Fr. Bernie Rosinski, SCJ, is back in the Philippines, teaching ESL as he did two years ago. Yesterday he posted a story about celebrating the Easter Vigil near Manila. Today he reflects on being the recipient of SCJ hospitality:
SCJ hospitality has some recognizable forms. Particularly when a guest comes from a foreign land, its usual form is to take that person to see some visual delight, or historical place, or some politically significant setting. On Tuesday, Fr. Al Back, SCJ, took me, along with some SCJ students from Dehon House in Quezon City, to Tagaytay, a resort area about 30 miles from greater Manila. I was the guest and brothers Bhat, Phu, Ngoc (Vietnamese), Patro (Filipino), and Jonathan (Brazilian) acted as my hosts.
Tagaytay is a long, long city stretched out along the eastern rim of an extinct volcano. Taal is the name of the volcano. There is a fresh water lake in the middle of the volcano crater and a number of islands protrude from the crater into the lake. The distance from the rim of the volcano to the lake down below is anywhere from 500-1000 feet, sometimes of sheer cliff and at others of sharply descending hills. After our visit when I got back I checked a large map of the Philippines in the seminary library and according to the scale on the map, the diameter of the lake is about 20-25 miles across. Before it blew its stack, this volcano must have been immense.
Filipino hucksters on the rim carry signs offering boat rides on the lake below. The winding roads down to the lake along the face of the volcano rim are daunting enough to test one’s courage.
We chickened out, of course, and instead had breakfast at the only restaurant in Tagaytay that was open at 6:30am: a McDonalds. I had hotcakes and sausage to go with my coffee and the others had eggs and rice with their coffee. I baulked at the notion of rice for breakfast. Now, purist Americans might protest at our choice of restaurant but we were all glad to see it. Its very presence is an indicator of the tourist clientele at Tagaytay
Hotels and golf courses dot the perspective, especially in the plains near the lake and crater basin and I am told that it is a great favorite with European and Australian tourists because of the great security it offers along with spectacular views and tropical warmth. It is open year round and the lets and leases are rather inexpensive.
On the south end of the rim is a Peoples’ Park built by President Ferdinand Marcos. His construction resembles a World War II bunker made of concrete that is slowly deteriorating. When I saw the bunker construction all I could think of was that he must have known that his day was coming. Jipneys take people from a parking lot to the top of a steep climb where the bunker restaurant, outdoor theatre, chapel, and tourist shop are located on a promontory. A twelve foot bronze pineapple outside the bunker is a favorite setting for family photographs.
Prior to our departure our group stopped for the “pause that refreshes” at a small restaurant where most enjoyed coconuts, sipping its liquid through straws and then spooning out its nut-like meat to eat. During this break I saw some wild monkeys on the side of the cliff directly below the restaurant, a mother with its infant. We evoked their curiosity but they kept their distance. The monkeys have a lot to learn about SCJ hospitality.