May 4, 2009

Postcards from Caleruega

The prayer retreat that I attended over the weekend was held in Caleruega, a prayer and renewal center owned by the Dominican Order in Batulao, Nasugbu in the province of Batangas, a three-hour drive from Manila. This small fountain sits in the middle of its circular driveway.

the fountain in the circular driveway of Caleruega in Batangas

Caleruega is located in beautiful, lush hills and gardens which should have made it ideal as a retreat center, except that the Dominicans opened it to the public. The many visitors who walk around totally ignore the "Observe Silence" signs and the staff don't bother shushing them. The building which serves as the main entrance to Caleruega features pineapples in its facade. Pineapples are a common product in the province of Batangas. We were served fresh pineapple juice and fresh pineapple slices with some of our meals, and they were so sweet!

facade of the main building of Caleruega in Batangas

Caleruega is named after a small town in Spain which is the birthplace of Saint Dominic, the founder of the Order of Preachers (OP) which bears his name.

stained glass window featuring St. Dominic in the main entrance hall of Caleruega in Batangas

The refectory (dining room) was mercifully off-limits to non-retreatants, but since it was located right next to the entrance hall, it could still get very noisy. And worse, we were joined by another group on Saturday, teenagers in a not-silent workshop! In an effort to ignore all the noise, I chose the table nearest this little koi pond and would stare at the fish swimming peacefully in it while I ate.

small koi pond in the refectory of Caleruega in Batangas

Santo Domingo de Guzman (St. Dominic, 1170–1221) had his own little garden which was completely surrounded by hedges so the grass wouldn't get trampled on.

the garden of St. Dominic in Caleruega in Batangas

Our rooms were in these stone cottages. Each cottage had two rooms, with their own bathrooms, thank goodness. Each room was shared by two people, but could have accommodated another since each room had three single beds. The bedroom was very spare. Caleruega is a retreat center, after all, not a hotel.

the cottages where the bedrooms are located in Caleruega in Batangas

Our sessions were held in the 'Gazekubo,' a combination of the words gazebo and kubo (native hut). The awning is made of nipa, still common as a roofing material in rural areas in the Philippines. The thick walls and windows of the Gazekubo kept out most of the noise of the visitors, unless they were walking right beside the windows and shouting.

the Gazekubo in Caleruega in Batangas

The view just outside the Gazekubo. I could live with the little noise to have this.

view of the farmlands and hills of Batangas in Caleruega in Batangas

On our first evening, there was a wedding reception in one of the function rooms of this hall. I just have to say that it's quite difficult trying to pray when you can hear Chic's "Le Freak" in the background. Dancing with the Lord, anyone?

hall which has most of the function rooms in Caleruega in Batangas

I walked around Caleruega right after breakfast on Saturday. Alone. No one else in my retreat group did so and it was too early for visitors, and it was wonderful! The road leading to the nursery, koi pond and picnic grounds was quite steep. A perfect location to follow the Way of the Cross.

one station in the Way of the Cross in Caleruega in Batangas

The meandering path down to the koi pond should not be hurried at all.

the path down to the koi pond in Caleruega in Batangas

The sunny part of the koi pond. It goes beyond the walkway I was standing on, surrounded by lush trees and bushes.

part of the koi pond in Caleruega in Batangas

Beyond the koi pond were more gardens. Behind the fountain is a little amphitheater with a bonfire pit, with the wood stacked and ready for burning.

fountain and bonfire pit in Caleruega in Batangas

The hanging bridge crosses a small ravine with lots of big trees and a tiny trickle of water at the bottom. This was the only point I wanted someone with me. Preferably someone who'd freak out when I got the bridge swaying by jumping on it. I skipped and jumped across to get it swaying anyway.

hanging bridge in Caleruega in Batangas

Crossing the bridge brings you to the picnic area at the edges of the Dominican property. I saw little piles of half-burnt charcoal on the ground so I guess people were allowed to grill food there.

picnic area in Caleruega in Batangas

Back in the main compound, the Transfiguration Chapel sits on the highest point of Caleruega. The sculpture of the Risen Christ was created by Filipino artist Ben-Hur Villanueva in 1996.

Ben-Hur Villanueva's Risen Christ sculpture and the Transfiguration Chapel in Caleruega in Batangas

Because of its location, the chapel is very popular for weddings. In fact, there were weddings during each of the three days that we were there.

interior of the Transfiguration Chapel set up for a wedding in Caleruega in Batangas

And finally, a little decorative detail of Caleruega, just because I like it: the lamps made of bamboo, carved out with holes into which are fitted colorful, synthetic 'gems.'

bamboo lamps with synthetic gems in Caleruega in Batangas


Brad said...

