A trip to the Holy Mountain

Guimaras Travel Blog

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Locally, it is refered to as the ” Balaan Bukid” which can be literally translated as the Holy Mountain. As a kid, my father would take us on long afternoon drives at the port of Iloilo. We would take out our favorite food and eat it at the port area overlooking the island of Guimaras. If you at the port of Iloilo, you will get a chance to marvel at the beauty of the island from afar. You will also notice a huge cross at the far right side of the island. My father said that the cross is where the “Balaan Bukid” is.

Considering the fact that Philippines is one of the most religious country in Asia, the “Balaan Bukid” comes to life during holy weeks. Local tourists and pilgrims come to the said mountain to offer prayers. This is also the time when people living in the area can make money as they become candle vendors, food vendors and so on. The boats going to Guimaras offers a special trip in going there. During regular seasons, there are two ways to get to Guimaras, one from Parola wharf to Nueva Valencia and another one is by Ortiz Wharf to Jordan.
Guimaras is near Iloilo City, it is like 10 minutes away. But we woke up early as we know that during Good Fridays, a lot of people are going there. We did not want to have trouble in forming long line under the heat of the sun. Based on our previous experiences, (as this is actually my third time to go up the Balaan Bukid) it is best to arrive early so that you won’t have to wait under the sun just to the boat. During the Lenten season, there is a special trip going to the Balaan Bukid. But on regular days, there are only two trips going to Guimaras. This is done in accordance to the high demand of passengers going to the said mountain during Good Fridays.

Stations of the cross. This is the original purposes as to why people come here. Going up and down the mountain you can see stations of the cross. You can bring a rosary, candles or prayer guide if you intend to follow it. There are no prayer leaders and the way it is done is individually. I don’t know how to pray the stations of the cross but I brought candles so that on every station that I ass by, I light a candle.

There are two ways to get to the mountain, one is by boat. Most tourists use this method as going to Jordan means additional fare for the tricycle. For locals or for people who are already in Guimaras, they can do it by land. Both ways have stations of the cross as well. As for us, we used the old method in going up and land method in going down.

The boat method has a difficult terrain but there are first-aiders and Red Cross members who are ready to help in case the need arises. There are also ropes where people can hold as they trek up the mountain.

At the top of the mountain is a chapel and at the left side of the chapel is the huge cross. The first time I went there, my friends were too lazy to go up the cross. I can not help but think about other people who may have done the same thing that me and my friends did on my first climb. This time, we decided to make it to the top. The line is long, very long but devotees and tourists alike do not mind. Before climbing up at the cross, you will see the “apostles” as they are the guide and the guards on the “event”. For instance, there is this apostle that helps you take pictures at the top of the cross, there is an apostle that manages the line as the number of people allowed to stay at huge cross is fairly limited.

Once at the top of the cross, the view is pretty amazing. You got green field on your right, the chapel and the long line below and the cityscape of Iloilo City on your left. I wonder if my Father knows how great the view from here as compared to the view from our usual spot at Fort San Pedro?
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Summer in the Philippines is not only synonymous with beaches and fun, but also with the Lenten season. For approximately 73 million Catholic Filipinos, this is a special time of the year when penance and sacrifices are made prior to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. They say Filipino faith can move mountains, and in some cases it can even influence them to nail their hands to a cross or be cut by whips in order to endure and feel the suffering of Jesus. It may sound a bit weird, but Filipinos take the word sacrifice very seriously.

Every Good Friday, thousands of locals and tourists flock to small towns throughout the Philippines, such as Pampanga or Jordan, to witness the re-enactment of Christ’s crucifixio. This is known as “Pagtaltal sa Guimaras” where Christ’s Passion is acted out. This includes the last supper, scourging at the pillar, carrying of the cross, the seven last words up to the crucifixion. The practice of crucifixion itself is controversial and not encouraged by the church—willing participants have their palms nailed into a wooden cross. For over thirty-three years the crucifixion re-enactment has been taking place every Good Friday and ends at 3 p.m. when the person portraying the role of Jesus is nailed on the cross. This because according to Catholics, 3 p.m is the time of Christ’s death.

The people who portray the role of Jesus during the crucifixion re-enactment say they do it for sacrifice, personal penance, good will and blessings. Over the years, different people have portrayed the role of Jesus, including females and even visiting tourists. Whether you’re Catholic or not, the crucifixion re-enactment is a shockingly bold introduction to the Filipino faith.

The crucifixion re-enactment happens every Good Friday, two days prior to Easter. Alternatively, if you are visiting outside of Lent the best time of the year to visit the Philippines is during their summer season. From January to June the sun is at its highest, the beach is at its coolest and the weather is at its finest. Summer season is synonymous with celebration in the Philippines, and there are hundreds of fiestas being celebrated all over the country. January is also the time when the famous Dinagyang Festival is held in Iloilo city.

Make the most out of your Philippines’ Good Friday experience. Check out the Balaan Bukid first before going to Jordan, Guimaras to witness the crucifixion re-enactment. Get there as early as you can—between 5:30–7:00 a.m. is a good bet to get to the wharf and secure your seat on the ferry. Arriving later will mean that you take the risk of staying in line under the sun’s scorching heat. Bear in mind that both local and foreign tourists visit here.

This is a re-post of my article at The Circumference
Guimaras is known for its beautiful beaches and sweet mangoes. I have been going to the island for its beaches. But this time it is an unfinished inland resort that we are going to. There are two ferry piers in getting there, if you want to go to Nueva Valencia, Guimaras, you go straight at the Parola Pier. If you want to go straight to Jordan, Guimaras, you need to take the Ortiz Pier. In the many years of going to Guimaras, I actually haven’t gone to Nueva Valencia or shall I say I haven’t been to Guimaras via Parola wharf. Most of the beaches are in Jordan. That probably explains it.

My friends and I met at Deleonian Cafe. It is located in Iloilo City Central Market right in front of Iloilo Grand Hotel. We then headed to the Ortiz Wharf. The pump boat fee is 14 pesos. The Ortiz Wharf looks like a setting of the movie Slumdog Millionaire.

When we arrived at Jordan, we took a “tricycle” going to Daragan. Its 15 minutes away from Jordan but the place is so quiet, you will think that you are in a parallel universe or something of that sort. The fee for tricycle is 20 pesos. The inland resort of my friend’s friend is yet to be finished. But the CR is already done as well as the main area. The workers stay inside a tent. If you are a passerby in the resort and you see a bunch of silver tents, you will think that there is an alien settlement in the area.

Under the trees are hammocks. Above the hammocks are beehives! hahaha We spent the day frolicking under the sun. Eating broiled fish, drinking cold beer and talking to the locals. I can’t wait for the day when the resort will be done. It will have a pool, ( I guess and hope so )it will offer horseback riding and so on.
photo by: mightor20