Thousands of pilgrims flock to this mountain full of mysteries especially during Lent for a variety of reasons – for healing, for an experience of repentance, out of theological curiosity, for some breaths of fresh air, and for the gift of a talisman.
I tried to recall how we went there in 1995 and on what ground as a horde of novices. A Carmelite nun gave us the orientation – some spiritual food for thought for the climb, very inter-religious to my recall. It was a significant part of our formation especially in feminism as we mingled with the female novices of the Religious of the Good Shepherd, the Order of the Carmelites, the Presentation Sisters, and the Sister Franciscan of the Immaculate Conception. We had a religiously fancy name for the group – Exodus!
The feminist accent we readily chewed up even if some of my fellow novices turned soporific of its omnipresence in almost lecture. We had a lecture on macrobiotics handled by the Good Shepherd sisters and the actual eating of the macrobiotically prepared food (e.g., proper way of slicing a carrot or peeling off an onion) required us to chew every feed 100 times before swallowing. Some male eyebrows spiked of course what with male impatience and the need to fill oneself with anything from power to bank accounts! Macrobiotics is simply one feminist lifestyle challenge to the speed of male harm to nature.
I guess I climbed Mount Banahaw then with a good dose of a deconstructed male-dominated religion. I went through the many rituals in the so-called New Jerusalem with a deep sense of reverence for what the indigenous believers considered as sacred stations. We had an audience with the Suprema who exuded utmost simplicity in words and hospitality as a leader. I was awed by how communal their religious lives was in the absence of the concept of private ownership and organically self-sustaining from the produce of women’s labor.
Banahaw: A Conversation with a Pilgrim to the Power Mountain is a conjoined “hike” of the Jesuit Vitaliano Gorospe’s personal views and account after doing pilgrimage for 5 times up the mountain, and a descriptive background of the practices in this holy place.
After reading the book, a sense of gratitude enveloped me. I have changed since then in my understanding about mountain spirituality thanks to my virtual mentors like Maggie Ross, Belden Lane, Kathleen Norris, and of course the mountains of trials and ordinary triumphs that we have gone through these years. The mountain is in the ordinariness of life and experience.
Still, I am aiming to climb Mount Banahaw again before the year ends. It is our local Tabor and Sinai!
Photo credit: Costalesnaturefarms