Saturday, February 21, 2015

Of Dragons and Lions: The Taoist Temple of Cebu City

Enjoyed an extra rest day this week, Thursday, having been a holiday in celebration of the Chinese New Year. I've been seeing greetings all over. Kung Hei Fat Choi. Gong Xi Fa Cai. Gong Hey Fat Choi. Whether or not they mean the same, I really couldn't tell. My great maternal grandfather is pure Chinese, making me 1/8 Chinese. Sad to say, I haven't learned any Chinese word since birth although when I was a kid, my parents slightly entertained the idea of putting me in a Chinese school. 

Since last week, I've seen Chinese dishes featured on TV. Chinese New Year preparations--- noodles, rice cakes, or anything sticky. Dragon and lion dances, too! 

All these brought to mind the Taoist Temple my husband and I visited in Cebu City, one of the oldest cities in my very own country, the Philippines. Located in Beverly Hills, this temple was built in 1972 by the Chinese community in Cebu. Sincethen, this temple, a center of worship for Taoism, has fast become a famous top attraction among tourists, with its very expressive bright red and green color scheme and pagoda-style rooftop. 

From afar the temple looks like a replica of the Great Wall of China. It was just a pity that I wasn't able to capture that image.

At the entrance, tourists are welcomed by this large post

and by this dragon.

I am neither a devotee of Taoism (a religion that follows the teachings of Lao Tze) nor of Lao Tze (the famous ancient Chinese philosopher) but the climb up the 99 steps of the 300-meter high temple that is open to non-worshipers somehow gave me a glimpse of how Taoist devotees conduct their worship inside. 

That's my husband going ahead of me. He walks fast, while I sidetrip to get some photos.

He who walks ahead gets the first pose on cam!

Oopppsss... this warning must have made me subconsciously over-cautious that I missed taking photos of the other beautiful views around...

... such as the panoramic view of the city from the balcony of the temple, I was just able to catch this. Not a very good angle eh?

Just outside the temple sanctuary, this information board oriented me on the Taoist ritual.

First, they wash their hands as sign of cleanliness. Barefoot, they light joss sticks, kneel with joss sticks on both hands and pray for guidance and enlightenment. Then they hold a pair of wooden blocks, one in each hand, flat side up. Before asking the question, problem or wish, they have to request permission if God is ready to accept the question in mind by dropping the wooden blocks on the floor. They ask the question, problem or wish, one at a time. The answer to the question will be according to the position of the blocks: 

If the blocks of wood show a YES, one could make a wish or ask a question. If not, then it's either NO or MAYBE. NO means one has to come back another day and ask again. MAYBE means that the question, problem or wish is not very clear so one has to simplify the question and ask again. If the answer is NO or MAYBE, one can also consult the monks in the temple. 

After the question, problem or wish has been granted, one has to kneel and express thanks to God for granting His blessings and graces in life.

Up on the roof of the temple, dragons are on guard in every corner. 
Just staring at the colors so amazed me!

Oh, wait, I was also able to get this view of a lion sitting at the entrance of the temple hall, unceasingly watching the two dragons. It took me several attempts before I finally succeeded at it. 

Dragons in Chinese mythology and folklore are legendary creatures that take several animal forms such as turtles, fish and other imaginary creatures, but more commonly depicted as four-legged snake. While the dragon symbolizes power, strength and good fortune, the lion, a relentless fighter is known as the King of Beasts and is a symbol of strength, superiority and leadership. 

I don't know why but I just love looking at the photo above. Maybe because while I took the shots I had in mind this verse that says:

"... Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed..."
- Revelations 5:5

Happy weekend, everyone! 

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