The eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in the island of Luzon in the Philippines, in June 1991, is considered the second largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century. Its massive discharge to the atmosphere is said to have cooled the planet for a few years.
Yet despite volcanic ash and mud burying whole towns, one structure remained standing, the San Guillermo Parish Church in the town of Bacolor, Pampanga.
When one approaches the church, it is not too obvious that half of its original 12-meter height is submerged in mud; only the low roofline may be a little give away.
When you come closer to its facade you notice that the doors are too small. It’s because they used to be the windows of the choir area at the second floor.
When you come inside you notice that the new floor is now level with the arches of the original windows of the church.
In a collective show of faith, the townspeople painstakingly dug up the altar and retablos. They had to put them under the dome which is the only part of the church high enough.
They were also able to save some of the old church bells dating from the 1800s.
Further exploring the grounds shows how high the volcanic mud has covered the structure.
Behind the church is a cemetery. These graves are new ones on top of the old which are now literally 6 meters below the ground.
Fortunately the church has been successful in making new gardens grow as well.
It also houses a museum that shows its history and story of restoration.
Today it remains to be a place of worship. An inspiring symbol of a people’s faith and resilience in the face of tragedy and disaster, perhaps it is also their wellspring of hope.
The human spirit is tested often, and its hardest test comes in those rare times of great tragedy, when it also shines the brightest.
That life is like a river is an oft-repeated metaphor. Indeed, like life, a river can be slow or fast in places, can be full of rocks and rapids but can also be surrounded by woods and tranquil scenery. We may not always know what lies ahead — an entry to the ocean or the edge of a waterfall.
True, but what I also realized is that each one’s life is different. Our rivers are not the same. Someone’s river may look like a quiet brook in a forest while yours seems nondescript in the middle of grassy banks — like that of the boys in the photo. But who is to judge which river is better? Is a lovely but lonely river better than a simple one with friends, laughter and fun?
Whatever the river ahead, there is only one way to enjoy it. Jump into it!
(Somewhere in the province of Bulacan in the Philippines)
Katoomba Falls, seen here with its several segments, is like nature preening.
It calls you to get close, glide above the valley and fall with its waters, cascading from the ridge to the forest below.
Fortunately, one can do so within the safety of the Skyway cable car. But getting this shot meant holding out and pointing the camera directly at the valley 270 meters below.
“Katoomba” comes from the aboriginal name meaning “water tumbling over a hill.”
The Katoomba Falls is within the Blue Mountains National Park, a World-Heritage listed site, just 1-1/2 hours drive from Sydney (around 100 kilometers).
What a privilege to be alive, to breathe, to see, to feel!
(Morning in Laguna province in the Philippines.)