I never appreciated the historical and aesthetic value of a church when I was a kid. I know why. I was born and raised in a Methodist church. Almost all of the churches I’ve attended to have the same modest look to it. It’s just like a house with an altar and a plain cross right above it. And all those times I thought that all churches were the same until I reached a certain age of maturity (thanks to cable TV) wherein I was introduced to amazing churches of the world. My thoughts about churches changed.
Since then, it made me wonder how every church looked like inside especially if it’s really amazing from the outside. I was then exposed to field trips to different old churches in Manila wherein I got acquainted with the historical and aesthetic value of these churches. And up to now, I still get curious on the architectural aspect of churches.
One weekend, I was brought by a friend to the famous Caleruega when we were in Tagaytay. It’s located in the town of Nasugbu in Batangas but just a jeepney/bus ride away from downtown Tagaytay so it’s a favorite stopover for tourists and pilgrims alike.
From Tagaytay, we boarded a Nasugbu-bound bus and alighted at Evercrest. From there, we hired a tricycle (100 pesos/roundtrip) to get us into the place. We paid 30 pesos each for the entrance fee. There were some students who seemed to be having their retreat in the main hall. Apparently, Caleruega is a complex of different structures (accommodations, chapels and retreat houses) for spiritual renewal and/or relaxation.
Upon entering the main hall, I was eagerly looking for the famous Transfiguration chapel. It was the picture I was imagining all the time, the chapel on the hill with lush greens and nice ambience – making it a favorite wedding location. I was reminded to keep my calm and just enjoy the whole experience.
We went into this nice landscaped area where some accommodations were available for overnighters. And then we walked up a number of flights to get into the chapel. It seemed easy but it was a long way to get into the chapel. And as expected, there were weddings lined up for that day (Sunday). Loads of well-dressed men and women were surrounding the grounds waiting for the ceremony to start.
Finally, the chapel I envisioned was there in front of me. It’s really beautiful. I hurriedly entered the church before the next scheduled ceremony would begin. And then I understood why it's a favorite for soon-to-be married couples. The structure complimented with the all-year chilly weather of the place. The glass side panels let you see the almost perfect landscaped area; calm, peaceful and relaxing. What everyone would ask for on their wedding day.
I went up to the mezzanine where the technical operations and the choir are usually situated. The glass panels gave me a nice view of the whole complex. The loft also provided a different view of the chapel. I was planning to stay there and wait for a wedding ceremony but then we were pressed for time ‘coz there’s much more to see in Caleruega.
We went out of the chapel seeing more well-dressed guests arriving. I was contented with what I saw on the way to the chapel but then I was led to another area where there will be more surprises to come; the rewards of not doing prior research on a trip. But I thought I hate surprises eh?
A pathway with woodcarved versions of the Stations of the Cross greeted us on the way to the Koi pond which I never thought existed in the first place. Several stairways bordered the different levels of the pond. Again, the grounds were beautifully landscaped. Upon reaching the final tread, I was directed to an arch where a hanging bridge was tucked.
I did what I always do when fronted by hanging bridges – jump and sway. And just like a kid, I swayed and leaped and hopped while crossing the bridge. I was only impeded upon seeing some men doing some repairing stuff on the end of the bridge. Sayang.
|leap, sway, hop - the best way to cross|
And I thought it would just end there. Really. But it didn’t.
I’m not a fan of hiking and stuff but with the chilly weather I obliged on hiking a hill on the way to another surprise. The hills are alive, with the sound of music – I kept on humming.
And when we reached the top of the hill there was the surprise waiting for me; an open chapel on top of the hill. Gifted with a great view of Mt. Batulao, the open chapel truly depicted what was expressed on their tagline – Caleruega; Close to Nature, Closer to God. You can feel the pureness and tranquillity of the place; such a perfect place for contemplation.
Surprisingly, I loved our Caleruega trip. The church, the perfectly manicured landscape and just the feeling to be in there. So wonderful.
I was really captivated with the whole concept of Caleruega. I really adore the beach, no doubt about it. And so I thought I don’t fancy the mountains and stuff; but this trip kinda changes my feelings about it. Really, I’m starting to consider the highlands. Starting to is the operative phrase here. Thanks to Caleruega and to my friend who showed a different world to me.