By Erl Dylan J. Tabaco

The author is from Cagayan de Oro and is a Columban seminarian.

As I packed my things for a one-week vacation, I felt very excited because the places we were going to were new to me. Aside from it, I could relax after all the hard work of the school year. It was past seven in the morning when we finally reached our first destination, seven hours by bus from Manila, Banaue, Ifugao. Famous for its mud-walled rice terraces, it engaged my attention. As I was standing in front of that magnificent view, the sun’s rays illuminating the sky reminded me of a beautiful passage in the Bible. Reflecting on the magnificent scenery, I kept wondering about the beauty of God’s creation. It was a dream come true for me because before I had seen the rice terraces only in photos and movies.


Erl and Au Luceno

We went on a long walk and I was really touched by our bonding and camaraderie. Some of us were afraid to cross from one place to another. For me this was the most challenging part of our journey. We overcame our fear by encouraging and supporting each other. As we went back to the rest-house for dinner, we talked about our beautiful experience. Our journey that day was like our vocation journey.

As the long day of trekking ended, the serenity of the evening brought peaceful feelings to my soul. I felt a sweet, soft breeze across my face. Watching the moonlight convinced me that the beauty I saw and sensed in the natural world was one of the most important pieces of evidence of God’s divine nature. We were in an awesome place where nature could heal and cheer and give strength to body and soul alike.


Columban Seminarians with Columban Lay Missionaries Kyung-ja and Au

Our next destination was Sagada, Mountain Province, another famous place in the Cordillera region. I really enjoyed the weather, totally different from that in Manila. We went inside a cave where there were muddy and slippery rocks making our visit more invigorating and thrilling. We spent only one night in Sagada after which we proceeded to our final destination, Baguio City.

From Wednesday of Holy Week till Holy Saturday, we went to different churches for the Holy Week ceremonies and visited significant places, parks and monuments in the city. It was the first time for all of us to visit the Columban house in Baguio.

Spending time with myself during these days reminded me of my apostolate in Holy Rosary, Agusan, the Columban parish in Cagayan de Oro City, three years ago while I was still working with the youth there. I might have been a stranger in Baguio but experience-wise it was comparable to my own parish. Although I am no longer handling them, the spirit of the young people whom I used to serve before I entered the seminary remains in my heart. They may be at a distance but I believe in my heart that we meet in our prayer.

I attended the Mass of the Lord’s Supper in the Cathedral on Holy Thursday afternoon and was deeply moved after the Gospel when the parish priest played the role of Jesus and washed the feet of twelve persons from different walks of life representing the Apostles. Among them were a farmer, a politician, a teacher, a policeman and a houseboy. What touched me was the symbolism of the drama. It reminded me again that God called me not because of what I have but in spite of my frailties and unworthiness. I reflected on something I read: ‘There is no perfect vocation, only a perfect intention’. God calls us as we really are no matter what stage of life we are in.


Erl, Kurt and Charlie at the Mansion

I really liked Baguio because of its cold weather, tasty food and especially the hospitality of Kuya Alex and the staff in our house.

The whole week’s experience was breathtaking and memorable. I was able to spend ample time with my fellow seminarians and with myself as I kept on discerning about my calling. It was a place also for me to look at myself and my relationship with God.


Resting after a long walk

Our days in the Mountain Province are now a memory but the experience of our visit there will always remain in my heart. As my Holy Week vacation ended, another step had to be made as I continued my life’s journey. May the Lord continue to inspire me and strengthen my vocation in the days to come.

You may email Erl at earl.dylan@yahoo.com