TOMS

I heard about Toms,  their advocacy and the whole One For One set-up a few years ago, it was quite interesting but I could not for the life of me wrap my head around the idea that these Espadrilles were actually worth their 4,000Php price tag ($100 in the Philippines) but one day I got giftcards to Adora in Greenbelt and discovered that they carried Toms —Now, since I had enough giftcards for two pairs and since they were now kinda free, I didn’t mind buying them.

They turned out to be incredibly comfortable! I was in college at the time and well, they soon became my go-to shoes. I would wear them everywhere, everyday, and just walk, walk, walk! They were comfier than traditional espadrilles because it wasn’t abaca fibre direct on my soles and though the construction of the shoe is so simple, you feel pretty protected for city walking. It was a big bonus that the Toms advocacy really appealed to my service-oriented lifestyle, I could wear really comfy shoes that looked nice AND with every pair I bought, a child in need would get shoes too! I was happy, kids were happy–it’s all good.

It was an even bigger bonus when I discovered that Toms wasn’t just giving one pair of shoes to children in need, they were giving those kids shoes as the shoes were needed, so that means as the shoe deteriorates or as the children grow, they keep getting new shoes for about 5 years if I’m not mistaken. Incredible, right?

The shoes that Toms gives kids become huge morale-boosters because kids who used to dream of being able to have their own shoes, finally have the shoes that they never thought they would and they can wear the shoes to school everyday and not have to worry about wearing them out. They can now walk to school safely and come to school with less trouble. Simple but truly incredible!

I bought Blake’s book, Start Something that Matters and well that convinced me even more that Toms is a brand to support and talk about. A lot will say that at the end of the day, it’s still a business but hey, we all have to survive but very few make time to make sure they’re doing good for others while trying to survive.

I quickly became a fan and the next thing I know, I’ve bought several pairs in different designs. I’m not really collecting them and just buying them and keeping them in my shoe rack, I buy a pair every few months and really make the most out of them–but that’s mainly cause when I have a new pair, I just can’t stop wearing them everywhere! Yes, I’m fangirling over Toms.

I’ve travelled in them, gone to the beach in them, painted in them, painted on them, got up on stages in them, walked through the jungles in them; I’ve gone to the mall with them, to school, to church, to work, to lunch, to dinner in them; I’ve gardened in them, played all kinds of games wearing them; I do everything in them!

I love all my Toms so much that I just HAD to have Toms Wedges as my graduation shoes! ..to march in them but because Toms doesn’t carry my size in the Philippines, my shoes had to be sent here by my uncle in California. Which brings me to my only disappointment with Toms, they don’t carry size 10 in the Philippines. Most of my Toms were locally purchased from the male selection except the Orange Bimini Stitchout, the Black Glitter and the Black Wedges because Toms doesn’t carry size 10 in the Philippines. I’ve been asking them for years if they could bring size 10s in but I guess I’m also glad they don’t because if they did, I’d probably own a lot more pairs of Toms. Toms are still awesome though and I wear them everyday. ❤

03:56-4:03, Putting my Tom’s on. 😀 https://vimeo.com/30939501

The Comfort of Silence

Seafarers and their families who want to commune with God in their own quiet way can find a safe haven in this Bukidnon monastery.

During times of inner turmoil, there are times that one just wants to hide away or just shut down. A state of quietude for seafarers wanting to take a break from the tremendous pressure they endure on the high seas every single day. They just might find their respite high up in the mountains at roughly 622 meters above sea level, just behind the Kitanglad Mountain range: the Benedictine Monastery of the Transfiguration, where guests realize that inner restlessness can be eased by something as simple as silence. Situated in the hilltops of Brgy. Casisang, Malaybalay City in the agricultural province of Bukidnon, the monastery welcomes guests who come alone or in groups.

The weather is perfect; the sun shines brightly in the day, and the breeze is cool at night. The sights are amazing—beautiful mountains surround you, with coffee fields on the sides, rice paddies sitting quietly next to the dirt roads that lead up to the guesthouse. A masterpiece of National Artist for Architecture Leandro Locsin, the Monastery Chapel sits atop a little hill. The food is delicious; simple and well-balanced, with the relaxing flavors of a homecooked meal. But best of all, the solemn atmosphere is perfect to soothe the restlessness within.

Fr. Columbano Adag, OSB, founded the monastery and has been living on the property since construction began in 1982. He is one of two monks in the monastery who are also priests and the eldest among the monks in Malaybalay.

A solemn experience

Once you’ve settled in, walking around the sprawling property is one of the leisure activities you can find addictive. Adjacent to the Guest House is the Monastery Chapel surrounded by beautiful flowers neatly planted into cascading boxes, and across it is the open field where the Breakfast with the Monks is held every second Sunday of the month. Just beyond the garden is the Museum of Liturgical Vestments with a collection gathered from all over the Philippine archipelago. The museum overlooks the coffee fields that roll gracefully down the sloping hills. The coffee planted in the Monastery farms is roasted and sold as Monk’s Blend coffee.

The Benedictine Monks can be heard singing the Matins as early as 3:40 in the morning if you come close enough to the chapel. If you can get up early enough and find your way to the chapel in the dark to read along as they sing, you’ll find it hard to hold back tears from the absolute beauty of the experience. The monks file into the chapel in absolute silence and then disappear back into the convento as solemnly as they entered.

At 5 a.m., they shuffle back out and sing the Lauds, their morning prayers before they celebrate the Holy Eucharist with a handful of daily massgoers—less than ten on regular days but in the hundreds on Sunday mornings, according to Fr. Elias Serra, OSB, who is the guestmaster of the Monastery Guest House. There are also prayers before lunch, after siesta, and after dinner at 8 p.m.

The freshly roasted Robusta-Arabica coffee in the Guest House brews 24/7 and is free flowing for all guests. Although Fr. Elias always apologizes for the simplicity of the food, this writer finds it scrumptious and delicious. Breakfast is served at 7 a.m., morning snacks are ready at 10, a.m. the lunch bell rings at noon, afternoon snacks are on the table at 3 p.m., and dinner comes out at 6 p.m. Between prayers and meals, a routine is established but it is not imposing. Though you are encouraged to participate in prayers, you are free to do as you please while enjoying the peaceful silence.

Heartspace

Dom. Pachomius San Juan, OSB, aka Dom Paco handles Heartspace—a mentorship program that promotes prayerful living in daily life through retreat programs or workshops, either in groups or in privately directed retreats.

Dom Paco has been a Benedictine monk for the last 29 years and is now a deacon. Among his other assignments in the monastery, he is the retreat master who is regularly invited to direct retreats and recollections in other parts of the country, as close to Bukidnon as Davao, and as far north as Antipolo.

Inspired by sacred scriptures and the Christian contemplative tradition, Heartspace is designed to help you get into the practice of meditation as an expression of spiritual wakefulness as you go through everyday life. It will also help you become an avenue for social change and unity in and around the community you belong to.

This kind of emotional and relational strengthening is something that seafarers, their wives and children can welcome. Fr. Columbano’s history with the maritime industry does go back a long way. During the time that the Associated Marine Officers and Seaman’s Union of the Philippines (AMOSUP) was still based in the piers of Manila Bay, he would regularly say mass in its building and pay a visit to a former student, the late Captain Gregorio Oca.

Locations may have changed, but the connections have withstood it and the need for spiritual refreshment remains the same.

Call the Benedictine Monastery of the Transfiguration at (I need to find the number).

Originally published in Seafarer Asia‘s Maiden Issue, June 2012

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