DSC00301Once a year, the whole seminary leaves its home in Lipa and drives north towards the Central Cordillera Mountains. This more than 400-km journey offered us various scenes of the Luzon islands: from the busy Manila roads, through the plains of the Central Luzon up to the chilly climate of ever-popular Baguio City. From here, we still have to endure the zigzag roads which offered us a nice view of the green mountain ranges, the rice terraces, valleys, rivers and waterfalls.  When this was over, we have to unload our baggage to begin this year’s convivencia in Sagada, Mountain Province. This is the fourth time we spent it in Sagada and it was not in vain.

The small town of Sagada is found in the midst of the picturesque Central Cordillera Mountain Range, about 4000 ft. above sea level. Staying there by the end of May, we found the weather was relatively cool in the morning, but turns cold in the afternoon where moderate to heavy rains abound. Mist of clouds and fogs would sometimes cover us, whether we’re at home or on at any outdoor activities.  We were still able to enjoy the nice environment of Sagada. From our rooms which are surrounded with hundreds of pine trees, we could see the green Sagada Valley, a nearby river and waterfalls which are all running so strong clear. Most of our outdoor activities here were mountain climbing, but as limestone hills surround the town, we were given the opportunity to discover the ancient caves and underground rivers which are still admirably fresh and clean.

DSC00612The convivencia of the seminary is not meant to be a mere community vacations, but serves as part of our Human Formation. It is a time to practice virtues and control of passions, as “

[w]e want to form men who are authentically free and masters of themselves, who by that self-mastery are capable of giving themselves totally. We regard the practice of sports, camping, community vacations, etc., to be of great importance in this formation of the will.” (Constitutions, 200) This is also a time for the community to be together and be bound with a strong sense of camaraderie.

Before concluding our convivencia, we left Sagada and drove south towards the Manaoag, Pangasinan where the Basilica of the Our Lady of Rosary of Manaoag is located.  It houses the miraculous image of Our Lady of Rosary and has been venerated by thousands of devotees, making this Basilica as one of the popular Marian shrines in Filipinas. In 1926, the image was canonically crowned. Thanks to the parish priest, we were given accommodation at Manaoag, allowing us to stay for a longer time to pray in front of this beloved image.  This visit also serves as a thanksgiving for the success of this year’s convivencia.

DSC01114We then drove to the nearby town of Alaminos for the Hundred Islands National Park. It is composed of more than one hundred islands, with three of them developed for tourism. As the weather is not the same in Sagada (17°C in Sagada, 29°C in Alaminos), swimming on its blue green seawater is an escape from the heat.

We commend all of these into the hands of Our Lady, who in many ways have shown us her maternal guidance and protection especially during this Convivencia 2016.

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