Friday, May 21, 2010

Mormon Temple (Cebu) Tour

That’s ‘The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints’ and they just had an open house of their newly built ‘Cebu City Philippines Temple’. I could not let this one pass as I have already missed a similar open house when that chapel over at the corner of Aurora Blvd and JP Rizal St., in Project 4 did the same thing some months ago. Why the interest in such an open house? Just curious… and why not?! It’s not as if we can go in there everyday – even if we were Mormons, did you know that?

We all know they have beautiful chapels everywhere. And the spacious grounds (usually with basketball courts) are impressively attractive, right? So how much more the insides of those edifices! PLUS, while for the open house in Project 4, I would only see a signage posted by the side of the road, this open house in Cebu was all over the various news media. So I thought this must have been something big. And big it is!

How did it go? Well, fantastic! The tour was simple, direct to the purpose and very well coordinated. The way they executed it should be the envy (okay, make it a benchmark) of tour guides, events managers and museum curators. Let’s retrace my path!

Entered the compound from Gorodo Ave., am not sure there is any other entrance, anyway. Church members young and old, Filipinos and not were at the gate to receive visitors. There is a big guard house to the right noticeably clean and has computers on the desk. Were those CCTV monitors? Probably. But entrance did not require any of the usual ceremonies in this country where you are frisked, asked to present an ID and write your name on a book. It was more on just “welcome sir”. I did ask if it was fine since I was just wearing walking shorts. The guy said “no problem”.

Children were on hand to give each visitor big white umbrellas. I asked what for (thinking it was a religious requirement or something. The little boy said “mainit ang araw, sir”. I smiled and kindly declined the umbrella as the sun’s heat was already bearable. Hmm, that boy spoke to me in Tagalog! Excitedly walked the path/driveway with the big temple on my left. At the corner where I thought I should turn and proceed to the temple’s entrance, girls were on hand to direct visitors to go straight to the chapel as the tour begins there. Ah this chapel just across the temple looks like any common Mormon chapel anywhere in this country – also simple but clean and beautiful.

On entry at the chapel, another set of young boys and girls receive the umbrellas (I wondered where they were transferring those to) and older church members direct visitors inside the chapel – which one of them told me was the holding/waiting area. So I entered and sat with other visitors. They group visitors into manageable sizes, so I thought that was fairly regular for a guided tour where folks are grouped so that there are not too many nor too few in a batch. Impressive.

While waiting, other members were on hand to answer just about any question that anyone might have. And so I asked if I can take pictures. The kind answer was “I’m sorry sir, its not allowed”. Anyway, I get it that a “chapel” to them is a church to Catholics. This chapel is big, the pews are of fine wood and fairly clean. Minimalist in design without flowery or art-deco lines nor announcements nor posters pasted just anywhere as you would see in a catholic church. The “altar” – am not sure if they call it that – has nothing but just a microphone, the lighting system is of fine quality and there are hard-bound song books placed at designated receptacles in the pews. I opened one of the books and noticed that the paper quality was a glossy high-grade, similar to but a bit thicker than those used by Time Magazine and Newsweek. Wow! Noticed that all songs are written with the musical notes as you would see in a piano sheet music. I asked if Mormons can sight-read. The reply was “just some of us sir”. Wow still! Oh, entrance to this chapel is from the side. And the back portion is another equally big space separated by an accordion type wood panel. There was some activity in there which I was sure was part of the tour.

Alright, my turn came… together with other visitors, I was called to follow a church member to Room 5. Wow! The way to the various rooms is on a hallway where they placed ropes in the middle to divide traffic flow. I saw that other rooms were filled with visitors too. I wondered what this was for. Oh, a video presentation about their temples. Btw, this area connected to the chapel has a lot of rooms all air-conditioned and have white boards and TV/Video sets, I had to ask what they were for. The reply was “for various instructional purposes and meetings”. Wow again! After the video, a church member answered a few questions from us and we were asked to follow him outside via another exit as we would then proceed to the temple.

Children were on hand again to distribute umbrellas! Oh, so this was where they were transferring those umbrellas as they got them from visitors over at entrance! Then we were at the spacious parking area looking directly to front of the big temple. As tour guide told us various facts about the temple, we briefly stood in the middle of the parking area marveling at it. This time, pictorials were allowed. But there was a big and equally impressive hotel-looking building to our right, so I asked what it was. It is called a Patron House or Dormitory where church-members from far places can stay when they are around. How much? Just P100 a day. Whoa!

Then we were up at the entrance of the temple. After some children received the umbrellas, we approached another set of children lined in two rows facing away from each other. They looked like shoe-shine boys. Armed with hundreds of white shower caps, each visitor was asked to present his feet to the kids so that each shoe or slipper would be wrapped with the shower caps. No need to take off any footwear. And I think that is more practical and even more hygienic since the temple is carpeted. While we were in this “wrapping” thing, tour guide explained that the temple is the house of the lord so that it has to be clean at all times. Wow!

