Saturday, June 11, 2011

Pink Sisters, My Cebu Experience

What place comes to mind when you hear the phrase "Pink Sisters"? Hmm, yes, Baguio, then Tagaytay - in that order, right?! But did you know there is also such a monastery in Cebu? Ah, well, not really Cebu City since it is already a few steps away from the boundary. It is in Mandaue City. Yep, that is the 'Adoration Convent of Divine Peace' - a monastery for nuns clad in pink habit, reason why its called 'pink-sisters' and I think you know all about that part, right?!

Anyway, this convent (and chapel of course - that's my topic in the first place) sits in an urban neighborhood that is by the boundary of two barangays both named Banilad. Yep, Barangay Banilad, Cebu City and Barangay Banilad, Mandaue City! And that is along AS Fortuna Ave., - the famed strip where many notable restaurants and branches of virtually every bank in this country are located with or without ATMs! Oh yes, as of this writing, AS Fortuna has four hotels, two of them new - and am only counting those that are real hotels and are along the strip. Plus, over at its Mandaue end always with heavy traffic any time of day, there is a mall under construction with signs all over that says it will have an SM SaveMore branch. Awk, I could just imagine... and we all know that where there are the two big blue letters S and M, mind-boggling traffic follows, right? Very right, hehehe! But am not complaining... I noticed a long time ago, no one does anyway. Hehehe again!

But, let me go back to the pink sisters please, okay?! Here I go sago!

I came to accidentally spot this place sometime ago when I was not yet a Cebu resident, and happened to have chosen Ford's Inn for a 3D2N stay. Yep, that hotel near the gas station by the flyover. One morning, looking for breakfast other than the usual Vienna Kaffee Haus at ground floor of Ford's Inn, I walked towards nearby Joven's Grill, hoping they'd be serving breakfast (at least at their little coffee shop that teems with cakes and other delectables). Before I crossed however, I saw behind me was a green gate where the concrete fence had big signage telling me it was an adoration convent. So I went to check it out instead, and forgot all about breakfast hehe! Kill me if you must, but henceforth, I have never actually learned yet, if indeed Joven's Grill in AS Fortuna serves breakfast hahaha!

So what about the adoration thingy? Well, its just another chapel with a very wide concrete parking space with well-maintained surroundings. But contrary to that in Baguio, there are no cookies or jams to line up for in this compound. Just the chapel that is about the size of many houses of prayers in this country called 'churches'! Ironically, this adoration chapel in Mandaue is the most urban in terms of location compared to Baguio, Tagaytay, Davao and New Washington, but one that is "holier" (to me) in that there are not so many earthly distractions like products to buy nor manicured gardens with big statues for pictorials. It is just a plain and simple chapel sans the commercial enterprise. The wide concrete parking area that can probably house 2 basketball courts and a half gets easily hot at mid-morning, but thanks there are trees around for some cool respite.

Inside? Ah, the serenity that you would expect of a chapel. Its airy cool (when the electric fans start a whirring hehe), and it does not even get noisy, even if the busy AS Fortuna is just on the other side of the wall. Its a high concrete wall that's probably why! Oh, I say again that I am not religious, but even so, I've been frequenting this place for my very own way of talking to Him! In fact, whack me if its wrong, I like going to this place just to sit around, rest and think about things big or not!

What else? Lately I discovered that just before 3PM of most days, the nuns (about 15 to 18 of them, I think) would come out to the fenced-off altar for their prayers. Yep, happy that at least I already saw those "single" pews almost all filled with nuns in the pink habit (and white headgear or whatever those are called)! Their prayers are not the usual that you would commonly hear in many a church or chapel. It always includes some of them going up to the lectern to read passages from the bible, interspersed between their prayers and singing. Singing? Or is it chanting? Am not sure how that is called in the catholic church hehe, but all I know is that it is always a harmony that soothes the heart and soul - of course including my sometimes weary pea of a brain! I don't even understand most of the lyrics of their songs, but when one sister lightly taps on her organ (the piano-like thing, I mean) and the rest follow to sing the tune, I immediately get into some kind of trance happily listening to them. Come to think of it, when at prayer, their singing does not distract me esp with my eyes closed. It even instead makes my pleas more fervent hehe! Am not joking, if you're in Cebu, you should catch this scene at least once. Its just like having a massage, not on your physical self but your inner self. I think it is called "your spiritual side". I'm almost sure you will like it - even if you're not catholic - for what is the difference between a non-catholic and me who still cant even memorize Hail Holy Queen!

