A sky on fire - fiery clouds figuratively screaming strong orange hues, juxtaposed with the soothing silence of the monastery grounds. Such was our welcome when we spent a Palm Sunday weekend in the Trappistine Monastery in Polomolok.
Located at the foot of Mt. Matutum in a rather remote barangay called Landan in Polomolok, South Cotabato, the monastery is the perfect place to seek solitude, pray, and reflect.
Save for a priest on a week-long retreat and a lady from Iloilo, we were the only retreatants there. We arrived late in the afternoon just as the sun as about to set.
"in silence and trust lies your strength"
Twilight is always my favorite time of the day. Its when everything starts to wind down. Day prepares to give way to night and everything seems to stand still. The fact that we were in a monastery made it more fitting.
So we sat quietly in front of the church and watch the sky changed colors. Nearby there is an apt sign that states: "In silence and trust lies your strength". I could not have asked for a better opportunity to bond with the family. We have the best light show on earth with the soundtrack of angelic voices singing the Psalms.
stations of the cross
The lighted Stations of the Cross garden is a beautiful place to spend some time in after the evening prayers, or maybe after supper time. One just have to note that its "lights off" by 7:30PM.
Palm Sunday early morning vigil
Early to sleep (no TV, cellphones off, everything went dark by 7.30), early to rise. We did not have a retreat master so we improvised our evening activity but did not stayed up too long after the lights went off.
I woke up to the tolling of the church bells by 2.45AM, our room was just across the church. My wife and I decided drag ourselves out of bed and attend the morning vigil. The air still has some chill in it and the sky was clear. The moon has already set so the stars shone brightly. And behold: part of the Milky Way! I would be lying if I said I was not tempted to run back to our room, grab my camera and tripod, and shoot. But I am glad I didn't. We entered the church and sat in a corner. One of the nuns noticed us, came to where we are, and handed us hymn booklets. I finally heard how some of Psalms verses are supposed to be heard: in a song.
Palm Sunday sunrise
My wife went back to sleep after the vigil and could not be bothered for a sunrise walk. So it was my daughter's turn to accompany me :). Good thing she loves sunrises and sunsets too! It was the perfect opportunity to bond and talk - mostly about teenage stuff.
Palm Sunday celebration
It was a perfectly sunny day, a Sunday indeed.
Folks from all over South Cotabato and nearby General Santos City (GenSan) flocked to the church for the 10AM Sunday mass. That day it was a special one for its the official start of the Holy Week.
Before the mass there was the traditional blessing of the palms, and the gate leading to the inner monastery was briefly opened. After the blessing there was a short procession to the chapel, followed by a solemn celebration of the Eucharist.
Most of the families stayed after the Mass and picnicked by the garden in front of the souvenir shop. The shop opens only after the 10AM Mass on Sundays, but for the rest of the days it opens when there are visitors.
Its the perfect time to get souvenirs and the monastery's famous cookies.
We stayed a bit longer after the crowds have left, and savored the peace and quiet one last time. Even with our short stay here, I must say we have bonded better than what we can get from a multi-day vacation. Looks like this is going to be the start of a Holy Week tradition for my family :)
monastery tidbits and contact info
- The Trappistines are also known as Cistercians. The monastery is also called Cistercian Monastery of Our Lady of Mt. Matutum. The monastery was founded in 1995 and its the first monastery of nuns in the Philippines. There is also a Trappist (monks) monastery in the island of Guimaras
- Monastery contact: Sister Rosario (+63-919271-3330)
- Getting there: No buses going to Landan. You can ride a habal-habal (motorcycle) from Polomolok's public market. Fare is 30 pesos, but you may rent the whole motorcycle for 50-70 pesos