Vignettes of a retreat

Here are some of the pictures I and Ruffy Ramos took during our 8-day retreat at the Sacred Heart Novitiate in Novaliches, Q.C. Let me start with Doyle's Lane, the road that leads to the main SHN Complex from Marcos Highway.

Doyle's Lane in the morning.

Doyle's Lane at noon.

A walk. From it's main entrance along Marcos Highway to the small rear gate facing Sacred Heart Village, the driveways and pathwalks of SHN are lined with trees, huge trees, that hint of the age of the place. Doyle's Lane is lined with rubber trees whose aerial roots are hanging from around twenty meters above. The pathwalk leading to the small Jesuit cemetery at the back of the complex is canopied with the thick foliage of aged narras and other hardwoods. I think it is essential to mention that this wooded place, sacred and a bit creepy sometimes, is an open air auditorium for an endless orchestra of God knows how many species of chirping insects.

This is SHN's main hall. It houses several chapels including the Oratory of the Sacred Heart. It has consultation rooms for retreats on the second floor of the left wing, while the right wing is almost entirely cloistered as it is where the novices live. Jesuit priests in charge of novitiate formation also live in this hall. The first floor houses several offices of institutions related to spiritual formation, it is also where the refectories are located.

The building was built in the early 30's, when I think it was the only structure standing on the lofty hills of Novaliches. Its architectural design reminds me of the early mission areas and the Jesuit reducciones of South America. The main entrance is adorned with detailed walls, posts, and Roman arches. The terrace on the second floor are magnificently lined with its roped columns.

My room.

This is an afternoon view of Caloocan City and San Jose del Monte, Bulacan from my window. Taken at around 5:30 in the afternoon, this picturesque image reminds me of the paintings of pastoral settings of great Filipino visual artists Fabian dela Rosa and Fernando Amorsolo.

Night view from my window. SHN is rich in stories about spirits, whether out of an experience which is deeply spiritual in nature, that is religious, or an encounter with some bizarre entity. It is not surprising though, given the age of the place. Nevertheless, these stories had not stopped anyone from coming back to SHN. In fact, I love being there. Perhaps, it is a place which is as spiritual as sacred. 

SHN celebrates its 75th anniversary this year. A couple of years ago, a book entitled "Spirit of the Place" (Edited by Frs. Aristotle Dy SJ and Albert Alejo SJ) was published by the Jesuit Communications. "Spirit of the Place" is a collection of stories, essays, poems, songs, and other creative as well as spiritual writings that were conceived out of the writers' personal experiences in SHN.

For the Jesuits, it's their 'womb and tomb.' It's where they spent their first two years as Jesuits, and it's also where they know they'll be laid to rest in the end. The small Jesuit cemetery at the back of the complex is the Jesuits' final resting place, there lie some of the more prominent Jesuit figures in history, among them, Fr. Horacio dela Costa SJ and Fr. Eddie Hontiveros SJ.


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