Friendship is a form of prayer that nurtures and nourishes body and soul. The few people I call friends give the word “supportive” new dimensions and elevate fun to an art form. So it came to pass that my Visita Iglesia pilgrimage developed a third leg, which is not likely to be the last. This time we ventured into the opposite direction of Metro Manila and into the Cavite area, naturally with my ever-faithful cat Champagne in tow. It’s the perfect training for her, preparation for the long journey ahead.
The adventure began with unexpected traffic that had me thinking that if we did the pilgrimage on foot it might have been faster. I don’t know what is going on with Metro Manila traffic these days, bit everything moves at a snail’s pace and is alarmingly out of control. So what should have been a quick getaway from Manila took a couple of hours. But eventually we found ourselves in Santa Rosa, Laguna and well on our way up to Tagaytay. If anyone asks you for a tip as where to have a damn good lunch there, remember two words: Balay Dako and let your tastebuds do the talking.
Driving down to Silang, Cavite is then a piece of cake and a lovely drive. The church of San Antonio de Padua is perfect for weddings, or any occasion that necessitates intimacy, charm, and traditional Filipino setting. There is nothing grandiose or pretentious about this church, which is precisely what makes it so priceless. The arched windows that allow a heavenly cross-breeze and the subdued lighting are two elements that make any wedding planner’s job easy. It’s romantic, serene, and very conducive to prayer. There are no vendors around, and the church is located far back enough from the main road to ignore the traffic. It’s the type of church where you can sit back and ignore the sermon in peace and quiet if you don’t like what the priest is saying, and I say this only because this is not a Jesuit-run parish, otherwise you wouldn’t dare do so.
Next stop was the chapel at the national shrine of Our Lady of LaSallette, more for personal reasons than the historical significance of the shrine. The churches in Cavite are an interesting contrast to what I saw in Bulacan the day before. Less decorated and all with architecture that take into consideration the landscape, integrating the natural elements of wind and sun into the churches. In Bulacan you pray with and in the middle of the community or town. In Cavite, on the other hand, the wide open natural spaces come first.
Champagne had been very good all this time. She has learned to go along with churches and prayer time, keeping quiet when nobody else is speaking, standing when others do so, and sitting in attention when her travel box is in motion. In the LaSallette church, however, I placed her on a pew, walked away to photograph, while “Aunty Charlotte” and “Uncle Max” as they are known in the Dear Champagne series on this blog, also walked around, reliving their wedding day there. So we all left the feline alone for a few minutes, under the shadow of the Sacred Heart statue, but this was not according to plan, so all of a sudden there was a resounding MEEEOOOWWWW! that reverberated throughout the church. I dashed over to collect her, then we sat down again for quiet prayer and she was back to her quiet self. In Bulacan she held out 9.5 hours without food, water and toilet (her choice, not mine), and in for the Tagaytay-Cavite tour she held out 10 hours! Two more and she will make it Manila – Istanbul without a hitch!