Archive for the 'churches' Category




I’ve been going to San Agustin Church within the historic and cobblestone streets of Intramuros, Manila since my wonder years. My parents used to take me and my siblings to 30 churches every Holy Week back then, and their list included San Agustin Church. But it took more than 30 years before I set foot in its museum.


One sunny afternoon, I had an urge to revisit  Quiapo and headed to Intramuros with the intent to experience San Agustin Museum. It was my first time to see the church with its old peach paint removed. I wasted no time and asked one of the bystanders of the museum’s location, and to my surprise, the entrance was just a few steps from the right side of the main church door. I know no reason why my parents didn’t bring us inside San Agustin Museum; I haven’t inquired but it’s no longer important for the time already came for me to discover and explore the museum myself.


With only PhP 100 current admission rate for adult (PhP 80 for senior citizens, and almost half the cost for students with IDs),  every centavo was worth it!

I don’t know about you but I know some people don’t entertain the idea of going to museum. Perhaps, they’re not fascinated with history, heritage, arts and things of the past, or totally not interested with some places without life. Unlike them, I am easily drawn to anything significant; or anything of my interest. Probably, it’s really to each his own.

Immediately after the admission counter and the turnstile, a huge lifeless bell greeted me. It was simply labeled with a laminated paper that states, “A 3,400 kilogram bell, taken down in 1927 from the belfry of the San Agustin Church damaged by the earthquake of 1863.”

I was warned that photography without flash is only permitted at the hallways and not inside exhibit rooms. Good enough! I obliged of course.


Every step I took seemed a stroll back in time. Isn’t that amazing? (surprising? exciting? hehehe!)

Most of the items in the hallway at the ground floor are for sale; from paintings to wooden sculptures, most have tags with fixed prices for those collectors and patrons of the arts.

The concrete staircase and its ceiling, en route to the second level almost took my breath away! I literally uttered, “Wow!” several times and left me in awe for few minutes. It was like setting foot inside a century-old dungeon or a castle, or felt like I was ascending the steps of Hogwarts with Professor Dumbledore, Hagrid and Snape about to greet me with magical spells! Very theatrical and cinematic!


Then I found the displays and stained glass windows at the second level even more amazing!

From the scale model of San Agustin Church, to small brass replica of galleon ships, paintings, priest vestments and whatnot, to the restricted noise of young students who were having an educational field trip with their teacher, I took everything in as a visual feast! Every corner appeared picturesque to me!

But the highlight of my visit to San Agustin Museum was admiring the choir chamber and the church’s ceiling to my heart’s delight! I found logical reason for my one hundred Philippine pesos entrance fee for I have not seen the ceiling’s painting this up close! Wow! Wow! Wow!


The intricate carvings on the solid choir seats was beyond wonderful! Imagine, these were done creatively decades ago!


Behold. The ceiling of San Agustin Church done in trompe l’oeil.

A quick glance at Wiki, trompe l’oeil (French for deceive the eye) defined as “an art technique that uses realistic imagery to create the optical illusion that depicted objects exist in three dimensions.”

Beautiful, isn’t it?

I just hope and pray that proper restoration shall be done to those dilapidated areas.

Other than my appreciation for the ceiling, the pipe organ also a caught my eyes and my lens.


From the choir loft, I completely understand why San Agustin Church remains to be a favorite venue of Sacrament of Matrimony.


Of all the paintings inside the exhibit halls and corridors, I figured out my favorite. It’s called, The Family of the Virgin Mary, 234.3 cm x 173.3cm (92″ x 68″), Oil on Canvass, tagged as 19th century, Araneta collection.

More must-see-display on the ground floor…


There’s a door from the museum that leads to the church itself besides the church’s main facade.

My two hours inside the San Agustin Museum may not be as entertaining as watching a blockbuster comedy, love story, action or fantasy films, but my appreciation of my heritage, religion, timeless treasures of my country was heightened tremendously.

“In 1993, San Agustin Church was one of four Philippine churches constructed during the Spanish colonial period to be designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, under the collective title Baroque Churches of the Philippines. It was named a National Historical Landmark by the Philippine government in 1976.” ~wiki.

San Agustin Church & San Agustin Museum | General Luna Street, Intramuros, Manila | website :





It only took me 20 minutes and twenty-two Philippine pesos on a single public-utility-jeepney ride from our place in Pasig City to reach Angono, Rizal.  Although it sounded quite near and convenient, I did not have any idea where to alight! I only remembered from what I googled, that the Higantes Festival parade would start at 7AM, Sunday, 17 November 2013,  in front of Angono Elementary School. Good thing, luck was on my side because a young family with grandparents were also on their way to the same town fiesta, sat beside me. I got off the jeepney when they did.

Just before 7AM, I found myself standing in front of World War II monument at the junction in Angono. The driver dropped off almost half of his passengers there, as the road going to Angono Elementary School was closed for the event. After few meters of walking, I smiled when I finally saw numerous Higantes, or giant paper mache on queue for the parade. It certainly brought back simple and happy memories of celebrating fiestas during my childhood years.


Towering at ten to twelve feet, with diameter of about four to five feet, Higantes are made of paper mache for their heads, and bamboos and colorful textiles for their trunks. They usually add fun to almost all fiestas around the Philippines, but it is in Angono where the tradition started. History states that these Higantes originated as a creative means of protest of Filipino farmers and land tillers against their Spanish landlords during the colonial era. That explains why these Higantes have hands placed high up on their waists, they used to be the effigies of arrogant hacienderos before.

An awesome surprise treat for me was to see and photograph little pretty kids that were dressed in costumes of mermaids, fishermen and parehadoras (group of young girls holding paddles and wearing bakya or traditional wooden slippers); they were all in the parade at Higantes Festival as reminders that Angono was once a fishing village and that its town people were blessed with abundance of Laguna Lake.


And so my Sunday morning was made with infectious kiddie smiles and a lot variations of Higantes from computer-game-inspired, Plants versus Zombies…


Philippines’ National Hero, Dr. Jose Rizal…


More animated characters…


Local town’s cosplayers…


Even the famous Filipino comedian-host, Vice Ganda was made into a Higantes!