The retreat place looked very relaxing.

Olivier said...

c'est magnifique, ce jardin est superbe et je suis d'accord il doit inspirer a la réflexion et au repos
it is splendid, this garden is superb and I agree he must inspire has cogitation and in repose

Coriander Dreams said...

wonderful captures of a nice place! :)

Cezar and Léia said...

Hello Dear Hilda!
This place looks really fantastic!I loved that stained glass and the pond!!
Many thanks for sharing!You are so kind! :-)
God bless you

Jacob said...

What an absolutely incredible place...the rooms may have been spare, but you were blessed with so many gifts of nature. Truly a gorgeous setting. I can see why people wish to be married there.

It is too bad, though, to have visitors tramping through making seems there should be some sort of restriction on that if a prayer retreat is going on.

I hope you had a meaningful experience anyway.

These are beautiful photographs and show the splendor of the center. Thanks so much!

Vogon Poet said...

Too much for a single post, this place looks like a wonderful and quiet retreat (Le Freak apart). Hanging bridge, walkways, ponds: this is something well planned and in a way full of taste.

Lois said...

What wonderful pictures Hilda! My favorite is the walkway down to the koi pond. You would never get me on that hanging bridge though, especially if it started swaying!

Halcyon said...

Beautiful! Sounds like you had a wonderful weekend.

Reena said...

oo nga. that church has become a favorite wedding location.

i also like quiet retreats. i usually join those sponsored by opus dei. if you're interested i could send you their schedules. :)

James said...

Wow what a great place, but I agree that opening it to the public really defeats the purpose. I bet the pineapples were delicious.
Hilda this is a top notch post. Great job and thanks for taking the time.

Frank said...

What an absolutely beautiful place on earth. Thank you for sharing it with us.

Jarart said...

Thank you for sharing your weekend with us all. It looks like a perfect place for reflection. I was happy to read that you found some quiet time to yourself. The pictures were inspiring.

nobu said...

Amazing beautiful place.
Just like in a dream.

Saretta said...

What a wonderful spot. Sorry about the lack of tranquillity, though!

the donG said...

wow! very beautiful! i always see this on blogs but ive never been there. i didnt know that its garden is really beautiful.

your shot of the interior is really awesome.

marley said...

What a wonderful place. You've got some really good photos. I love the stained glass window and the meandering decked path through the undergrowth.

m_m said...

Lovely and very beautiful place. Thanks for you broad photo-reportage!:)

lemon said...

Such a peaceful and calming place... Thank you for the detailed description, it was as if I have been there.

Marc said...

What an absolutely wonderful place. I guess despite the noise, you had a good time there anyway. Very interesting report, Hilda.

bfarr said...

It looks very peaceful and relaxing. Just an FYI, in some cultures pineapples are a sign of welcome.

Buck said...

I think this is one of the most moving things I've seen in many years.

Thank you for sharing this with us.

zherwin said...

thank you for the virtual tour of the chapel, despite its popularity, i am yet to set foot on Calaruega (we just usually pass by the compound everytime we climb Mt. Batulao) and your shots show how beautiful its interiors are. galing!

magiceye said...

the ambiance there is perfect for a retreat but for the noisy intruders.. the images are gorgeous..

PAK said...

Beautiful chapel! I understand all the brides and the bridegrooms ;)

Joe Narvaez said...

Ang gaganda ng mga pics! I like the hanging bridge shot the most.

lunarossa said...

What an amazing place for a retreat of prayers. I cannot think of a better place to praise the Lord and and His creations! It must have been fantastic for you to be able to relax and concentrate on your innen life. Beautiful photos! Ciao. A.

Per Stromsjo said...

Sounds like the best possible way to spend a contemplative weekend. Must have been difficult though to maintain focus when non-silent crowds arrive. A bit of consideration on their part might have been desirable.

Mo said...

What a wonderful place. I imagine it would be hard to leave at hte end of the weekend

Pam said...

Oh my, what an amazing place to have a retreat, Hilda. I would have enjoyed skipping and swaying on the bridge with you:D
Thanks for this wonderful post and your visits. I always enjoy seeing your happy face!

Lessie said...

The photo of the Transfiguration Chapel is amazing!

AB said...

I love the koi photo. The place must be beautiful.