Photo Essay: Monasterio de Tarlac

Saturday, October 13, 2012Ryan Mach

I don't usually go to church to attend mass (don't tell my folks about this). Not that I'm an atheist or agnostic. I believe in God, I pray before eating, sleeping or before leaving the house. Just like a good Christian. But going to church on Sundays is something I rarely do. In fact, I only go to the holy house when I'm out of town and I happen to see an old church in the area I'm visiting. I really like my church to be serene and peaceful - and you can't find that in the metro during Sunday masses. So yeah, you can pretty much say that, that's one reason I stopped going to church.
To have some serenity and peace wasn't exactly the reason we wound our way up this hill overlooking the idyllic town of San Jose in Tarlac. I'm not sure whose idea was it either. After our fun whitewater kayaking, the group unanimously agreed to make a short detour at Monasterio de Tarlac, a religious monastery perched atop the mountain.

The very first thing you'll notice here is the imposing structure that rises near the precipice of a sprawling garden. It's the statue of the Risen Christ which serves as a guide to motorists going to Tarlac Eco-Tourism Park. This 30-ft religious monument is also the home of a relic (from the cross of Jesus Christ), kept and enshrined in a glass case at the altar of the church.
 A short history as to how the relic got to where it is now:  When Frater Archie Cortez, founder of the monastic community, paid the Diocese of Essen in Germany a visit a few years ago, he met Msgr. Volker Bauer whose community was said to be closing down. This German monsignor asked Frater Cortez if he could take care of the relic under a precondition for its donation: a church dedicated to the relic had to be constructed, which was agreed on, even though he wasn't really sure where to get the money to build the church.
The place is slowly becoming a popular pilgrimage site and hopefully, a favorite site for tourists and photographers.
As of our visit there last September, construction was still on going

View of San Jose, Tarlac from the site

The park has some grass lands and cultivated areas.

Not a church. I'm thinking it's an office of a sort.

Mini-stage at the side of the church

A picnic gazebo

A castle

Statue of the risen Christ

How to get to Monasterio de Tarlac:
If you're going there by a private transport from Manila, you can take the Luzon Expressway and take Sta. Ines Toll Plaza exit in Mabalacat. From there, you can head northward to Tarlac City. Make a left turn and proceed at the back of McDonalds in Aquino Highway. Making a right turn and crossing the Aquino bridge northward towards Camiling will get you to Brgy. Tibag where you can take the road to Brgy. Lubigan in San Jose, Tarlac then drive up the zigzag concrete highway to Monasterio De Tarlac Site.

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