Calaruega. The name connotes a sense of romance and passion from the Spanish colonial times. However, to those who had visited the place, it is a soothing location for those seeking religious solaces and meditation. It is named after a small town in Southern Spain, which was the birthplace of Saint Dominic, founder of the religious order of the Dominicans. It is located in Nasugbu, Batangas, which is three hour ride from Manila.
That time came when my family had a Visita Iglesia (ritual visitation of seven different churches during the Holy Week) in the Tagaytay area during the Holy week. We first visited the Pink Sisters’ Chapel and while we were on the road my brother pointed out that Caraguela was just a short distance away. When we reached the place, it was teeming with people. It had a church and an uphill area where the Stations of the Cross were located. The climb was steep and arduous, but it was worth the trip. At the top, one can see the panoramic view of the verdant hills.
Calaruega throughout the years has become a popular religious pilgrimage for Filipinos. It is a favorite retreat home for students from Catholic schools. It has the Catalina hall which holds 90 bunker beds with six bathrooms for women while for men, it has the Thomasian hall which comprises 80 bunker beds and six restrooms. It also has nine cottages with three single beds in it. The bedrooms were sparsely decorated in keeping with the religious theme. The rates are cheap in comparison to hotels in the area.
The lot area of Calaruega is huge and sprawling. While there, one can attend the prayer sessions in the Gazekubo (a portmanteau name of a cottage that looks like a cross between a gazebo and native hut). Outside, one can gaze at the green rolling hills. There are well tended gardens scattered around the area and a beautiful pond teeming with koi. Nearby, there is a hanging wooden bridge and once past it, is a picnic ground. It is peaceful, relaxing and breezy. It is a welcome respite from the urban jungle and ideal place for soul searching.
The main attraction is the Transfiguration Chapel which sits on top of the highest point in Calaruega. Just outside is the sculpture of the Risen Christ made by Benhur Villanueva in 1996.
It is a red brick chapel with a large stained glass on top. It is small with 150 seating capacity but its look makes you feel that you’re in the Mediterranean. It does not have the grandeur of Paoay Church in Ilocos but the views it provided can take your breath away. The lush rolling hills recall the pastoral English countryside described in Thomas Hardy’s novels. Lately, it has become a favorite place for weddings. It is truly a spectacular place.
If you are up for a spiritual rejuvenation and a close encounter with your Creator through nature, then Calaruega would be the most appropriate destination for you. With its undulating hills and a countryside feel, there’s no mistaking you’ll be pulling yourself together in no time, prepared to face again the challenges you left back from where you escaped.