So I went from shivering in a tent on a mountain to sleeping soundly in a cozy room. With its own bathroom. Which happens to have a hot shower. Hallelujah! The guesthouse in the Monastery of the Transfiguration in Malaybalay, Bukidnon became my home for three days after the grueling Mt. Dulang-Dulang climb.
From a flimsy tent…
After my travel buddy left for Cagayan De Oro, I spent the afternoon walking around the city, drinking beer and trying to figure out what I’m going to do for the next three days. I wanted to check out some waterfalls or go spelunking but my legs and thighs were on the verge of collapse. What I needed was a bed.
The monastery is a well-known tourist spot in Bukidnon, probably the only place that most tourists check out aside from the golf course and the zip line in Manolo Fortich. People usually make reservations to be accommodated in the guesthouse as it’s also a popular venue for group and personal retreats. I didn’t know it at the time so I contacted the guestmaster, Father Elias Serra, that afternoon and casually asked if I could stay there for the night. What I first got was a gentle admonition from the good priest saying I should’ve inquired earlier. Luckily, they still had vacant rooms.
Getting to the monastery, however, was another challenge. It’s located six kilometers from the city center and about three more kilometers from the main road. Hiring a multicab to take you there costs around P100. I opted to just get on a multicab going to San Jose, get off at the main road and walk the remaining three kilometers. Regular fare only costs P10. Never mind that I’d have to subject my lower appendages to more excruciating pain.
It was getting dark, I was hungry and alone on a dirt road with only rice paddies in sight, lugging around a 10-kilogram backpack. This was turning out to be a very bad idea. I started walking, or more like hobbling from one foot to the other, until I came to a gate. I told the guard I was going to the guesthouse.
“Guesthouse?” he repeated the word like it was his first time to hear it. It was his first day on the job and he had no idea the monastery even had a guesthouse. He tried contacting another guard to ask about this mysterious guesthouse but his radio died. He still kept on fiddling with it, probably hoping he could make the batteries come alive through sheer willpower.
Thankfully, another guard who was about to start his shift came along and confirmed that yes, the guesthouse does exist. He offered to walk me there and carry my backpack. This made me so happy I wanted to cry. It was another long walk in the dark and my legs were still killing me with every step but having the 10kg weight off my back made it a lot more bearable. Manong guard’s cheeriness was also infectious. He told me about his hometown, his wife and kids, and asked why on earth I’m wandering around on my own in Bukidnon. I didn’t have a good answer to that.
We got to the guesthouse and I was welcomed by Ate Pablita, one of Father Elias’ assistants. My room, which had my name on the door, was waiting and so was a hearty dinner.
Waking up early the next day, I began to see just how beautiful this place was. Flowers in bloom, frolicking birds, panoramic view of a mountain range, it was a compendium of sickeningly gorgeous visual clichés. I sat on the front steps of the guesthouse, soaked up the morning sunshine and thanked the heavens I’m still foolish enough to appreciate clichés.
Some people come here to seek enlightenment and peace, rekindle spiritual fervor, or just to take a quiet breather from the chaos of life. I spent the rest of my morning walking and skipping barefoot on wet grass, pretending that I’m six years old again. Then I went back to sleep. I’m not sure if that’s how you find enlightenment but it was definitely fun.
If you want to stay in the monastery guesthouse, you may contact Fr. Elias at 0926.157.2327 or 0947.586.9391. The rate is P850 inclusive of meals, snacks and unlimited Monks’ blend coffee. Walking barefoot on wet grass is free.