Like almost all fiestas in the country, the parade started with a lively marching bands…


Fiestas are commonly celebrated in honor of Catholic saints, and in Angono, it’s the feast day of Saint Pope Clement I or locally known as San Clemente. Higantes Festival is held a week before the feast day of San Clemente, that’s usually celebrated every November 22-23.

After I stationed myself to a spot where I watched the parade pass by, I walked my way down to the town’s municipal building.

The relief-structures of “Si Malakas at Si Maganda” fronting the municipal building of Angono, Rizal.

Since I am not familiar with the place, I asked bystanders and a few policemen of the directions to the San Clemente Church. It’s easy as I was told to stroll down where the parade was going.

The narrow street en route to the San Clemente Church was lined by concrete walls in parallel, with sculptures and murals depicting local lives and other artistic creations of homegrown artists of Angono. This urban municipality would never been dubbed as Arts Capital of the Philippines for nothing. Angono is home to two National Artists, namely Lucio San Pedro for music and Carlos “Botong” Francisco for the arts. It is also in this humble town where Angono Petroglyphs, the oldest art work identified in the Philippines, can be found (not in photo).

Finally, I uttered prayers of thanksgiving, asked for forgiveness and blessings inside San Clemente Church.

Outside, under the heat of the mid-morning sun, the Higantes Festival parade was still on-going. I caught myself with mouth-wide-open, at the sight of local men and women in their geriatric years, taking photos of the parade using modern tablets and smart phones.

I was in awe at the efforts employed by all participants, specially the boys and men who were carrying those Higantes, and of course, all the children and the old ones who were wearing traditional attires and costumes for the parade. Hats off to them who continue to pass this traditional celebration to the next generations.

Most people who visit Angono, Rizal also drop by the famous Balaw-Balaw Specialty Restaurant and Art Gallery.  Of course, I did not let the chance to pass without sampling something from their menu. It only took me 5-minute-tricycle ride to get there.

Apparently, 3 Higantes from the parade were from the restaurant owners. I saw them how they disassemble the Higantes before keeping them inside the gallery. Amazing!


The facade’s inviting with lush greens…

Inside, I found the restaurant quaint and fascinating…

The view where I sat…
Paper Mache : Local women with children, cooking local rice cakes, bibingka and puto-bumbong.

Balaw-Balaw Restaurant is known for local and exotic dishes from Angono. I forgot to bring my daredevil and adventurous attitude when it comes to food (as if I have one!), thus I only settled to personal favorites – Halo-halo to beat the heat, Balaw-balaw Seafood fried rice -that appealed to me as a meal-in-one, and a fresh mango juice to wash everything down.

By its huge serving, I had more than half of the Balaw-Balaw Seafood fried rice as my take-away, and shared it immediately for lunch at home. Everything’s OK but certainly not the best compared to what I’ve tasted. To be fair, there’s a lot of Filipino dishes on the menu to choose from and perhaps, a single visit to this restaurant with minimal orders would not be enough to have a fair food review.

The restaurant houses an art gallery too.


The craftmanship of Angono…

A visit to their toilet with a 45 degree turn to the right will give you this view…


More beautiful sculptures and art works installed at the other room of the art gallery…


Half day wasn’t enough to understand, enjoy and savor an entire town’s culture, tradition, food and celebration. But I reckon that I had fun nonetheless.

Have you been to Angono, Rizal? How was your experience attending Higantes Festival? Have you tried dining at Balaw-Balaw Restaurant?


San Clement Church | Baranggay Poblacion Ibaba, Angono, Rizal.

Angono Elementary School | M.L. Quezon Avenue, Barangay San Isidro, Angono, Rizal.

Balaw Balaw Specialty Restaurant and Art Gallery| #16 Doña Justa St., Doña Subd., PH1, Angono, Rizal. (this is not a sponsored post).




“I love you when you bow in your mosque,

kneel in your temple,

pray in your church.

For you and I are sons of religion,

and it is the spirit.”

~ Khalil Gibran


Around 3PM, I rode the MRT train from Santolan Station all the way to its last stop in Recto, Manila. Strolled my way to Quiapo, then took a jeepney ride to Pier and alighted near the Department of Immigration building. The road was completely blocked to private and public vehicles and only people were allowed to walk through the historic walled city. Few steps further, I found myself standing in front of the restored Ayuntamiento, among the thick volume of crowd, waiting for the 100 carrozas to float by.  Although I spent countless evenings of Holy Wednesdays, Good Fridays and dawns of Easter Sundays watching Catholic saint-processions with my family in Marikina City and considering I used to be a part of an all-boys-choir in Marikina Catholic School, who used to sing in First Friday Masses, Living Rosary and other religious activities in school during my growing up years,  attending the longest procession devoted to the Blessed Virgin entirely, was something new to me.  It was my first time to attend and witness the Grand Marian Procession in Intramuros, Manila that, correct me if I’m wrong, is an annual event held every first Sunday of December.


01 December 2013, Sunday, Intramuros, Manila. It was drizzling when I arrived within the vicinity of Manila Cathedral but the mild downpour miraculously stopped around 5PM, so timely for the start of the Grand Marian Procession for this year. Armed with my long black umbrella, I took a few shots of the first few carrozas on queue. Most of them came from nearby parishes in Metro Manila, to as far as Northern, Central and Southern Luzon, with few that came from provinces in the South.
La Familia De La Virgen Maria.

The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary to her cousin, Elizabeth.

Angel Gabriel on the Annunciation tableu.


Nuestra Senora De La O from Our Lady’s Nativity Parish, Pangil, Laguna.

I saw groups of people with gadgets that could take photos swarming around one of the carrozas that was literally filled with colorful and attractive flowers; mostly Ecuadorean roses in various hues. Not long after, I joined the bystanders and faithfuls who were in awe at San Jose and his float. It was the grandest I’ve seen!
Roses in various colors & other blooms, mirrors, faux trees & crystals adorned San Jose’s carroza.

