Nestled in the coffee-planted hills of Barangay San Jose, Malaybalay, Bukidnon is the Monastery of the Transfiguration run by Benedictine Monks. Not many know of this spiritual facility, but I’m sure many are familiar with the Monks’ Blend Coffee from this area. Seven times in a day, these monks sing hymns and pray in a place lush with greenery amidst slopes carpeted in various shades of green.
Here, monks, overcast skies and landscapes seem to work in perfect harmony. No, there are no duvets to cover and wrap tired bodies in the tiny, meticulously clean spartan rooms, but listening to the overriding sound of silence is good for tired souls. Yes, good even for the non-religious.
This is where one can restore one’s self back to sanity, unloading many of those cobwebs that claimed space in our urban mindsets. Eat, sleep, and be still. The monks pray seven times a day starting with the 3:40 am Matins. The retreatants are welcome to join them. In between the Matins, Morning Prayers and Mass, Vespers and Evening Prayers, you may pray the rosary while walking around the gardens and viewing the hills and perhaps one of the last surviving forested blocks in the entire archipelago. It felt so routinary and familiar to wake up slightly past 3 in the morning and walking out of your “cocoon” of a Guest House towards the Chapel. The bells warn you. The Monks singing in Latin soothe you. It felt so right. So harmonious. And so dark. Before long, varied hues of sunrise colors magically appear on the horizon. Other times, a fog may descend without warning. Literally like touching clouds as they pass by. Feel free to sit on the grass near the Chapel to wait for sunrise and sunset.
Every 2nd Sunday of the month, the growing popularity of the “Breakfast With The Monks” bring in as many as 300 traveling some distance from Iligan City (3 hour drive), Davao (5 hours) and Cagayan de Oro (2 hours). We missed this, but we had the most charming experience of chatting up 2 monks who may have abandoned their vow of silence while we were there 🙂 Fr. Col and Fr. Elias engaged us in a chat about gardens, joked with us, ate with us. I love how Fr. Elias would laugh with us then bring us back to some life philosophy inspired by the Good Book. We share the same mantra about “celebrating life” but I have tons to learn in the area of detachment. 😦
The pyramid-inspired architecture by the late National Artist Leandro Locsin is a masterpiece to have combined the conflicting elements of simplicity and grandeur. Inside is a large cross hanging above the altar which simply consists of a huge rock. Behind it and illumined by a lone spotlight is the statue of Our Lady of Montserrat donated by the Benedictine Monks of Montserrat near Barcelona, Spain. You can view the Virgin and Child up close by scaling a few steps behind the rock altar.
Within the Monastery compound is the Museum of Vestments. Dom Martin aka Gang Gomez (yes, that fashion designer and icon) truly made an admirable collection of vestments inspired by tribal designs and indigenous materials. Be sure to drop in, along with a visit to the Store where you can buy peanuts and coffee grown by the Monks. St. Benedict medallions and icons are likewise available here.
Or…….. You can always head back to the Guest House for your snacks of coffee ( Monks’ Blend, of course) and muffins. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are simple affairs. I love how each diner leaves the dining table clean by putting away all glasses, utensils and food scraps after each meal. Dining in silence? Possible. Unless you chat up a monk. 😉 But if you’re not up for a stroll ( i wasn’t after the 3:40 am Matins), it maybe a better idea to crawl back to your tiny, semi-hard, good-for-the-back bed for a power nap before the next prayer and feeding times. Goodnight!