tent Chapel of Transfiguration. In the Holy Bible, the Transfiguration of Jesus Christ happened on a mountain top where Jesus began to shine with bright rays of light. It was also the moment of revelation that Jesus is truly the “Son of God.” The term transfiguration means to change in form or appearance into a spiritual state. Displayed inside this tent chapel are three stained glass windows that can really take your breath away. The awe-inspiring effect witnessed, when the stained glass is radiated by sunlight, will forever be treasured as a long-lasting memory.
Caleruega-Philippines is the perfect place for you to reflect, to do some soul-searching, to spend quality time with family, and to even hold your dream wedding. Always remember that in Caleruega-Philippines, you are close to nature and you are closer to God.
So, if you’re here in the Philippines or planning for a visit, don’t forget to drop by at Caleruega-Philippines and experience the solace yourself!
By Mary Paulene Omae G. San Miguel, ASEAN Correspondent from Philippines