Within 4 hours of watching the procession, at times I whispered prayers to the Lord and to His Blessed Mother, whose many images passed me by, I was totally amazed and proud of the Filipino faith. Each Marian icon was accompanied and ushered by parish priest/s, sacristans, some with nuns, marching bands, a few came with Boy scouts, folk dancers and young and old ones who were dressed in their Sunday’s best and traditional Filipino attires, volume of parishioners and Marian devotees from the town or city the image came from.

Every expression of Filipino devotion to the Virgin Mary was unique. Some paraded in solemnity, complete with recitation of the Holy Rosary; some were barefooted, others attended in uniform shirts; while some devotees were amazingly cheerful, vocal and loud in professing their love to the Virgin Mary, with singing, waving of handkerchiefs, dancing, particularly the people from Pakil, Laguna who ushered Nuestra Senora de los Dolores de Turumba, people from Candaba, Pampanga who brought Nuestra Senora de la Merced and the people from San Mateo, Rizal who accompanied Nuestra Senora de Aranzazu.

Of all the Marian images I saw, I was moved and grounded as a Filipino when the carroza of Ina Poon Bato from Zambales passed by and I saw it was accompanied by Aetas, our indigenous brothers and sisters.

San Roque.

Image of St. Andrew or locally known as San Andres was brought in from Catanduanes, Bicol.

St. Andrew.

Then that incredibly beautiful carroza of St. Joseph or San Jose passed by.
St. Joseph.

La Familia De La Virgen Maria.


Mary and Joseph.

Nuestra Senora De Navidad.


From Cainta, Rizal, Mahal Na Ina Ng Kaliwanagan or the Our Lady of Light.

Other than flowers, the parishioners from Cainta used suman, or rice cakes in the carroza.Wow!

People from all ages and walks of life participated. We were all prayerful under one sky.
Mary, Help of Christians.

Our Lady of Penafrancia, Naga, Bicol.

La Angustia De Maria La Santisima Nazarena.

Something new to me was the image of Mother Mary as Our Lady of Providence/Our Lady of China for the Chinese Catholic community. It was my first time to see such gracious image.

Our Lady of Providence/Our Lady of China.
Nuestra Senora La Desatadora De Nundos. Our Lady Untier of Knots.

Roses and annato/achiote or locally called in the Philippines as atsuete adorned the carroza.

Rosa Mistica. One of the few images that was carried via wooden poles on shoulders.

Women who ushered their image in traditional Filipino attire.


La Pieta…

La Pieta.

As mentioned, one of the images of the Blessed Mother that paraded with numerous devotees and parishioners was the Nuestra Senora De Aranzazu from San Mateo, Rizal. The energy of the people clapping, singing, waving their flags and hankerchiefs, cheering for the Blessed Mother was beyond inspiring!

Nuestra Senora De Aranzazu from San Mateo, Rizal.

Nuestra Senora De La Santisima Trinidad.

Nuestra Senora de los Dolores de Turumba from Saint Peter of Alcantara Parish, Pakil, Laguna.

Our Lady of Perpetual Help.

Our Lady of Montserrat.
Our Lady of Czestochowa, The Black Madonna.
Mary, The Lady of All Nations.
Our Lady of Banneux.

Hail to Ina Poon Bato from Zambales! Accompanied by our indigenous brothers and sisters, the Aetas.
Ina Poon Bato from Zambales. 

Mary, Mirror of Justice from Comembo, Makati City.
Our Lady of Mt. Carmel.

Birhen ng Lujan.

*There were 100 carrozas in this Grand Marian Procession and please forgive me if this blog post only features less than half of them, a few without names of Our Lady.  I’m so sorry as I tried my best to capture the signages from each carroza, however, I only did as much for 4 hours (5PM-9PM) of standing and taking amateur photos for me to share on this site.  I’ll appreciate if readers could identify those Marian images on this post without labels.  Also, some of the photos turned out to be blurred that I chose not to post. The other Marian images were :

  • Our Lady of Caysasay, Taal, Batangas,
  • Nuestra Senora de la Merced, Candaba, Pampanga,
  • Our Lady of Fatima, Valenzuela City,
  • Nuestra Senora de Barangay,
  • Nuestra Senora del Santisimo Rosario de Malabon,
  • Our Lady of Piat,
  • La Naval de Manila,
  • Our Lady of Orani,
  • Nuestra Senora de la Soledad de Nueva Ecija,
  • Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe de Cebu,
  • and many more that I failed to list down and capture. Again, my apologies.

For four hours, my focus from challenges of daily living was deviated to something more meaningful; something peaceful. This religious activity truly defined what Filipino Marian devotion is to me.

On December 8, Happy Feast Day of the Our Lady of Immaculate Conception!

Please pray for us.




Malacca is as colorful as her trishaws.
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That shine bright like diamonds at dusk.
Malacca is sweeter than her cendol.
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Dare I say it’s tastier than Jalan Penang’s.
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It was in Malacca we wore Malaysia as Baba-Nyonya.
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Spent (pa-) cute bonding moments.
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Inspired to pose for more photos.
As we discovered Church of St. Paul Ruins as a nice backdrop.
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Despite the dirty lens problem, ikr. :(
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Clicks, clicks and more clicks…
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Here, Cristina’s men in plaid.
That historic ruins on a hill witnessed how my lovely wife looked more chica than ever! Agree? lol
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Almost every corner, picturesque!
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We had no dull moments.
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Loved her river cruise…
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Those colors of Melaka River are charming at day…
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Enchanting and romantic at night…
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In spite of the fact that Stadhuys Museum was closed…
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We roamed around others and found valor and heroism…
And because the Malaccan sun was nearly unbearable, we found comfort inside airconditioned museums…
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Where royalties and dignitaries used to dine…
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Over and beyond her culture and heritage spots, undeniably, it’s the Malaccan food and unique Peranakan tastes that lure people over.
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Finally sampled Chicken Rice Balls, Malaccan Roasted Chicken and Pork, Tofu in Oyster Sauce, even Western bites of course!
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Our appreciation for few visual arts fused with incredibly cool ambiance was heightened at The Baboon House Malacca…
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Time stood still at Hereen Street…
Where hugs and joy reigned.
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Certainly melted our worries away…
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Saw more fascinating things being sold at the touristy and famous, Jonker Street…
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Where beautiful is an understatement…
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Where unique tastes and traditional collide…
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Malacca, you brought so much fun!
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We’ll create happier memories next time! Until then!

