Christianity. Islam. Judaism. Israel… These are just some of the things that come to mind once we think of the Holy Land.
As a Roman Catholic myself, I’ve always dreamt of visiting Israel and taking a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. 🙂 But because that stays as a dream for now, it’s very fortunate to have my featured traveler for this month who will share with us her very own inspiring travel experience…
And I’m talking about my high school batchmate, Arlene. 😀
As of press time, Arlene has been to 20 countries. She said, “I see to it that every year I can travel in spite of my hectic schedule. I consider it as my prize for all the hard work I’ve done in a year. Also, traveling helps me to de-stress and reflect. After every travel, I feel recharged once I get back to Manila.”
Traveling is indeed a big part of Arlene‘s life. However, she admitted that she doesn’t really remember when the travel bug bit her. “My earliest fondest memories were already of traveling. When I was young, we already used to travel a lot, especially during vacations. We frequented local places like Iloilo where my parents were brought up, Boracay, Roxas City, Palawan, Pampanga, Tagaytay, Batangas, and of course the summer capital, Baguio. I never miss Baguio during summer maybe because my siblings and I consider horseback riding as one of our favorite sports along with swimming.
“I love to see new places and people. It was my dream to know every language, even Bisaya or Karay-a. I consider ‘language’ as a souvenir I take from every trip. I make it a point to learn a little of their language. My mom also collects souvenirs like stones, sand, leaves, or whatever it is she can take with her then she writes the date and displays it in our home.
“We couldn’t afford international travel at that time, so we limited our trips within the Philippines. Nevertheless, we had so much fun. Our country owns some of the best places in the world!”
Going to The Holy Land
When Arlene visited the Holy Land last February, she was with her younger sister Analyn, mom Leonisa, and Aunt Lina. “It was our gift to my mom because her dream is to walk where Jesus walked. And out of four siblings, I was lucky enough to be chosen as their guide!
“It was priceless to share this experience with the people I love — with the people who share my deep faith in God. The only not-so-good part was I was the ‘porter’ since I had all the strength to carry their luggage!”
Whether she carried her family’s luggage or not, it was sure that Arlene‘s “holy” trip was worth it. She recalled, “Our first destination was the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan where we saw the Jordan river, Dead Sea, Mt. Nebo, mosaic city of Madaba, and the Treasury — where the movie Indiana Jones was filmed.
“After Jordan, we went to Israel — the Holy Land — and it really was a ‘holy land.’ Everything was green. You can feel it in their very fresh air and everything was preserved. It was an indescribable moment. You can go there by car or bus. The immigration checkpoint before you pass the border was really strict. It made us all nervous because their police always carry heavy weapons. We watched our every move as we didn’t want to cause trouble, especially not in that place.
“The first destination stop in Israel was the place where Jesus was born, Jerusalem. I felt like a character straight out of the Bible! I saw the houses, their dresses, and their faces. You’ll get involved, and I don’t know why, but I just felt like I was a few steps closer to Jesus because I was in His place, where He lived, and where He spent more than 20 years of His life.
“It was already a surreal journey from Bethlehem to Jerusalem. We traveled through Haifa, Israel’s second largest city. Next up was Mount Carmel for Stella Maris Church, Ceasarea, Jaffa. After that was Ein Karem for St. John The Baptist Church and Visitation Church (where Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth). We finally proceeded to Bethlehem for the Nativity Church and Manger’s Square (where Jesus was born), Milk Grotto, and Shepherd’s Fields (where the Angel appeared to the shepherds to announce the birth of Jesus).
“Our full day tour in Jerusalem included the Mount of Olives for sites like the Ascension Chapel (where Jesus ascended into Heaven), Pater Noster Church (where the prayer ‘Our Father’ was translated in different languages inscribed in the Church and outside), Palm Sunday Road (Jesus‘ entry to Jerusalem), Dominus Flevit (where Jesus wept upon seeing Jerusalem’s destruction), and Gethsemane Gardens for Basilica of Agony. We then continued to Mount Zion to visit St. Peter Church in Galicantu (where Peter denied Jesus three times before the cock crowed), Last Supper Room (institution of the Holy Eucharist), King David‘s Tomb, Dormition Abbey (where the Blessed Virgin died in her sleep). At this point, I was almost overwhelmed and I almost couldn’t imagine that we’ve been to so many places. We had an itinerary straight from my wildest dreams!
“The non-stop activities could be tiring, but I was caught up with the almost magical moments that came one after the other. I couldn’t take pictures fast enough. Actually, I wanted to document the whole thing!
“The most unforgettable place in Jerusalem for me was the Yardenit River where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist and Via Dolorosa — the 14 stations of the Cross. Our itinerary included the renewal of our baptismal vows in the Yardenit River. The water was so cold and even looked dirty so we were surprised that as we filled our souvenir containers, it ran clear! As for Via Dolorosa, that’s where we did the Visita Iglesia. We left the hotel around 4 in the morning, so we avoided a large crowd. Members from the group recited the prayers for each station and I led the eighth station. It was such a great feeling to experience those things in the places where they actually took place. I promise to go back there as much as I can. It feels really good to be that close to God and embrace my faith.
“As for food, one reason why I love to travel is because I lose weight and that’s 100% sure. I only love Filipino food aside from chicken, spaghetti, and pizza — which other countries can prepare, but with different ingredients and different tastes. But I loved the pita bread that looked like big pieces of communion bread. They were tasty, but I found them hard to eat.
“Overall, my trip to the Holy Land was truly an experience I will never forget.”
It sure is unforgettable! And judging by the life-changing experience the Holy Land gave Arlene, no other place must be able to top that! “As of the moment, I don’t have any plans to travel abroad because of my busy schedule — but my priority is to go around the Philippines. I’d love to see all the places in my own country.”
But still, she has this advice for fellow people with wanderlust: “Bring your passport all the time, pack light (you need space for your souvenirs), and please save for a Holy Land trip — I assure you, every centavo is worth it!” Rest assured, I’ll definitely take note of that!!!
And if that’s not enough, I’d like to leave you with these beautiful words Arlene mentioned in our interview. I hope it will inspire you as it inspired me! “Traveling is putting yourself in different scenes. Traveling is my best friend. It never fails to give me new learning, more realizations, and reasons to be happy in life. When I travel, I always go home with a new motto or belief that pushes me to strive harder. Traveling makes my mind, body, and soul rested and it feels great. Parents always say that it’s only education that can’t be taken away from you. I say please add ‘travel’ to that saying because memories last forever!”
This post is brought to you by The Lady’s 2012 Blog Project.
You can also check out my other featured travelers HERE.