(WARNING: This post is image heavy)
Desperate for a much-needed retreat and driven by an uncontrollable instinct, I headed one Sunday morning to the Shrine of St. Andrew Kim Taegon in Lolomboy, Bocaue. It was a sudden decision, which one can easily figure as heavily influenced by my strong fascination on South Korea and its culture.
Thanks to Alex and Jethro’s help, I managed to find my ways to the place easily. I had cramps though for walking too much, but I didn’t mind. When I got there, the gates were closed as it was lunch time. Fortunately, the guard allowed me to come in. According to one of them, I didn’t look like a bad person anyway.
I was welcomed by a pavilion made of marbles as I entered the shrine. In the middle stood the bronze (?) statue of St. Andrew Kim. Easily, I was hyped up. Seeing Korean characters written in signs and tablets made my heart flutter.
While I really am interested about the life of the Korean saint, I have to admit that my main purpose of going there was to see a piece of Korea in my province. Many friends have told me that the atmosphere there was definitely good and as I roam around on my own, I realize they’re telling the truth.
Behind the pavilion is a small chapel. Though I was a little hesitant at first, I entered the place and whispered a little prayer. The first I noticed was that the nuns left their religious stuff inside. There were Korean bibles in the pews and I was this (-) close to looking at one. There were coils too which we use to keep away from mosquitoes. And the other lane of pews was covered in dust. Maybe, there really aren't so many people coming there?
As I walked around, the wind blew and I felt so peaceful and serene. That moment, I found what I’ve been looking for: A NEW SANCTUARY. I was greeted by a bridge which has like a wavy pattern, which I noticed appeared often in other parts of the place. On the other end stood a 7-tiered pagoda which represents the seven holy sacraments.
At the other end of the bridge is another pagoda-like structure which is actually where the relic of St. Andrew Kim Taegon (elbow) is located. I managed to enter it, like how a typical Korean would (you know, shoes off and all), and I lit a candle too.
The churches were still under construction although the one dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus was done already. There’s a little more finishing left to do though but it was good to go.
The point about the said church was that it made me feel like I’m not in the Philippines. 진짜. The stones were marble, the steps of the stairs were so elegant to step on, there were even pillars and columns which reminded me of the BCJ Garden in Gyeonggi.
The elegance of the church interior really astounded me. Gold and white are always my favorite combination, plus the Korean-styled roofs and boom! I'm in love.
From the church ground, I got to see a clean fishpond. In the middle of it, there’s a foundation in which certain construction was undergoing. Once finished, it'll be the St. Andrew Kim Taegon Church. :)
I managed to get around the area on my own when I saw a nun coming out from the convent. I tried calling her attention in English but she wouldn’t budge. It’s either she couldn’t hear me or couldn’t understand. In the end, I ended up saying 저기요 and then she looked up at me and smiled, perhaps glad and excited that someone was there.
Her name’s Sr. Joanna, a Korean nun who came from Seoul. She had been staying in the Philippines for more than a year now with other nuns and they’re running the shrine. She knows English although you’d have to be used to hearing Koreans speaking in English to understand her clearly. Hehe.
Sr. Joanna had been nothing but very, very accommodating and hospitable to me. Yes, she indeed volunteered to tour me around. Grateful for the assistance, my encounter with her clearly deserves a separate blog account.
All in all, the trip to the shrine was something I would cherish forever. It inspired me, to be honest, because walking around the place under the heat of the sun, I have thought of certain things that will perhaps be very helpful to my development as a person. I have realized that I deserve breaks because I’m still a person. I can get tired because I’m human, and no one should judge me for it.
It was a great experience, and as promised, I’m coming back there. Because if I couldn't go to South Korea yet, I'd be more than willing to work on my faith while enjoying a piece of it nearby.