*This Melaka Blog Series includes :



melaka march 31 2013
Rocking the Baba, Nyonya Malaysian traditional attires | Christ Church Melaka, 31 March 2013.

“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” – Martin Buber

We’re supposed to be in Singapore again from March 30 to midnight of April 2, 2013 but because of unforseen and inevitable circumstance that happened the last minute when we’re already in Johor Bahru (the state of Malaysia at the border prior to Singapore) on the daybreak of Black Saturday, our sponsors -a hotel in Singapore and an a-theme-park-access-card, and my family agreed that the sponsored trip to revisit the Lion City for blog review and feature is best rescheduled to last week of May 2013. Although cliche as it may sound, my family and I considered it a blessing in disguise because as of morning of April 2, 2013, our salaries for the month of March are yet to be issued by our employer, so pushing through with that much-anticipated Singapore adventure could’ve been a challenge on the pocket. Nonetheless, we’re still thankful to the sponsors for such invitation!

After almost 10 hours of travel via bus from Penang to Johor Bahru and learned that the trip was rescheduled, we didn’t dwell on the hassle but opted for the next best thing (affordable too!). Tina, Gabby and I grabbed quick breakfast bites from McDonald’s at Larkin Bus Station and purchased bus tickets at 19 ringgit each from JB to Melaka for that 9:30AM bus ride. We didn’t want to spoil everything and at least, we became excited to experience a place that’s new to our senses.

Without any hotel reservation and no itinerary at hand, we slept the 2 hour bus ride from Larkin Bus Station in Johor Bahru to Melaka Sentral in Malacca. And the rest was a 3D2N of nothing but family bonding, food and fun!  Randomly, Beyond Toxicity will take you to our first ever Melaka trip! :)

Unplanned, Spontaneous, Random Trip to Malacca : Here we go!

On our second day in Melaka, we attended the 8:30AM Easter Sunday Mass at one of the most iconic landmarks in this UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Dutch Protestant Church, Christ Church Melaka. Yes, we’re Catholics and experiencing other religious service of Christian faith in a completely new place to us was truly warm and welcoming. The mass that ended after 2 hours with full band and choir singing, was so similar to Catholic masses in order & sequence. After coming out of the church with smiles on our faces, holding Easter eggs and tiny lemon cake slices given by the choir members and the priests, Tina spotted two people with a clothesline of Malaysian traditional attires for rent at 7 ringgit (USD 2.26) per adult, 5 ringgit (USD 1.60) per kid. Next scenes unfolded ~ she asked me, “Gusto mo?” (“Do you like?”), then she began choosing what to wear for a few minutes of photo-op.  Why not, choc nut? :D


While Malaysia is known to be a cultural melting pot in Southeast Asia, Baba and Nyonya in Penang and Melaka (also in Singapore and Indonesia) are people with rich and fascinating heritage. When Chinese, mostly traders, came to Malaysia and married Malays, Peranakan or descendants in Malay term were born.  The term, Baba refers to male and Nyonya to female. Interestingly, Chinese culture and traditions were assimitated to Malay cutoms.

Wearing the Baba and Nyonya traditional attires for the moment was such an experience. Admittedly, the part could’ve been complete if we found time to visit the Baba & Nyonya Heritage Museum. Now that’s a good reason among many others, to revisit Melaka given another chance in the future.

Luckily, there was a Baba costume that fits my size, haha! While Gabby’s too big for the little Baba outfit, he donned Baju Melayu instead, complete with red sampin, a sarong wrapped around his hips. In our eyes, he looked like a very regal Malaysian prince! :D

melaka 1

Et voila!  A Filipino family in Malaysian cultural outfits in front of Christ Church Melaka! :)

With permission, Tina took a shot of the next customer who rented another colorful Malaysian wear, an adorable little tourist who came with her parents too. The frame could’ve been nicer if we paired her with Gabby, hehehe!
Too cute for words!

Bagay po ba?

Before some closed minded ones conclude that we’re not being proud of our roots and prefer to wear foreign traditional attires, here’s a photo of our family taken at Mines View Park in Baguio City, Philippines that I’ve unearthed from this site’s previous posts. All for the sake of FUN! :)

In traditional attires from Northern Philippines. Blog post HERE!

*This Melaka Blog Series includes :




Being one of the towns bordering Malaysia and Thailand, Kelantan is obviously rich in culture and religion. It’s considered to be the cradle of Malay civilization and is predominantly a Muslim state but inevitably Buddhist temples sprung like mushrooms.

More than being tourist spots, these temples are apparently sacred sanctuaries.  However, one could not help but admire its architecture, interiors and ambience.

On our second day in Kelantan, we had temple visit overload. We went to see the Temple of the Sitting Buddha…

The Shrine of the Standing Buddha…

And a Reclining Buddha that’s bigger than the one in Penang… *yes! position matters!*

This Reclining Buddha is enshrined in a bigger than life gymnasium-like-temple.  At the lateral and the back areas of the enormous image are even more images!

Few kilometers away, we found ourselves appreciating the facade and interiors of the Sitting Buddha Temple which are truly spectacular!

Awesome looking dragons guard its entrance…

And there’s spontaneity in its interiors…

Tina and Gabby went inside the temple of the Sitting Buddha first, as I was still in awe outside. Then as I walked in, my wife hurriedly called my attention to see these art works…

A few we found to be disturbing…

Every detail gave us goosebumps, or we’re only clueless of this religion, sorry!

Can anyone share anything on this? *so busy  lazy to research and google!*

I wonder if people from other religions also get curious and fascinated with our very own. Either way, I am definite that whenever we go to a new place, my family and I will always include temples and mosques and other houses of prayer to visit.

Do we think the same?


