Guimaras Island is famous for its sweet mangoes, I read somewhere that even the US Whitehouse import these for their consumption. So before visiting the beach, we dropped by at the Our Lady of the Philippines Trappist Monastery where these mangoes are hand-processed by monks into various sweet concoctions.
The Trappists sound so mysterious to my ear. According to Wikipedia they were an offshoot of the Monks of the Cisterian Order which follows the strict rule of St. Benedict; living their lives in austerity, manual labor and prayers. This is the only Trappist Monastery in the country and they apparently chose to settle at Guimaras due to the island’s isolation.
I kinda imagined their place to be medieval looking; windy pathways leading to towering spires, robed monks dutifully going about their silent ways and haunting chants resonating through the hazy trees. Well sort of like the one I pictured in my head when reading Umberto Eco’s Name of the Rose. Alas, this was no turn of the century abbey.
Their church was quite modern; unpainted concrete outside, warm wooden panels inside, punctuated by generous window openings that light up its interiors quite well. I wish church interiors were dimmer as it looks and feels more solemn that way, but that’s just me of course.
We said a few prayers and took some photos; I was unable to access some of its area as it was cordoned off during that time.
We strolled through the abbey’s tree-lined path to the concessionaires where the Trappist monks sell their stuff. Like their European counterparts, the monks here fund their monastery through hand labor.
They make cookies, jams, otap’s, biscocho’s and the usual religious articles, among other things, to sell to passing visitors. Their bestseller according to the monk manning the counter was their Mango Jam, which of course was aptly sold out. I’ve tried Bacolod’s version of these sweet delicacies at Virgie’s pasalubongs before, so buy I did.
Unfortunately, unlike their Belgian and Dutch counterparts, they do not brew beers, which according to beer critics (I don’t really know which I am more surprised at; that there are beer critics or there are monasteries brewing beer) are said to be one of the best in the world. Well, I surely hope they’d change their mind in the future. Holy Beer versus San Miguel Beer; Guimaras’ Trappist Monastery would probably give good old SMB a run for their money.