A Foray into the Monastery of the Transfiguration

Saturday, April 28, 2018

monastery of the transfiguration bukidnon

"Isn't that a subject in Hogwarts?" I asked.

Potpot, one of my companions, blinked. He proceeded to face the car window, ignoring me.

In the passenger seat, I heard Edgar snicker.

"Right?" I insisted, tapping Edgar in the shoulder for support.
"Subject in Hogwarts," he repeated in between laughs.

We were talking about the Monastery of the Transfiguration. It was our next stop. I was curious what "transfiguration" referred to. I imagined a castle with monks waving wands, counting 1,2,3, and murmuring Vera Verto.

I didn't think the monks would appreciate that image. But hey, I only ever knew that word from Harry Potter, as a subject taught by Professor McGonagall.
At any rate, we were on our way there. I was too lazy to get my phone and Google what it meant. Plus, I preferred to have an actual conversation.

"No, really. What does it mean?"

"I don't get your Harry Potter references," Potpot said pointedly, facing me. "It's when Jesus transformed."

"Into what?" I demanded. "Ostia?"

I wasn't making a joke but my companions bursted out laughing. Even Marky, who rarely made a sound, I could hear giggling beside me.

Listen, I'm technically Catholic, but I consider myself a theist. I do believe that religion is just a way to secretly control the masses, but it doesn't mean that God doesn't love me. Also, last time I read the Bible was in third grade – the story was quite forgettable if you ask me. What I knew about Catholicism, I got mostly from Dan Brown, and you know how reliable Robert Langdon is.

I totally understand if you'd yelled or will yell "sacrilege!" or "blasphemy!" or even "susmaryosep!" some time in reading this story. To be fair, I make all kinds of inappropriate statements regarding religion, race, and political inclinations. I do have my fair share of stupidly and fiercely oblivious moments.

In any event, still had no idea what transfiguration meant, we arrived in the village of San Jose, on a hill with the looming form of Mt. Kitanglad in the distance. Banks of clouds concealed the top half of the mountain, leaving it looking like a low and long plateau. We parked just below a structure that looked as out of place as my altar bread comment.

A dark pyramid glinted like ebony in the sun. It stood in the middle of an expanse of grassland, hemmed by a covey of shrubs and trees. OK, I thought. Maybe my magician theory wasn't too far out.
monastery of transfiguration church

We entered the structure. The ceiling, paneled with brown wood, tapered into an upturned cone. Wooden chairs lined most of the space, marching into three of four directions. In that one where they stopped, there was a boulder with what looked like a microphone stand jutting out from behind like an antenna. A glass-encased statue smiled kindly on us overhead. And just above it was a crucifix.

It dawned on me: this is a church. A peculiar one, but a church nonetheless.
monastery of transfiguraiton architecture

monastery of transfiguraiton altar

It was designed by no other than National Artist for Architecture Leandro Locsin. He may not have witnessed its completion but its plans were the last one he signed before he died. It is largely considered as his Magnum Opus. I, for one, loved how airy and bright it was. A bit more casual than your typical Catholic Church. It reminded me of the church in Regina Rica in Tanay.

I wanted to stay in it, but not because I was moved into praying but because it was so hot outside. The sun was blaring mightily and I didn't want to be in its way. As I feared, however, we were ushered outside. I resorted to dragging my feet and followed my companions.

We were then taken to the retreat house and were served coffee. Aside from the unorthodox church, the monastery is also famous for its Monk's Blend – a coffee made from beans grown here. And speaking of retreat, people are allowed to spend time here, to reflect perhaps and not watch/read too much about wizards, for a minimal fee.
monastery of the transfiguration retreat house

After the quick snack, we proceeded to the two-story museum. A square building, it displays artworks of local artists – most of them for sale – in the ground floor, and  houses an exhibit of Filipino Liturgical Vestments on the second. The latter was a project of couturier-turned-monk Dom Martin aka Gang Gomez for the Philippine Centennial, showcasing the various weaving techniques from all over the country. Nearby, meanwhile, is a souvenir shop which sells local delicacies and handmade trinkets.
monastery of the transfiguration bukidnon museum

We headed back to the van after the museum tour. As I walked, I imagined myself renting a room here, perhaps roaming the grounds at night to stare at the stars. I could drink coffee with the monk and pray with them. Maybe ask them about the Transfiguration, if their goblets were former rats.

I decided I'd just Google it.

I like neither coffee nor prayers.

Related Adventure: Guide to Seven Seas Waterpark

From the Laguindingan Airport, get on a bus to Malaybalay. From the terminal, hire a tricycle to take you to the Monastery.

You may also get in touch with Earth Explorers Travel and Tours for a hassle-free tour across Misamis Oriental, Bukidnon, and the rest of Northern Mindanao.

Bear in mind that, notwithstanding my irreverence, the place is a holy place. Please come dressed acceptably. Meaning, no tank tops, tubes, short shorts, and miniskirts. Come here dressed as you would when going to church.

The pyramid church also holds regular mass. Contact the numbers below for the schedule.

Monastery of the Transfiguration
San Jose, Malaybalay City, Bukidnon
Tel. No. +63 88 221 2373 / 221 4708
Monastery Farm: +63 927 397 5350
Gift Shop: +63 915 986 0167
Guest House Reservations: +63 917 510 5585
Wedding Reservations:+63 915 986 0167
Breakfast with the Monks: +63 916 454 5916
Vocation Inquiries: +63 916 365 0147

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