——-This blog series includes :



I am not complaining but as a Catholic, I consider working during Holy Week particularly last Maundy Thursday and Good Friday as one of my atypical experiences to date.  The fact that I have been exposed to  several activities like watching and at time, participating in religious procession in Marikina City, and to my wife’s family tradition of chanting the Lord’s Passion or pabasa during these Holy days for several years, and doing Visita Iglesia (visiting churches to pray and do Station of the Cross) with her and my immediate family before, I needed to remind myself that we’re now based in foreign shores amidst religious and cultural diversities therefore things like going to work on previously celebrated holidays in our own country are just mundane and ordinary. Resistance as they say, is futile. Acceptance is difficult at first but offers great relief.

The Altar of Our Lady of Sorrows Parish, George Town, Penang on Good Friday 2011 where Holy Masses are celebrated in English, Mandarin, Tamil and Tagalog (every 1st and 3rd Sunday of the month)

This year’s Holy Week has been personally different in the sense that the turn of events kept me grounded. I sincerely said my apologies to my Creator, and to those people I’ve wronged and received some sorries in return too. Admitting your fault and taking the blame may be a sign of weakness for some, but I believe otherwise. I feel, it takes tons of strength and courage to say you’re sorry about something and far from being arrogant. Humility in this day and age is still alive or at least, we take efforts in keeping it viable in our bloodstream.

Chance officially led me last Friday to leave work earlier to spend some time with my family and reflect. Before dusk, we attended the Station of the Cross delivered in English and Mandarin at Our Lady of Sorrows Parish in George Town, Penang. This is one of the churches here where I find solace and peace of mind amidst uncertainties of living an expat life.

On a lighter note, just when every Catholic soul on Earth was fasting, my family and I only observed total aversion to pork for almost a week as our annual sacrifice; our appetite has been as usual :D 

Sinfully, we indulged a little.  Below are the proofs of my confession.

Although Beryl’s chocolate has been a favorite of most tourists who visit Malaysia, the diversity of choices from other brands is almost limitless.

We found this store called Cocoa Boutique located at Jalan Bagan Jermal, Pulau Pinang; it’s a stone throw away from Gurney Mall.

Vezzo Chocolate has wide unique variety : chili chocolate, curry chocolate, fruity chocolates (durian, banana, rasberry, apple, orange), tongkat ali chocolate, sugar-free chocolate, nutty, tiramisu, milk and dark and the list goes on…

I gave my wife and kid the liberty to choose their preference. We got (from top left to right) orange chocolate, tiramisu, dark chocolate, milk chocolate, cappuccino, almond+white & dark chocolates (Penang and Malaysian mini-bars) and rasberry chocolate.

Exquisite. Exotic. Exceptional. These are the 3Es on the label of these sweet-tooth temptation.  I have to state, these handmade chocolates are luscious enough to clear out your worries and make you feel stress-free even for a bit. Its texture and flavors are enticingly delicious.

The important thing about Lent is not giving up chocolates but it’s to give up sin.

How was your week?

Happy Easter, everyone! God bless!



27 July 2010 Tuesday–City tour was part of the bloggers’ tour but I was actually surprised when the people of THUNDERBIRD RESORTS brought us to different unsung historic spots within La Union. It was truly beyond my expectation.

First stop :  PINDANGAN  RUINS

Built in May 6, 1786, Minasterio de San Fernando was the oldest church in La Union however severed by earthquake in the year 1892. The remains left us with lush vegetation which was the church itself before; and the location of the old altar was now a church run by nuns.

The magnificent support pillars to its lateral walls resemble those of most ancient churches in Northen Philippines, particularly remind me of Paoay Church in Ilocos Norte.


Vibrant colors from extra-ordinary blooms.

Located on top of the mountainous areas of La Union is its 20-hectare Botanical Garden.  Tropical blooms and few animals can be found in this scientific garden amidst a research laboratory up North.

This garden is more impressive than my last memory of Baguio’s.


Ma-Cho Temple was designed by Architect Diokno and was constructed by Chinese skilled workers flown directly from Taiwan.

Although without formal knowledge in Oriental architecture, I find it easy to appreciate Asian structures as they usually beam with rich heritage and culture.

Fourth stop : LUNA.

Almost an hour drive from Ma-Cho Chinese Temple, we trooped to the town of Luna.  Never in my dreams did I expect to reach this charming town in La Union.

“The Town of Luna was formerly called “Namacpacan“. Namacpacan is an Ilocano word which means “one who had given food.”

Shrine of Our Lady of Namacpacan and St. Catherine of Alexandria Parish.

Having been raised as Catholic by a mom with former 30-church-Visita Iglesia-tradition every Holy Week, I find it not difficult to admire churches too.  Admiration goes deep to veneration of course.

Still in the town of Luna, just a few meters from the Namacpacan Church is PEBBLE BEACH where the town’s BALUARTE WATCHTOWER.

“Built by the Spaniards along the shores of Luna, the watchtower was used to spot marauding Japanese, Chinese and Moro pirated.”

After walking several meters in the pebbled shores under the mercy of scorching sun, I found myself in awe with the remains of the Baluarte Watchtower in Luna.

Every stone and pebble was a concrete evidence of history; unfortunately, the remains of the Baluarte Watchtower screams for maintenance and preservation.

All in all, the trip was worth it.

Special thanks to management and staff of THUNDERBIRD RESORTS for inviting 10 bloggers, including myself to experience and savor their ultimate vacation paradise and fascinating spots in San Fernando, La Union.

*This is the last of a 3-part-blog-series about Thunderbird Resorts.

Up next : See you in Penang, My.



Guess where I took my kid for a walk?

Even my wife, Tina had no word to explain what got into me when I decided to bring Gabby to this park on one weekend morning.  Perhaps, I wanted a breather between our usual routine of going to malls, coffee shops and restaurants or maybe I just wanted our son to experience a different space that may enhance his appreciation of things. Either way, we both enjoyed our 30 minutes in Paco Park, Manila.

It has been ages since my last visit to Paco Park. It was during those Holy Weeks back in the early 80s when we started to accompany my mom in her annual Visita Iglesia in 30 churches (Yes, you read it right–thirty churches including St. Pancratius Chapel inside Paco Park; probably it’s also the reason why I sort of memorized the sidestreets and main thoroughfares of Metro Manila).

Paco Park was initially a cemetery. So when I told Gabby that I’m bringing him to a park and a former burial ground, he was puzzled and just shrugged his shoulders.

