One of the essential elements of the religious life is a life in common. Religious make a commitment to live the community life in a common brotherhood and in our Institute of the Incarnate Word, we strive to live out this ideal in what is known as a Convivencia, a kind of living together.
In the busyness of life, with each brother having a packed schedule during the time when the semester is in session in the Seminary, classes, individual and community work, study and other pressing duties and work of the apostolate may sometimes hinder the community living of the brothers. Although we may live under one roof, it may be that the brothers can be physically close but otherwise remote from each other.
In the charism of the Institute of the Incarnate Word, the Convivencia is presented as a counter to this tendency, a time spent living the community life together away from the daily distractions and a time to strengthen the bonds of brotherhood that binds us all as a religious family within the Institute of the Incarnate Word.
For this end, the Seminarians and novices of the Houses of Formation in Lipa, accompanied by the Seminary Rector and the Master of Novices, retreated to the little town of Sagada, located up north in the Mountain Province of the Philippines. It is a beautiful and pristine getaway, located high up in the Cordillera Mountains that form the spine of the island of Luzon.
Escaping the summer heat, we arrived to cool temperatures that can drop to 15º celsius at night if it rains. The days passed quickly, with mountain climbing expeditions, swimming in the rivers and lakes, playing sports and just spending time as a community, playing cards and board games and in conversation.
There were mountains aplenty to sate our mountaineering appetites, from the dreaded Pulis, to Ampakao, Demang and others. There was also the calm Danum Lake where we played sports by the lakeside, along its wide grassy banks.
At the junction of 2 rivers, the brothers had a lot of fun swimming, picking mangoes and enjoying the scenery.
The trek to Mt. Polis took the better part of the morning. We stopped by a stream to have lunch and then continued the long journey to the most distant of the mountains climbed. The long and arduous march ended with a strenuous last push up the very steep slopes of this formidable mountain, which rewarded those who persevered with a spectacular view of the surrounding vistas which seemed to stretch to on and on. And there, at the top of the mountain, reminiscent of the theophanies at Sinai and Tabor, we had the Holy Mass where God was once again present among us.
Mt. Marlboro is known as ‘cowboy country’ with the tops of the range having lush grasslands where free ranging wild horses can be seen if you are silent and careful with your steps. From the stunning sights atop Marlboro, a descent lead us to a pine-shaded alcove where we had lunch and then proceeded to descend to the blue hills. This odd formation of hills are tinted blue by the mineral content of the soil.
One of the important things that we did when we reached the peaks of mountains was to plant a cross, as a sign of the jurisdiction and lordship of Jesus over all creation. The crosses were solemnly blessed and left there to sanctify the place and as a memorial of our visit.
The inculturated images of the Gospel scenes featuring traditional Igorot elements, previous page, and the Bontoc Cathedral, below, featuring more elements of inculturation, including the Tabernacle.
We also managed to visit the nearby town of Bontoc, the seat of the Apostolic Vicariate of Bontoc-Ligawe. After visiting the Cathedral we made our way to the Residence of the Vicar Apostolic where His Excellency, Bishop Valentin Dimoc warmly welcomed us and treated us to a sumptuous tea whilst explaining the various efforts and works of the diocese in the evangelization of the local Igorot people and the inculturation of the Gospel there.
Our Convivencia ended in the province of Pangasinan where we spent a day in the quaint town of San Fabian and had the Holy Mass in the splendid old Church dedicated to Pope St. Fabian.
And as is customary, the Convivencia ended with a visit to the Marian Shrine of the Basilica of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary of Manaoag.
In that place and through the generosity of the Dominicans there, our Rector was privileged to say the Holy Mass in the Basilica where he preached a strong homily on the role of the Blessed Virgin in the plan of salvation and the importance, because of the disposition of Our Lord Jesus Christ, that Our Lady has in our own life. He encouraged the people of the Philippines to continue to strengthen their devotion of the Blessed Virgin.
After the Mass, he did the traditional blessing of the people, the blessing of religious articles and the blessing of vehicles.
We give thanks and praise to God for the manifold blessings and fruits that we have received through this Convivencia and ask the Blessed Virgin Mary, to accompany us in our voyage through life and to welcome us when we enter eternity.