Saturday, January 26, 2013

Alluring Walk at the Japanese Garden

A little sanctuary in the busy Metropolis of Manila is a Japanese garden to honor the friendship between the two great cultures. The garden near Rizal Park offers nature lovers a serene environment suitable for strolling and meditating. 

Some essential elements make it an ideal Japanese garden with some Filipino twists. The park is well maintained but needs some improvement to make it more modern and Japanese-like.

A little Japanese pagoda serves as the main entrance, with Japanese grass on the aisle that is a pleasantly alluring walk towards the greener foliage of the garden. The landscape makes it a good place for the growing trees and shrubs and the lush greenery ambiance that genuinely soothes the senses making it healthy for an early morning walk and exercise.

Inside is the veranda for relaxation or other activities like meditation or recollection. One just needs to sit down and relax and enjoy the stillness of the place and the calmness it offers. A momentary relief from stress is experienced if one has to do deep breathing and physical awareness.

The lawn on the hilly side, with shrubs and Japanese bamboo, looks revitalizing. It made me realize its resilience against the wind breeze as it gently sways and bent but remains firmly rooted on the ground. Like in life, people are sometimes bent by struggles and miseries but must stay flexible and rooted like a Japanese bamboo. The most challenging moments in life may have been thrown out, but like a Japanese bamboo, it remains to stand still and go with the natural flow.

The Japanese bamboo looks thin and weak but has survived the extreme weather and even the aftermath of a typhoon. There's no room to look down on oneself or others despite who and what you are. Like bamboo, people may look weak but are strong and continue to grow and achieve the maximum result.

Although an arch bridge is more elegant, a flat bridge across the pond is fantastic if one has to reach the other side of the garden. Built-in concrete and wooden material add a little aesthetics and charm to the park.

A pebbled pathway offers an alluring walk while sightseeing the evergreen trees, rock formations, and ornaments. The garden is enclosed in a perimeter fence, giving exclusivity to some local and foreign tourists who have witnessed the place's attractiveness.

A piece of art commonly displayed in a Japanese garden is a 'gong,' a percussion instrument used in ancient Japanese tradition to honor the presence of a higher authority. It has a low and monotone sound, but when struck forcefully can reach its maximum loudness. A visitor can strike the gong with the mallet using minimal force to produce a sound. Succeeding strikes can be made strongly, producing different tones if desired.

Visiting the Japanese garden is worthwhile, and coming back can be irresistible. An excellent place to escape from too much environmental noise and to give oneself a rejuvenating experience⁠— not in a faraway place, but only in the heart of the metropolis.

© 2013 Del Cusay

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Celebrating The Feast of Sto. Niño de Tondo

The feast of Sto. Niño de Tondo has been celebrated over the centuries since it was built by the Augustinian friar in the 16th century. The church is built on elevated land in Tondo, Manila, considered the most populated district of the Philippine capital.

The feast is celebrated on the third Sunday of January and has been visited by thousands of devotees and pilgrims nationwide. Several activities are witnessed, including the fluvial procession of the holy image of Sto. Niño, mass celebration, and street dancing.

I celebrated the mass on this day; thousands gathered inside the church and near the parish. Children that are infants and toddlers are visible during this feast. Parents carry their children to receive Divine blessings for their growth and spiritual development.

The relic of Sto. Niño is considered one of the oldest in the country when it was brought by the Spanish authorities to influence and embrace Christianity as a religion and become a symbol of religious faith. Since then, the devotees have shared many miracles that made it widely known as it is today.

In Cebu City, located in the central Philippines, the feast of Sto. Niño de Cebu is also celebrated by millions of Cebuanos and visitors from different places in the Philippines. Even foreign tourists visit the city to witness the grand parade known as the "Sinulog Festival."

The 'Sinulog' is colorful and festive, where several groups or tribes are dressed elegantly and dance gracefully, along with a musical beat of drums and other instruments. This yearly event captures the attention of many people and is visited by millions just to participate and celebrate in honor of Sto. Niño.

Many places in the country celebrate the feast of Sto. Niño and shows the religious devotion of the people to the child Jesus. Despite the misfortune and misery in people's lives, faith in God is still a powerful weapon to remain strong and faithful.

It takes courage and determination to be optimistic in times of difficulty, but Filipinos have proven how to be resilient and survive. It is not the colorful costumes; not the magnificent fluvial and land parade, or the trend that we celebrate this feast; the essence is our religious or spiritual devotion to living in our hearts forever.