The charm of this former cemetery lies on its architecture. It’s circular in shaped with thick hollow walls; old as history.

In 1912, burial or interment at the Paco Park ceased. It had been the burial ground for several generations and descendants of those who were buried in the park had the remains of their ancestors transferred. (Sourced via Wiki)

Walking through these walls reminded me that change is inevitable. The previously built cemetery for aristocratic Spanish families has been accessible for years now as a recreational garden for all and at present can be enjoyed for as cheap as FIVE PESOS ENTRANCE FEE.

There’s an area formerly dedicated to angels…

But the most famous Pinoy secretly interred after his execution at Bagumbayan in Paco Cemetery is no less than Dr. Jose P. Rizal.  Note that his initials at the cross was written in reverse to hide his remains’ identity.

Gabby asked me who RPJ is and I just simply replied he’s our National Hero. Although I got 1.50 in Philippine History and 1.25 in Rizal, the subject (1.0 being the highest) back in my pre-Med days in FEU, I cannot explain his works and life in few statements to my almost-6-year-old kid; I’ll let him discover who Rizal is as Gabby studies Philippine History when he grows up.

The St. Pancratius Chapel inside Paco Park is one of the favorite wedding venues of most Pinoy couples. I think it depends on one’s perception of the place; either you feel creepy about it or be lured to its uniquely amazing aura.  Every Friday afternoon, there’s always a free concert held titled Paco Park Presents.

As our half-hour stroll in this park came to a close, it was then Gabby became more fascinated and at ease with it. He ran and jumped around the lifeless fountain; he sat and assumed his favorite yoga-like pose; and probably began to absorb a little sense of the place.

Gabby requested if he can have his favorite drink. So guess where we ended up our morning?  We went to the nearest mall, Robinson’s Place Manila and he savored a grande of chocolate frappuccino.

The odd weekend became usual again in a blink sip. :)

Have you been to Paco Park? What do you think of the place?



A  Reading from the Book of Corinthians 13 : 1-7

If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and know all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind, and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

This was the passage I read at the church last Thursday, 28 January 2010 at my cousin’s wedding who renewed her vows to her good husband whom she married about 5 years ago in Atlantic City, New Jersey.  It made me a bit nostalgic because (if my memory serves me right) it was the same biblical verses she read on my wedding to Tina (who esle? LOL) 6 years ago. Incidentally, it was also the reading we heard at mass just last Sunday.

The wedding last week was appreciated by the family, relatives and friends who weren’t able to join them in their initial celebration of the sacrament of matrimony.

The solemn ceremonies at the Shrine-Parish of Our Lady of the Abandoned in Marikina City was followed by a fun wedding reception held at The Glass Garden in Santolan, Pasig City.

There were the usual essentials to a reception : a quartet and a soloist set the party in a casual mood yet lovely; flowers, food, wine, the venue and the attendance of their guests made everything extra special.

We went in full force! Well, not actually; 2 of my brothers were apparently no-show for some reasons but I came with Tina and Gabby, my youngest brother, JC who stood in our brother’s behalf as one of the secondary sponsors and our Dad was present too. He wouldn’t miss it for the world because it served as another reunion-party with our relatives from US; the first was held 4 days prior to this wedding when we all attended our Lola Tentay’s 90th birthday.

The chocolate-addicts and the kids-in-us were unleashed upon seeing these little something on our table…

Tina, Gabby and I smiled our widest when we saw these M&M chocolates -both plain and with nuts! :D I personally thought it was already their favors until we received a laced box with can opener. It has a white calla lilly design which was the predominant flower from church to our tables.

The spread was provided by Josiah’s Catering.  Guess what most everyone enjoyed that evening…

Forgive me, for having lechon twice in a week! Oink, oink! LOL :D 

There were so many entrees and desserts to choose from the buffet spread but my votes went to these toothsome chocolate cupcakes and panna cotta trio – in mango, strawberry and chocolate which to our delight were served chilled.   

The night was filled with love, joy and fun moments shared to their guests.  And everyone who attended will agree that one of the highlights of that evening was my cousin’s dance with my uncle…

To Melai & Matt, Best wishes & Congratulations!

May God bless you more as you enjoy your life together, forever and ever, Amen! :D

Cheers! :D


:D What do you like most about weddings ?



…on Januray 08, 2004, at 3PM, we got married in Santurio de San Antonio, in Forbes Park, Makati City. Reception followed at Dusit Hotel Nikko (then, now Dusit Thani) at 5:30PM. :D  And from that day on, we’ve been enjoying the fun, the love and even the petty and HUGE problems challenges of raising a family. :D

HISTORY OF OUR LOVE STORY : When we’re in Med School, (yes, Tina went to the same school but didn’t finish her 3rd and 4th years kasi naloko na sa akin, lol) Tina browsed her older sister’s (who’s my classmate) phonebook and randomly spotted my name that probably appreared to her as so saintly and angelic. :D She first forwarded mushy quotes and used an alias by name of Marie. Our anonymous texting via 5110 lasted for one whole year!  Remember the Tom Hanks-Meg Ryan-movie, “You’ve Got Mail” ? Our story can passed as  “You’ve got text!” (nyek! sounds like a local horror flick) :D When I decided to meet her, I was surprised to know that she’s also enrolled in the same school.

OUR FIRST  DATE : It was purely accidental incidental. We we’re just encouraged by mere kantyawan (provocation and teases) by 2 of my classmates who were bestfriends of Tina’s sister. The tuksuhan led to a date in Glorietta, Makati via a meet-up in MRT-Cubao station, lol.  She was wearing baby blue ruffled blouse and black capri pants in heels (Tapos nag MRT lang kami, lol. Pauuwi naman nag-cab!) We had Starbucks Coffee first before watching a Michelle Pfeiffer movie which she preferred (what else but suspense-horror), “What Lies Beneath.” After the movie, we had dinner at Outback (an Australian Steakhouse). I shelled out almost a fortune on our first date (remember how students live by allowances only) but I’ll be forever grateful to Drs. Michelle (not Pfeiffer) and Shiny who teased us until we had that first date, naks!

