Sunday, January 31, 2010

Going Simala

I heard many things about this monastery, the latest wasn't that good at all. You probably also heard of that news where a priest was expelled from the convent and said priest was telling of untoward things, and so on. Never got interested in seeing the place for myself (am not that religious) until a friend asked me this morning if I wanted to tag along as he was going there for his monthly "devotional visit". I said yes of course and off to Simala we went!

How did we go there? I was already on the phone with a taxi company arranging for one of their cabs to fetch us from where we were, bring us to Simala and back to the city. But the friend cut me and said "never mind the taxi, let's just commute like everyone else does". Oh okay, so we still took a taxi but just to Cebu's South Bus Terminal where we took a non-air-conditioned bus to Sibonga. My friend did not even say Sibonga to the conductor. He just said "Simala"! It's that well-known.

I learned the drop-off to Simala is not at center of Sibonga. It is at some famous corner way beyond town proper, where a lot of men run towards your bus even as it approaches and still moving fast! Ah those are habal-habal drivers out to be ahead of their competitors to get you for a ride from the corner up to the monastery. So okay, one quick driver got us even as were still seated inside the now decelerating bus!

The habal-habal fare is P25 per head, and only two persons may ride in one motorbike (plus the driver) at any given time. Our driver told us it is a rule here, imposed by the government. Buti naman - but isn't it a rule everywhere anyway? Obviously not, but at least here is one place attempting to follow that! There are big tricycles by the way, but they have to be full with so many passengers before moving. And our driver told us, the fare is just the same, also P25. Not sure if he was telling the truth but am sure it is cramped! I saw one of those trikes already full per my standards, but still waiting to ‘get full’! Golly!

"Simala" is not in Simala! Did you know that? I did not, nor did the friend who has been there many times! The place where you get off the bus and ride the habal-habal is Barangay Simala. Fine, there is even their Barangay Hall with big signage.

But I was surprised to have seen along the way, some signage that welcomed us to Barangay Lindogon, and we were not yet "there"! I asked our habal-habal driver why it was so. He laughingly told us that the priests probably kept referring to the area as still Simala because that is where they get off the main road. Plausible.

On arrival just outside the gate of the big compound, I saw that both sides of the road are lined with many souvenir shops, carinderias and stalls selling just about anything and everything. It is like a palengke here. And the turo-turo stalls with a bevy of kalderos lined up, reminded me that I haven't had breakfast yet! As if I do hehe. But yes, the sight of many of them told me I was hungry. So, we ate at one that had the most delectable-looking tinola I could view. Whew! Gipaninghot ko!

Owners and waitresses of these food stalls have "uniforms" and I got a bit curious of what was printed on their shirts - "Mama Mary Vendors Association". Hmm, that got me curious so I asked our dear manang what their association was for, what it did to them and what relation it had to the monastery, if any. She told me it is some kind of an accreditation, where non-members are not allowed to sell in this area and the association is "guided" by priests from the monastery. Hmm again. But let me keep whatever am thinkin to just me myself and I, for now at least hehe!

While we ate, so many ambulant vendors came and went to offer us just about anything there was to sell. Rosaries, wood carvings, novena pamphlets, t-shirts, trinkets, caps, hats, sunglasses, cooked bananas, ripe bananas, fruits, kakanin, keychains, bonzai, ornamental plants, even belts and bags, everything. But the most ubiquitous sold by both adults and children was "olive oil" that came in small medicine bottles. I asked the friend what the oil was for, he educated me that those are purportedly good to use for various bodily ailments and/or massage. Wheh?!

Just a heads up in case you be tempted to buy "olive oil" from these vendors or even the stores in this area. Those are mere concoctions of who knows what, so be wary. Especially of course if you want to buy them for cooking hahaha. Many of these vendors probably have not even seen real olive oil yet or do not even know what olives are! I asked one of those kids where her olive oil came from and she was quick and confident to tell me "diha sa monasteryo, gi-bless na sa mga pari". And I just told her a grinning "estoryaheeee"! But in my mind I was really saying "pekpek mo inday"!

Okay, so we went into the monastery compound. But let’s do that story in my next piece. Aight?!

ISSN: 2512516.375-2149


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