Just got back from a 3-day trip to Guimaras Island in Iloilo. Joe and I were invited by Pastor Keith Deloria, the senior pastor of Victory Iloilo, to speak to the young professionals of our church there. To be honest, I was a bit nervous and stressed coming into this whole thing, for aside from my usual points on “love” and my own encounter with Jesus, it was my first time to share lengthily about career and womanhood. But as always, the Lord comes through and gives the message that He wants the people to hear and before I know it, I find myself relaxing by the pool, trying for an effective tan by following an advice a friend gave me: extra virgin coconut oil, face up: 20 minutes, face down: 20 minutes. So far, Joe thinks I’m a little darker, and so hooray!

The Sessions

We arrived Thursday morning, and because Pastor Keith and his wife Onie saw how tired we were, they were so gracious to move our first session to the afternoon. The picture above shows Joseph and his power points on career. Unfortunately, this is my only picture from all of the sessions, as my hands were full from sharing, as well as answering specific questions from the participants. They had interesting concerns, of all of which are valid, and I am just so glad that they did not shy away from bringing them out in the open. It’s like a patient who is completely honest about everything that he does that helps the doctor make an accurate diagnosis.

The group picture shows everyone who joined the get away. It was a mix of single men and women, and about 3-4 married couples. We also had about 5 Korean internationals who were so fun and sport, always trying to understand even when we get carried away and speak in Filipino.

The Fiery Coin

On our first day, we caught such a beautiful sunset. We all ran to the beachfront to capture the sun dropping like a fiery coin in the far end of the ocean.

The Guimaras Life and Mango Experience

We did our last session on Friday morning which ended just right before lunch. After eating, I went to the pool to sunbathe, while Joe opted to stay in our air-conditioned room to play games on his computer and/or read. At around 4:00PM, we both stayed at the veranda of our room, where he continued to play games and I continued to read, and tweet, and select pictures for another entry. After a while, we heard a knock on the door, and what a pleasant surprise, they decided to serve refreshing mango shakes for that afternoon!

Guimaras Mango Fact #1: Everyone who knew we were going to Guimaras, told us not to leave the island without trying their mangoes. Apparently, they’re “the best.” Though I cannot tell the difference, it doesn’t matter, I enjoyed every slice, every sip!

Guimaras Mango Fact #2: I was also told that we should try to stay longer next time so we can catch the famous “Manggahan Festival.” It’s a week long celebration that includes “eat all you can mangoes” for an activity, and it’s just too bad that we’re missing it by but one day! It starts this Monday and culminates on April 15, they say.

“Moon Rise”

If on the first day the visual treat was the sunset, Friday night delight came with the “moon rise.” I thought the moon that night was exceptionally round and bright. This was the best shot that I could take of it without the light bursting and its blurring in the picture because of its strength (I never knew the moon’s light, though reflected, could be this strong). This event also pushed me to tinker with the manual settings of my 60D (it’s finally out of the repair shop, hallelujah!), which I still have to do more of in the days to come.

Perhaps the moon’s pull also drew to itself some of my energy, because by 9:30PM, I was already sleeping like a baby.

Picture on the lower left is a view of Iloilo City from Jordan, Guimaras!

Balaan Bukid

Sleeping early on a Friday night was actually a good idea because Saturday morning was scheduled to start really, really, early. In my desire to hike a mountain, I found Balaan Bukid or Holy Mountain on the internet, which is tagged to be a 45-minute trek by many bloggers. Balaan Bukid is a pilgrimage site that has 12 stations of the cross that make its way up to where a church and the famous big cross stands erect on the topmost part of the mountain. (By the way, it really was more like a hill.) Although it was Black Saturday when we went, there were still quite a number of people and so was told that it isn’t advisable for a celebrity to trek the mountain with abandon. Instead, we used the car to go to the jumpoff point that is nearest to the cross and quickly took pictures once on top.

***Just to be clear, I am not a devotee who went to the site for reasons of pilgrimage. I was simply a tourist, a cultural enthusiast, who wanted to see some of the ways of the people of Jordan, Guimaras. 

The Funny Things

On our way back to our beach resort, two funny things transpired. The first was my husband’s question about how the locals planted crops when the place stood on rocky ground. None of us really understood what he meant until a little later, when someone said that “bukid” means “mountain” in Ilonggo, to which Joe responded, “Aaaahhh! Thats why! I was thinking “bukid” means farm!” Which is what it really means in Tagalog- case closed!

The second funny thing was passing by the “Smallest Plaza” in….in the… in- I honestly don’t know where or what or when. Haha! It’s just really trippy to see a plaza named this way, and indeed, fulfill its claim!

Pagsasagwan

This is a Guimaras scene that I captured as we were walking along the shore leading us back to the resort. I thought that for these kids, pagsasagwan, or rowing, is not a choice, but a way of life. Then I was reminded of the verse from Philippians 2:3, “consider others better than yourselves,” because I find that the strength and value of life of these locals are really better than mine in more ways than one.

When we got back to our room, I took a nap before getting ready to go back to Iloilo City.

Back In the City

Back in the city with a few hours to spare before our return flight to Manila, we went to visit two of the many famous churches in Iloilo. The first one that we went to was “Simbahan ng Molo,” which, if you could read the inscription, boasts of standing through different points in history. I can personally read its architectural history beginning with nipa material which eventually evolves into stone, then followed by gothic-renaissance aesthetics. It also has a hint of early feminist needs, Rizal’s visit as symbolizing Enlightenment, and finally, destruction and restoration because of the Liberation period. The second church is “Katedral ng Jaro, Iloilo.”

We also visited a mansion that, according to my Ilonggo friend Karina (so sweet to come and see me on my last day!), is found to be uneven on the top for an uncanny reason. Apparently, at one point in their lives, the owners dug their ground in search of golden treasure but unfortunately didn’t find any. Nevertheless, the tilted roof or ceiling that is left in remembrance of the treasure hunt, now serves as the hi-story-cal treasure of the family.

Samson in the Mansion

I think I already have to learn to expect this in every trip with my husband. Joseph found yet another ‘Biblical interpretation’ (see first one here) in our short cultural tour. If in our Mt.Ugo traverse he found a way to be Moses, in Iloilo he found himself to be a modern day version of Samson. (And I should have attempted to be a Delilah…)

Acknowledgment

Whew. Writing this blog took too long! I didn’t realize that we did a lot within our 3-day trip. But that’s just simply being me…packing all my days with everything I can learn and know and experience about the place I am visiting. Of course, none of this would be possible if it were not for our gracious hosts.

Thank you Pastor Keith and Onie for entertaining all of our ‘beyond-ministry-requests’, like wanting to see Balaan Bukid , the Old Churches, and some Old Mansions. But most of all, thank you for inviting us to participate in the work that God is doing in Iloilo! We are at once amazed and humbled by the grace that has been placed upon your partnership. Until you invite us again!

Karina dear, I know our time was short, but better than nothing! Thank you so much for spending half the day with me. Anyway, this will not be the last. Remember, madami pa tayong bibisitahing bukid! *wink, wink*

To Ate Michelle from Cabiling resort, thank you also for accompanying us to Balaan Bukid. Thank you for making sure that we were safe and for being generous. Until next time!

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