THEN SHE SAID “YES” : Call me torpe for all I care, but I popped the question indirectly to her, long before Globe Telecom used the line in their local TVC, “Can we take our friendship to the next level?” via what else but text! (BADUUUUY!) I was on duty then at a Surgical-ICU of a public hospital and the ICU-Nurse was probably wondering why I was giggling with my cell phone amidst dying patients –oops! … I got her answer few days after on our way home, when we’re on a California Bus Liner ride before I got off at SM City North EDSA.

THE WEDDING PREP. : After 3 years of dating, we finally decided to tie the knot. We’re guided by my mom in the entire 1 year preparation. Tina designed her own wedding gown but she had her sketched it in a textile shop in SM Megamall. She also did our female secondary sponsors’ .  My wife even designed her head dress, hand-picked all materials herself and brought it to an actual fashion-accessory designer (I’m not sure of what to call the person) in Cubao.

We sourced all textiles used for the entire entourage (except for the principal sponsors who provided their own) from Divisoria and SM Megamall and it was not done on a single day, but for several months due to financial constraints.  My mom asked our family’s costurera who doesn’t have a shop but just an ordinary sewing machine and her expertise, to do the works.  Imagine the labor of Tina’s wedding gown only cost PhP5K!  While my suits and our male secondary sponsors’ were all done by a tailoring shop in Cubao.  These were all done in the name of practicality. :D

THE WEDDING VENUE : We chose Makati for our relatives to meet-half way.  Most of Tina’s relatives are from Ayala, Alabang, Quezon City, and US while mine are from Marikina and Pasig Cities.  The proximity of the church to the reception site was also considered. We even went to Fernwood Gardens in Quezon City but Tina really wanted a grand ballroom for the reception over a garden / open-air one, so we booked 2 of the 3 sections of Dusit Hotel’s several months before the wedding.

THE WORST WEDDING COORDINATOR : After Tina and I hopped from 1 Wedding Expo to another for few months in 2003, my mom suggested to hire a wedding DAY coordinator, whose name I’d like to withhold but if you’ll ask me, I’ll tell you to serve as warning! We agreed to our mom’s suggestion for there should be someone in control of the day itself.  We met the lady coordinator 3x in different restaurants, treated her over meals, and gave our trust to her.

When Tina and I and the rest of our family were in Dusit Hotel already on the morning of our wedding, we were surprised to meet UNKNOWN PEOPLE who introduced themselves as STAFFS of this events coordinator who was a NO-SHOW on our big day! Had she became honest enough to us that she cannot attend our wedding and would just send her people whom we never met, we could have been more prepared.  Imagine UNKNOWN PEOPLE asking for the 12 bottles of wines for toasting, the wedding rings and stuffs.  Had she told us that she had on-going conflict then with our photographer whom we personally sourced, then we could have not favored her. And did I mention that one of those UNKNOWN PEOPLE kept on shouting at our guests! She even yelled at my sister-in-law and the hotel’s banquet sales manager!

WORST WEDDING INCIDENTS: Due to lack of proper “coordination”, I had to put the table codes (we used codes like bliss, faith, love, joy, respect etc instead of table numbers for guests) myself at the grand ballroom of Dusit on the morning of my wedding. The waiters were not informed by the coordinator because the seat plan was not endorsed!  Toxic talaga! But worst wasn’t over yet…

Imagine the “Unknown coordinator staffs” instructed the entire entourage to queue when in fact the officiating priest wasn’t there yet! Parang na-wow-mali ang mga Ninong at Ninang namin! (Buti na lang I was intuitive) I only discovered it when I was on the line myself next to my brother who stood as my best man,  I asked the “unknown coordinators” if they have given a copy of our misallettes to the priest who’s one of our family friends.  Then the “unknown coordinators” looked at each others cluelessly.

I had to go to the parish office and look for an “emergency” substitute priest. Luckily, the then principal of Collegio de San Agustin was available, so he officiated the first part of the mass.  Then when the time came that Tina and I have to exchange rings, our “original officiating priest” appeared in full golden regalia. Everybody was surprised including us in the altar. Everybody thought that our wedding was a HIGH MASS that we required 2 priests to conduct the ceremony.

It was only after the wedding when we learned that our “original priest”  came to the church an hour earlier but had to rushed himself to Makati Medical Center because of Angina Pectoris (chest pain that may lead to heart attack).

With an entire year of preparation, Tina and I thought that everything will be polished but there’s really nothing perfect.   Shit Inevitable circumstance happens.

One more evil thing that our wedding day coordinator did to us : On contract, there’s an emcee to host the program included of her PhP15K package, and we were promised that the hostess will be articulate, a granddaughter of a well-known politician, only to find out during the actual reception that her words were so untrue. That she sent a PREGNANT-HOSTESS whose gravid uterus clearly looked like 9 months, she LITERALLY CUT OUR WEDDING PROGRAM which Tina and I designed, SHORT! Nasayang ang wedding quartet at ang disco mobile!  Hindi namin na-maximize.

Tina and I, puzzled with all that happened the entire day, forgot to asked the wait staff of Dusit to bring us some left overs, especially the cake, to our honeymoon suite that evening. Everything was charged to experienced.

Two days after, we flew to Bangkok where Gabby was “made”.

Inspite of all the unapparent (to our guests) hassles that day, our wedding date remains to be only a day in our lives.  What matters most is how you keep the marriage, naks!

I may have bored you to death, so enough with the stories, now the photos…


There were paper luminarias with our insignia that lighted up the wooden bridge with two fountains that served as entrance to the main ballroom..

Almost everything, from misalletes to our gazebo, was custom-made and installed by my mom’s work staffs.

Our cake was by Dexter’s, included in the hotel package.

Those bride and groom teddy bears were at the floral arrangement in front of our wedding car.   The wedding car, which was also part of the Dusit package, was upgraded to a LINCOLN STRETCH for FREE!  Having it was one of the most relieving parts of our wedding! We’re told by the hotel’s banquet sales manager that the wedding car we’re supposed to have, had engine trouble hence the luck! :D

All photos of our wedding were taken by ace photographer Ariel Javelosa. You may view our entire album –here.