Viva Sto. Niño!

© 2013 Del Cusay

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Nazareno 2013: Celebrating the Feast of the Black Nazarene

"Our personal devotion reminds us to be positive and to go on with our lives; improve and make it better; serve others; love unconditionally, and become a guiding light."

The image of the Black Nazarene is known to many Filipinos to be miraculous and a symbol of faith. Thousands of devotees gather on its feast day every 9th of January to celebrate and show their piety and devotion before the holy image. 

The Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene is the place of "Nuestro Padre Jesus Nazareno" in Spanish or "Our Father Jesus the Nazarene" in English and in the Filipino Language called "Mahal na Poong Nazareno." It is considered one of the most venerated holy images of Christ Jesus in the Philippines. Spanish Authorities brought it to Manila via Mexico during its occupation.

Since then, there have been various theories regarding the color of the image, which is unique and black. Though there is no official story about how it got its color, the idea has attracted millions of Filipinos not mainly because of its uniqueness but because of the personal spiritual experiences of the devotees.

Many people have shared their testimonials about answered prayers and special intentions, and that's how the church became a popular pilgrimage site among Filipino Christians. Throughout the years, people may change, and almost everything in its surroundings may have changed, but the image remains the icon of faith to devoted Filipino Christians.

It was just a few years ago when I was in the Black Nazarene shrine. Several times, I have celebrated the mass and have venerated before the holy image of the Black Nazarene on Friday. I have made petitions or special requests that have been granted, which is a blessing from God. 

On this day, I got the chance to visit Quiapo church and celebrate the feast of the Black Nazarene for the first time. Light rain showered upon us while entering the church, but it was still a blessing.  It was a tremendous devotional experience as I strengthened my faith and expressed my spiritual vow.

There's a long procession of the replica of the Black Nazarene around the streets of Manila, and it is flocked by more than a million devotees who tried to reach out to the divine image. Unique clothes with a printed image of the Nazarene are rubbed in the image, which is believed to bring a miracle or a blessing. I have never seen it personally, but I want to witness the scenario even once in a lifetime. 

The significance of this event is not just a religious obligation but becoming more Christ-centered. To express and receive love, to show compassion and empathy, to remove doubts and fear, and to strengthen our faith despite the challenges in everyday living. 

Our devotion reminds us to be positive and continue our lives; improve and make them better; serve others; love unconditionally; and become a guiding light.

© 2013 Del Cusay

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

New Year 2013: Blissful Journey, Greatest Love and Thanksgiving

"May this year be a more fun and joyful journey. There will be some places to explore, wonderful people to meet, and exciting adventures to experience. Life is worth living, and there's always a way to celebrate." 

2012 has brought so many good memories that I will forever cherish. Those memories are my learning experience that will benefit my growth and well-being. Though there were moments of despair, life must still go on and be able to rise up and take control. 

The previous year has been full of challenges, and I am grateful I've conquered those things. It may be hard to think, but the result seems lovely and rewarding. Life in 2012 was challenging as I encountered numerous obstacles along the journey. I have made it, conquered my fear, and survived the challenges.

Looking back at my 2012 new year celebration, I've written "My Goals and Wishes for 2012" (click to read). After the weekly reflection, I have compiled a list of things I wish for 2012. I've written it in a peaceful, serene environment in Gurgaon, Haryana, India. The place is perfect for meditation as it is quiet and can concentrate in a deep meditative state. 

I'm grateful for accomplishing my 'goals and wishes' for 2012. I wanted to be more clear and specific about my goals beyond my personal desires. Some were attainable; some have been granted, and some are still in the process. 

For this year, 2013, my goals and wishes are just the same as the previous year, but I just want to be more specific.  I have come up with the list below:

Family - to be free from harm, conflict, and illness.

Health - to be more physically fit and active. 

Career - to be more responsible and produce results.

Lifestyle - to be more balanced in personal and social living. 

Personal Development - to acquire virtues and values for growth and transformation. 

May this year be a more fun and joyful journey. There will be some places to explore, wonderful people to meet, and exciting adventures to experience. Life is worth living, and there's always a way to celebrate. 

Success is not a destination, but it is in the process of achieving the goal. More important is the ultimate fulfillment of desires--it is forever in my heart and mind. 

A blessed year 2013!

© 2013 Del Cusay