There is some kind of reception area after entering the impressive deco-glass door with hardwood frames. And yes it is indeed a reception area where every person must present an ID – more properly called a “recommend”. The guide told us that if you are a ‘worthy’ Mormon, you get a recommendation from your local bishop for you to be issued the ‘recommend’. Not all Mormons can get that ID the size of a credit card which is purportedly still made in the US. Those cards expire and validity is usually for two years. They do have special “recommend” cards given to children, the guide says. So, if you are not a “worthy” Mormon, your only chance to enter a temple is during an open house like this!

What a realization for me! I was thinking a Mormon Temple is like a cathedral or something like it – reason I was wondering why the building was squarish instead of the usual rectangular. Well, as we started to roam the temple, I realized that it is more of a building with a lot of rooms. More like a five-star hotel’s business center with exquisite high quality everything from floor to ceiling. Oops, not five-star, maybe even more!

Entering to the left and after another counter that looks like another reception area, we were shown the baptistry. This is like a Jacuzzi that sits atop the backs of 12 oxen, 3 each facing four directions. Yes this is the “binyagan” but the guide explained that this is more for the dead. It was not clear to me, so I asked if they bring the dead to this font. Guide just smiled but am sure he was about to laugh. He explained that the ceremonies are done via a proxy – family member/s who come to represent their dead ancestors. Ack! Oh both sides of this baptistery are the men’s and women’s changing rooms. The big and tall glass panel here is quite a work of art and light permeating it makes the place bright.

A hallway away are offices plus the president’s office. Yes dear, they have presidents at their temples and I asked what they do. The reply was overall management of the temple and the whole area or region covered by it. Across the big hallway, there is a place for children. Hey this place has paintings of Jesus Christ and other related scenes. Those paintings are rather first-class and I tried reading the painters names. Most of them, if not all, I remember were made by a person named Ramsey. Guide says those paintings were brought direct from the states. Hmm, no Pinoys can do them?

I like the Ordinance Room. It has bright and airy feel where all three walls are painted with a Filipiniana farm setting. Its more like an AV Room with high quality furniture. The carpet is thick and clean. Oh, even just the waiting room is superb! The Sealing Room is even more luxurious. It is where weddings are held. But in the Mormon kind of way, sealing or wedding is not only for husbands and wives. There are also for the dead and the living and for the parents and their children. I like the symbolism of the two big mirrors on opposite walls. The reflection created is you without end. And they say, your relationship should just be like what you see… no end… eternity. Ah the Celestial Room is like being in a luxurious heaven. It is bright with the light washing through from the glass wall (this room is above the baptistery) and the big beautiful chandelier adds more to its heavenly feel. No one is allowed to talk in this room as it is supposed to be the area where you commune with no one but the Lord. The chairs and tables are positioned such that they look like pieces in a great lobby to a great suite. Wonderful!

Ah there are some new things I learned here like words “ordinance”, “instruction”, “seal” and “recommend”.

After the tour of the temple, we walked outside and back to the chapel, this time passing by the other side of the rope. Oh, the end part of the tour was actually the other end of the chapel separated by the accordion-type wood panels. This is actually the church’s activity area reason why it has a stage and the whole place is about as big as the chapel. I guess when there would be a lot of people in attendance they’d just retract the panels and they have quite a long chapel. Ah, some pictures and historical things about LDS were displayed on the sides and the refreshments were served front of the stage near the piano! Now this is where I appreciate the non-Filipino way of serving refreshments. Its to the dot. All that was there were packs of Mango Juice but you can have as many as you wish. In the Filipinized meaning of that word “refreshments”, I guess you already know what to expect… there would be food and food and food that the place would get messy! Hey, when I got out of the compound, guess what I saw… a nun (Catholic) standing by the side of the road. Did she just also come from the same tour I did? Oh well… why not?! Hey too, part of my group in that tour was a curious family that came in a shiny black Hummer with a plate that read “Congressman”! Well… why not!

Ah, I loved the learnings from this tour. It widened my knowledge on “religion”. I can’t help comparing the tings I saw and experienced at Masjid Bandaraya in KK, the many Catholic and Protestant Churches I’ve seen and this Mormon Temple. But I keep my observations to myself hehe!

1 comment :

  1. Hi,

    Just came across randomly to your blog and read this article. I'm an LDS (or Mormon) and was blessed to be part of the Cebu City Temple open house activities. Thank you so much for taking the time to see our temple! And even more for writing about it. Your compliments are deeply appreciated. =)