A Cosmic Journey in the City of Pines

More than 10 years ago, back when I was still working in a private institution in Baguio City, I, along with some of my colleagues visited a lovely place a few minutes away from Session Road. Nestled in a hill and surrounded by towering pine trees, it was a tranquil refuge of green vegetation that provides a break from the hustle and bustle of city life. Unfortunately, for some reason, I forgot its name and where it was located exactly. I couldn’t even remember how and why we went there. It is amazing however that after all these years, I have not forgotten how beautiful the place was and how wonderful and peaceful I felt when I was there.

My next visit came as a surprise. A week before the Panagbenga Festival, I had been in a frantic mode looking for accomodation in Baguio City. All the hotels and guest houses I had in my list were fully booked. Luckily, I was able to contact someone I know who lives there and she managed to book a room for us at Maryknoll Ecological Sanctuary.

As I researched for information about Maryknoll a few days before the trip, I read about the “cosmic journey” that one may experience when visiting the sanctuary which made me very curious. And that’s when it finally hit me. It was the place I’ve been wondering about for so many years! I also came to know that currently, it is being managed by a close friend and a former colleague, Ate Jane Foy-os, whom I have not seen for ages! Needless to say, I couldn’t contain my excitement. There was more to look forward to on this trip besides the Flower Festival.

Although the sanctuary is just within Maryknoll’s compund , I only got to visit it on our second day in Baguio, when the street dancing competition and floral parade were finally over.

The Ecological Sanctuary used to be the Maryknoll Convent School in Baguio City. After it was devastated during the July 1990 earthquake, the Marryknoll sisters later decided to rebuild and turn it into a comforting shelter of nature where visitors may take a cosmic journey, an enjoyable walk through a nature trail passing through fourteen different stations, each one symbolizing a magnificent event in the history of the natural world, earth and life. It endeavors to make everyone better understand and appreciate everything that exists in the cosmos, or the universe, which is regarded as an orderly, harmonious whole.

Moving from one station to the next was a series of fun and discovery. Every path that we took made us wonder where it was leading us to. One station presents the symbols of the World’s Religions, from Buddhism, Hinduism, to Christianity

There were also man-made caves to represent how the early humans used to live, their cultures, practices and traditions. Some of these were said to be replicas of the Tabon Cave in Palawan and the burial caves of Sagada, Mountain Province.

We also saw several Igorot houses which were distinct from each other, each one symbolizing the type of native shelter used by each of the tribes in the Cordilleran region.

Inside the sanctuary was a small house, they call the hermitage, which may be used as overnight accomodation especially for those desiring utmost solitude, perfect for lovers and honeymooners too. I would have preferred to stay here but it was booked during our visit. It was quite noisy in the room where we stayed for two nights with sounds of people talking and doing things echoing in all corners of the building.

The sanctuary was still as beautiful as I remembered. A walk in its serene and peaceful environment was absolutely a relaxing experience. It is a perfect place to find a moment of inner peace and tranquility.

Location: 25 North Santo Tomas Road, Campo Sioco, Baguio City

Getting there, Fees and Hours of Operation.

By private transport: Pass through Marcos Highway heading towards Manila, turning right at the Petron Gas StaTion at the BGH Rotonda area. On the second road to your right, turn right and make a left turn on the first road to your left. The property is to your left and hard to miss.

By public transport: Take a jeepney that is heading towards Bakakeng or Green Valley and get off at Campo Sioco (ask the driver to make sure to drop you off at the corner) and walk inwards, turning left on the first street you see and walk up a few hundred meters until you see a driveway to your left with the sign Maryknoll Ecological Sanctuary.

Taking a taxi cab from Burnham Park should cost only about Php45 (about USD.90) so if there are about four in your group, that’s just a few pesos more than if you were to take a jeepney.

Business Hours: Open daily from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Entrance Fees: A modest entrance fee of Php40 (about USD.90) per person is charged for the maintenance of the property. No extra charges for food and beverages brought from outside

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