Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Jacob's well in Banahaw

It has been a few years now when I visited "Balon ni Jacob". In the mid 1990s, I was part of a mountaineering group that guides students to the Sta Lucia complex in Dolores Quezon in the foot hills of Mt. Banahaw. In a months time I would be there almost every weekend at the end of each semester. I brushed up with my Kasaysayan 1 (History 1 a GE course) to be able to relate what we encounter in Banahaw to the lessons of the students. This immersion to the community in Sta. Lucia gave me an appreciation of the richness of the history, nationalism, religiosity and intense way of life of the pilgrims and the community in Banahaw.

The whole complex is comprised of different "puwestos" spread accross waterfalls, caves like balon ni jacob, crack on the ground (husgado), kalbaryo, kinabuhayan and up to "durungawan" the summit of Mt Banahaw where you will see the promised land.

Each one of these puwestos have a rich story behind them and one can be swept into the concept of cleansing both physical and spiritual. Jacobs well is one of these sites. It is a cave rather than a well. it has a stair where the pilgrim can slide into the cold slab of stone into the icy cold water inside the claustrophobic chamber where only two or three persons can fit. One has to prepare mentally.

Another puwesto is the husgado a long twisting dark chamber that you would need candles to be able to negotiate yourself out of it. The locals describe husgado as the most difficult and if one is unrepentant some will not be able to go through. The first time passed through husgado, it was not without difficulty. The whole excercise the local pilgrim says represents the belief that one has to go through darkness and difficulty before seeing the light. And indeed, it was such a relief to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

At present, I believe that Mt Banahaw complex now is closed for the public and even pilgrims. The DENR officials declared a 5 year closure to let the mountain which is a national park, recuperate.

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