On Churches

Traveling through Europe, you can't avoid entering the many churches that are the centerpieces of many of its cities. Now I'm not a practicing Catholic and I haven't been for years now, but somehow I'm compelled to visit almost every church that I come across here...even if it is just for a quick prayer. Maybe it's out of habit...I am Filipino after all. And for those of you who don't know, the Catholic faith runs deep in our fact, you could say that it is part and parcel of the Philippines.

Needless to say, during my travels, I've been to more churches than I could possibly count. I've seen all kinds of shapes, sizes, and styles -- Baroque, Gothic, Romanesque, neo-Classical (not that I know my architecture well enough to ever really distinguish the differences). But none have ever really moved me. Or made me feel like I was in a truly holy place. Quite opposite in fact. Usually the churches in Europe are of such grandeur and opulence that I feel rather uncomfortable. Just too much of everything that it's hard to find any kind of peace. Sure, they're impressive for their architecture, paintings, and decor, but that's not really what it's supposed to be about, is it? I'll never forget the St. Peter's Church in Vienna, a church so shockingly gold that I left with a nasty taste in my mouth. Instead of feeling God's presence or whatever or whoever it is I'm supposed to feel when I'm in there, I just saw a pompous display of wealth.

But this post isn't supposed to be about those churches. It's really about the one church out of the multitudes that actually made me feel something...the Chapel of the Holy Blood in Bruges.

I walked into that little chapel that had nothing but a few sculptures and maybe one or two paintings hanging on its stone walls, and instantly, I felt a it really was the house of God.

I walked around this humble and solemn place to find a sculpture of Jesus with his crown of thorns looking down in thought. I sat down in front of him and before I knew it, I was crying. The statue just oozed so much sorrow, I couldn't help the tears. I distinctly remember thinking, could this be how he looks down on us on Earth? With so much sadness in his eyes? I couldn't distinguish if it was disappointment or just pure sorrow that I saw. And if it were one or the other, what would it mean and would any one option be better?

Thinking of all those suffering today (every day) and all our wrongdoings that make such suffering possible, I just kept thinking what He, She, It, or whatever name or pronoun you want to use, thought about us. I don't know the word to describe what I felt in that exact moment...maybe sorrow, maybe compassion, maybe a little guilt? I don't know. But whatever it was, I felt...and it's a feeling I won't ever forget.

In Fuckin' Bruges (It's in Belgium)

Excuse the crass language above, it's all Martin McDonagh's! And unlike what Colin Farrell's character in In Bruges may think, this place is not a shithole! Far from it.

It's my last night here in Bruges and though I will have spent a solid five days here, I still feel like I'm not quite yet done with this enchanting little city. As the city's official guidebook says (and yes I am quoting a guide book here), it's a place "whose secrets you can’t unlock completely although they’ve captured your heart". I can't think of any better way to describe my feelings about Bruges.

One of the most well preserved Medieval cities in the world, it truly feels like I'm traveling back to the past -- during a time that I can only vaguely imagine. Every twist and turn of every street brings something new to take my breath away. Everything here just oozes a certain je ne sais quoi of a time long gone...the architecture, the churches, the Béguinages, the canals...

It's romantic and eerily mysterious all at the same time. It's a relic of the past and yet oddly modern as well with the ubiquitous wifi connection from the many cafes -- even from the famous Belfry! -- bringing you back to the present day.

I've never been to a place that's made me feel like this before and I'm truly sad to be leaving already.

Ik hou van jou, Brugge!