And then there was this trip…
Bold as Coffee, great as Heaven
I finally took the trip I’ve been meaning to do after delaying it. My world has been caving in on me and within that time delay, all the energy I’ve reserved was depleting and I was literally hanging on by a thread, begging God each day to keep me up since all my efforts seemed futile. I was almost afraid of not being able to breathe and when I started to feel that way, I knew I had to go on a different journey for myself.
It was my first time to go somewhere with no other agenda other than to be by myself. Be quiet, sing alone, feel the wind on my face and be away from the noise of my life for a week… on my own for a week. No beach bumming, food tripping, photograph-taking, or sight seeing. It was the most simple and hassle-free trip I’ve made. No expectations whatsoever. “Payak na buhay. Payak na paglalakbay”
I consider it a brave act for me to take the cheap, early flight at 3am and rely on whatever little information I have researched in the internet about the place. “This could be exciting”, I thought to myself… but at the same time, I was afraid that I would not make the wisest choices considering my meager budget. But since it was all happening already, I knew that it was God’s plan and that everything would work out fine.
Looking back, it was a bold move that I had to take for my sanity. I needed the stillness and peace of heaven and the comfort of coffee.
Outside the airport, a stranger who was also in the place for the first time (just like me) approached me to ask for directions. I told him what I knew, led him to the bus station and even helped him get on his airconditioned bus. He thanked me and asked… “Aren’t you taking this bus too?” I simply said no and walked towards the ordinary, non-airconditioned buses… “Payak na buhay, payak na paglalakbay”, I quietly said to myself.
After hours of traveling by bus, where I just stared at the ramblings around me with a meek smile on my face and sometimes closing my eyes to feel the breeze, I arrived at a family friend’s house and met them for the first time. The mother had cancer (like my mom) and the family expressed their fear with me. I shared faith, hope, and strength received from God that helped my family’s own journey with the big C. The family cried as I left; I had goose bumps then. I met them for the first time and the few hours we had were spent with meaningful exchanges of stories.
I took a habal-habal (motorcycle) towards my destination and since the driver couldn’t speak fluent Tagalog and I was unable to speak his dialect too, we both were just feeling whatever words we could understand from each other. And just as my instincts warned me, he dropped me off far from my destination which was up in the mountains. But it was fine; I even loved it. It meant taking a pilgrim-like ascent to where I was supposed to be.
Following signs and instructions from people by the area, I trekked slowly towards the monastery. I smiled as I saw its roof that pointed towards the heavens from afar. It was beautiful.
The walk was breathtaking. I saw golden rice fields, pine trees and other crops and plants as if they were welcoming me as I entered what would be my sanctuary for a week. Upon reaching the top, there it was in front of me. A sight any architect would drool over, a sanctuary that would stop any pilgrim’s breath. There was something about the place and the atmosphere that told me… “We’ve been waiting for you” & I whispered… “Shalom to me.” Then, I decided it was time to rest.
Time spent at the monastery on a mountain meant praying, singing and greeting the sun early morning while looking at Mt. Kitanglad. There were mornings where I would walk by the coffee farm and look at all the wonderful coffee cherries. I didn’t feel that I was somewhere far from home; I felt at home there. I sat by the warehouse to help with the coffee bean sorting and one day, finding out that it was the birthday of one of the workers, encouraged everyone to sing.
During the afternoons, I spent my time reading, writing, and singing with others. I walked and walked, looked at the sky, talked to the people working there and said hello everyday for a week to the security guard who shyly smiled and nodded back at me. There was also this unforgettable visit to the coffee roasting area one afternoon, just in time for the roasting of coffee. I had to stop by the trail, close my eyes and smell the aroma of freshly roasted coffee. I was standing there for what felt like forever, in between big trees, just enjoying the smell of coffee. It was, for me, the most perfect place. Those quiet times helped me reshape my heart and mind. It realigned me with God’s purpose for me. It brought me back to the real essence of travelling for HIM. It healed wounds and gave me peace.
Talking to people I have encountered along this trip gave me something inside that refreshed me and gave me further appreciation for life. From the first unknown person I talked to at the airport, the family I just met and shared stories with, the coffee worker who was celebrating his birthday, the dining assistant serving me simple but tasty meals, the monastery head who told me that in “silence we find answers” and up to the security guard who said “salamat po and sana makabalik po kayo” after my week there… I felt something indescribable and something I’ve never felt before.
As I made my descent from the mountain, part of me wanted to stay. But another part felt inspired to move on and continue on my journey, knowing that life will surely have ups and downs but God will make sure to provide the strength I need.
In a few days, it’ll be exactly 4 years since I’ve made that pilgrim trip- as what I’d like to call it- and my journey afterwards has always been very meaningful despite the highs and lows… But then again, there will always be a need to take this kind of trip to refresh our souls, reshape our perspectives, heal our hearts and inspire us anew.
*I’m writing this in memory of that trip that renewed me and turned my “hell year” around. As I write, I am preparing again to take this trip in a few weeks.