PS : What makes a wedding album and video worth viewing again ? It’s so nice to see our old selves several kilos lighter! :D

Few more wedding anniversary posts until the weekend! Thanks!



Guess where we went on an early Saturday morning…IMG_4203No, it isn’t Boracay yet :D  A day before our flight to paradise, my wife, Tina, our 5-year-old son, Gabby and I left our place in Quezon City before 7AM and headed to Antipolo City.  

My family and I are not that religious, but we maintain personal relationship with Him.  We decided to hear mass, pray and ask the Lord to be with us and calm the weather,  not only for our trip tomorrow but moreso for the people who were afflicted by the two recent typhoons – Ondoy and Pepeng and their places that were devastated to be spared of the recent tropical storm, Ramil that already entered Philippine area of responsibility.


My 3 brothers and I were raised by our parents whose tradition include going to Antipolo Church particularly before a travel or a flight somewhere.  And so I wanted Gabby to grow up with the same belief that the Lord and the Virgin of Antipolo guide anyone who seeks their intervention prior to a trip.  Antipolo Church is devoted to Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage.

One special thing happened just after the Holy Communion.  When the priest invited everyone to say the prayer to Our Lady, an old woman in pink standing in front of us opened her clutch bag and handed two of these novena cards to me and my wife.


We really appreciated her gesture and smilingly thanked her after the mass.   We plan to laminate these novena cards for us to keep.

After the mass, just like the way we used to do with my parents before, Tina and I brought Gabby to the back of the altar to go upstairs and kiss the mantle / veil of the image of the Virgin.  We first brought and lighted candles and said our intentions and prayers at its lobby.     



Cameras are prohibited  inside the altar and the museum of Our Lady to keep its solemnity.


Tina bought rosaries for both of us  and had them blessed at the Church’s office. 

Before going home, Gabby requested if we can have breakfast at one of his favorites; where else but Jollibee :D 


Tina had beef tapa which is a sweet and salty spiced tender beef strips, while I enjoyed Jollibee’s creamy macaroni soup and corned beef meal. I like corned beef so much that I consider it as one of “I-can-eat-it-everyday-meals”  :D  My favorite is a local brand (Purefood’s, although Palm’s from New Zealand is also yum!)

While Gabby had his usual chickenjoy (and massive gravy) and peach mango pie.IMG_4221Of course, no visit to Antipolo is complete without sampling their food specialties.  Antipolo is known for suman and other native delicacies and roasted cashew nuts.  We only bought suman for our afternoon merienda. Suman makes a delicious pair with mangoes.


My wife likes suman fried and caramelized with sugar; I like it as is, dipped in sugar.

At home, I immediately browsed PAG-ASA‘s website and found this satellite image and diagram of typhoon Ramil’s course…tcsatpic

No public storm warning signal is raised as of this writing.

PAG-ASA’s forecast : 

Sunday morning:  700 kms East of Casiguran, Aurora
Monday morning: 470 kms East Northeast of Casiguran, Aurora or at 510 kms East of Tuguegarao City
Tuesday morning: 240 kms East of Tuguegarao City.

PAG-ASA noted, this disturbance will not affect any part of the country within the next 36 hours.

Prayers, as they say can move mountains.

Regardless of our religion, let’s unite in prayers that tomorrow and the days ahead will be brighter and storm-free for all of us. 

We had enough of the rains. It’s high time to move on and move up after the storm.

We all deserve a day or two to enjoy. :D



After the country has been devastated by 2 typhoons – Ondoy (Ketsana) and Pepeng (Parma)  in a week, we sincerely hope  for the affected Pinoys to thrive and rise above the crisis.  Because of this, going to church on the day we appreciated sunshine more than ever, became more purposeful.  Our family joins the nation in praying for continuous blessings.

Early Sunday morning, my wife, Tina and I went to a private hospital near our place to visit a newly admitted distant relative suspicious of having nasopharyngeal carcinoma.  Upon discussing with the ENT specialist the diagnosis and his plan to perform punch biopsy tomorrow to determine whether the mass is benign or malignant, in order for their management to be guided, we hurried home immediately. 

We found our son, Gabby, savoring his last day of week-loooong (pre)school vacation after the rains, by watching his favorite cartoons. In a snap, we decided to hear mass at this chapel we long to visit.  IMG_4070It’s St. Pio’s Chapel in Libis, Quezon City (near Eastwood City).  

It was our first time to hear mass in that chapel built in honor of the blessed Italian priest who had stigmata and known for being miraculous. Padre Pio was declared a saint by Pope John Paul II on June 16, 2002.  We were glad to see so many devotees from all walks of life; even wheelchair-borne geriatric individuals were present to venerate.  

(note : photos were discreetly taken before and after the Holy Mass)

Tina spotted a sign at the door of a room in the chapel alotted for parents with children below age 7.  IMG_4071CALANDRA ROOM, named after the person who helped established the chapel, is an enclosed airconditioned room with sliding glass doors alocated especially for families with babies and kids.  There are built-in speakers and Holy Communion is also given.

IMG_4072There’s also a room called BISHOP JESUS SISON MEMORIAL HALL which can be access by taking this stairs inside the Calandra room.  We didn’t go up to view it for it was already packed.  The door shown in this photo will lead you to this..


This area is called REV. FR. ALESSIO PARENTE PATIO, an open-air area where faithfuls can light candles and write their petitions. The patio has the life-sized statue of Padre Pio and the Holy Cross.

Solemnity reigns inside the chapel. 

After the mass, we witnessed and participated in the veneration of St. Pio’s relic.


After being there for more than an hour, we felt so blessed; not only because our family and home were spared by the typhoons but we’re so thankful after hearing mass a day just before Gabby turns FIVE! :D

Honestly, we’re not religious; but one thing is sure, my family and I maintain our personal relationship with our Lord. We try our very best to live life according to His will.

We ate late lunch after the mass; i’ll post it separately.  

How was your Sunday?


St. Pio Chapel / E. Rodriguez Jr. Ave. (C-5), Bagumbayan, Libis, Quezon City

For schedule of masses and other details about the chapel, click THIS.


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