Lately too, I have come to consider this chapel as a nice quiet place to come home to in Cebu, after roaming the islands. Of course its always quiet in the house except when all my neighbors' dogs decide to have a choral barking spree at something as little as a cat jumpin a fence or another dog being walked by its yaya. HMP! Anyway, as said above, this chapel has been a comely resting place for me. I cannot share more of its religious significance as am not in the know about this "field-of-life" hehe. Blame that on my parents who triumphantly managed to school me at public schools 100% from kinder until college! Just the same, in my own little way (or is that interpretation), I like this chapel and am almost ready to call it a Tambayan - esp that now there is 'Fudge' just next door - but that's a different story that should merit a separate blog entry hehe!

Allow me to "report" some little observations I have had at this new tambayan of mine. Like what? Ah, like there is an interesting "barkada" of lovely lolas who frequent this chapel to pray the rosary loudly. I always muse at their merry presence! Many of them would come arriving in expensive cars, mostly chauffeured, though some still drive on their own even at that lovely tender age. I have seen 2 or 3 who are even wheelchair bound while others walk in canes. But they consistently have a lively lola banter over at the parking area while waiting for other members of their clique to arrive! Quite a jolly pack of dear lolas, I must say. But, when they go praying inside the chapel, it is fervent, and their voices echoing all over the chapel would get you to silently join them! Hah, especially when they are at the litany portion. You'll unconsciously be whispering with them as they say, "pray for us" over and over again. Hehe, I like it!

Hey, I must tell you these lovely lolas need not color their hairs with various shades of brown, even if some do. They are/were obviously the lovely mestizas of this city that probably graced the covers of many a magazine or alta-sociedad soirees of the recent past. It shows in the color of their skin, in the plumpness of their torsos AND the 'twang' when they pronounce "Santa Maria" and other such words or phrases that have retained their Spanish pronunciations to date. Makes me nostalgic... remembering mi abuela hermosa amada! Hahaisz!

By the way, and before I forget hehe, I would sometimes catch them bringing a plethora of snacks that they bring out either before or after their prayers. Sometimes they share it to those already present as they wait for others to arrive, but sometimes they also do so, as a group huddled at one or two of their luxury vans just after their rosary. I have yet to find a pattern on this, though I think they only do it 'before prayers' when they think their other amigas are taking too long to arrive until they think they have a quorum enough to start their rosary. I love them lovely lolas. I wish they were all mine. Sigh!

Oh yes, these lolas are a lovely crowd with a merry mix of an already 'mixed English, Tagalog, Spanish and Bisaya' for a language. They probably have not noticed me observing them (yet) but they usually make me smile when I hear anyone of them say "maria santisima", "ay caramba", "dios mio", "oh my goodness", "hay naku", or "hala kabuang" hehehe! Some of them still call their drivers "hijo". I just love them lolas. Oops, am getting too obvious... I miss my dear 'mi abuela' at seeing them, aight?! Anyway and lastly, here is more...

While I do not see "ube jam", "cookies" or even just the "Cebu chorizo" being produced or for sale at this pink sisters' convent, don't you and I ever think that the compound never gets an air of modernity! Start with the flower beds and trees, all the few of them compared to other convents. You'll notice that they're always tended to by gardeners! Yes, plural! I once asked a lady gardener and she told me she is a volunteer to help the sisters with little errands. Also asked a manong a few days ago, and I got the same reply. Hey, there are always at least two guards in the compound. Inside the chapel, the sisters have box-type electric fans on the floors near them when they're at that fenced-off altar to pray. They still use a microphone at the lectern when they read those excerpts from the bible - even if that is probably meant for just all about 15 of them to hear. And the organ is electronic! And the drop lights are beautiful! and the big monstrance is always shiny gold! And the "candles" are not low wattage bulbs!

AND, there is a woman (devotee) who frequents this chapel also during mid-afternoons and she seems to have taken a notch higher in terms of modernity. How? Everytime she comes to pray, just before kneeling on her favorite pew (4th row), she would prop her IPAD open. Her prayers are in there! Yep, I went near one afternoon (the atrevida in me kicking in again hehe), and saw her wiping that iPAD screen upwards to scroll her prayers! Yes, I can confirm with certainty, those are her prayers that she reads on the iPAD screen! Hah, laban kayo?!

Hmm, who knows, next time I go visit the chapel I might just chance upon a devotee sending her prayers via twitter! I'll tell you about that asap of course hahaha!


  1. I have heard many great things about the pink sisters but was never quite clear on what exactly or who exactly they were. thank you for the very informative post!

  2. hahaha. makes me remember the issue before of taking confessions over the phone. changing times....