Saturday, April 20, 2013

In God's Presence in Jeju Island

I have so much to write about my 10-day-solitary travel in South Korea but don't know where, how and what to start.  I'm contemplating should I write the itinerary-type-sort of travel trip to my "few" readers or just kick it off with the highlights of the trip - but i got  a LOT and haven't sorted out which is the best.

I want to write something from the heart..
something that I brought home with me..
something that I know had made the difference in me..
something that I can say that made that travel the most memorable one.

...and i guess, this is the best way to start it off.

On my 4th day in South Korea, I left the early spring colds of Seoul that I hardly managed to endure during my first three days and landed in Jeju Island.  On my way to the boarding area in Gimpo Internaltional Airport, I learned about the weather forecast in Jeju based on the flight board announcements - there's higher chances of rain but I shrugged it off, hopeful that Mr. Sun will be welcoming me with open arms of sunshine in Jeju. It's an island anyways and the sun could be boastful.

But when I stepped out of the less-sophisticated Jeju International Airport than its neighboring airports in South Korea, Jeju welcomed me with drizzles and gloomy skies. It's not the weather that I was expecting to celebrate my birthday.    I had it planned for nine months and only had one place in mind to spend my special day alone... only in Jeju Island.  But as I was running to catch the Airport Bus 600 to Seogwipo City, the rain started pouring.

It was a  mixed of all concerns and things to do.  
        it was raining - how can i get pictures outside?
        it was my birthday that I scheduled in my itinerary to celebrate by going around the world in Soingook Theme Park...
        where's the bus stop to Jeju Hiking Inn...
As I pondered on these thoughts, I consoled myself.  I should not feel bad with this not-so-inviting-for-outdoor activities weather. I can still go around the world (as planned at the miniature of famous landmarks of the world in Soingook Theme park) the next day.

I can still get through the day - my special day. 

I then made a quick changes in my itinerary and considered spending the day indoor - in short, museums! While on my way to Jeju Hiking Inn, I juggled looking at the map and at the same time checking which of these indoor tourist spots can be the place to spend my rainy birthday.  I thought of the choices around Jungmun Tourist Complex  - Ripley's Believe It or Not (but it's too smarty and it's not my kind of thing, i always get sleepy watching such on TV, how much more being in there), Chocolate Land ( i don't feel like looking at chocolates on display - sugar rush can't do anything right now) or Yeomiji Botanical Garden (there's a lot in the Philippines too).

It's a lot to choose from but nothing to choose as well. It was like flipping pictures of places that appeared like an animation of my power point presentation before I left the Philippines.  I stopped browsing the travel guide and looked outside the window as I started to glimpse the sea from afar with the raindrops in between my sight. 

After more than thirty minutes, the bus announcement caught my attention as it mentioned the bus stops in Korean, English, Chinese and Japanese.  I scribbled on the map all the bus stops so I'd know where to go around in the next days of my trip around Jeju Island.  Finally, the bus stopped at Sunbeach Hotel and Resort and the driver pointed the direction to Jeju Hiking Inn.  
Sun Beach Resort Bus stop in Seogwipo City
From the bus stop, I pulled my luggage down the slope of the road with my backpack and with my green-pink-purple-bubble jacket as my only shield from the pouring rain.  I was drenched and solitarily on the road while looking for the place to stay. From the drama's plot, it was so pathetic. But as I alternately pushing and pulling my luggage (thanks to my four-wheeled luggage, can maneuver it easily), I saw the Seogwipo Harbour and the Saeyeongyo Bridge.  A bit of excitment kicked in as I knew I was just blocks to the sea.  And I told myself, there's sunshine after the rain.

Seogwipo Harbour
I stepped in the entrance of Jeju Hiking Inn around two in the afternoon, just in  time for the allowed check-in. Kevin, the receptionist, was seemed like expecting me already that he uttered my name before I handed over my printed booking confirmation.  After providing me some guide tips around Seogwipo and Jeju City, I followed Kevin to the second floor's Room 206.  He showed me where the sleeping pad heater, taught me how to use it and reminded me to keep my door locked.

Alone in my room with the rain kept on pouring outside as if I'd be blessed more for the rest of my life, I turned on the heater, switched on the TV but alternately looking outside the window checking if the rain has stopped.  

After like a forever-of-nowhere-thirty minutes, I got restless.  I have to go out and just can't stay inside my room.  It's my birthday and I have chosen to celebrate it in Jeju Island. Nobody and nothing can hinder me from celebrating my presence in this world.

When I looked outside the window again, I looked up the sky.  There, I saw the tip of the cross exclusively towering the roofs.  Then I thought I'm just nearby the church though am not sure if this is the right one. 

Hurriedly, I checked the travel guide that I got from the Tourist Assistance Center at the airport and looked for the landmark of that church.  I then browsed the Jeju pages of my self-made travel planner where I cut and pasted Seogwipo Catholic Church's address in Hangul (Korean).  I had it handy just in case I need to show it to the taxi driver and bring me there.  Looking at the map, it seemed like it's just within the vicinity of Jeju Hiking Inn.

I then mumbled in prayer, "Lord, help me find you".

With revived spirit, I grabbed my jacket, ran down the stairs and borrowed an umbrella from Kevin.  As I stepped out of the Jeju Hiking Inn, I kept on looking up at the cross that I saw from my room.  It was like the star guiding the the magi to find the manger.  I know I can find it!  I thought of going back to where I got off from the bus - it was on uphill and I'd surely see it from there.  But a few steps from the inn while alternately looking up, I figured out that the cross was somehow along the main road.  Then, I trailed the side of the street and there I saw the church.

Prayer answered in less than a minute!

Seogwipo Catholic Church

From the gate, I managed to understand the mass schedules and some engraved writings of the church history.  Hurriedly, I approached the main door.  It was open but seemed nobody's there.  It was only three in the afternoon on a Sunday and a bit unusual for me for the church to be empty (Philippines being a predominantly Catholic in religion, the church can be crowded all throughout the day on a Sunday).  As I stepped inside, across the door was like a seminar room set-up with wooden chairs and a whiteboard. Connected to it looked an office area as I took a peek from the glass wall.  I was too cautious not to be mistaken of someone doing something fishy so I immediately went back to where I entered.  On my right was a staircase with stained glass designs on the wall.  The defeaning silence had the sound of the raindrops and my careful steps echoed inside the place.  There was nobody to ask if I was indeed in a church or in a community center. 

A bit hesitant but at the same time my curiousity flows urgently through my veins.  I climbed up the stairs slowly while looking at the stained glass of Jesus and Mary.  I thought maybe the mass is celebrated in the second floors in Jeju and not the typical Catholic Church everywhereelse.  As I ascended the stairs, I saw the large portrait of Divine Mercy of Jesus with the statue of one of the saints beside it.  There's a long chest table with scattered prayer pamphlets at the top.  Adjacent to it was a long wooden bench that maybe served as the waiting area or something to just sit down and have some reflections.  On the left of the portrait was a half-opened door.  Slowly, I approached the door and had a peek.  It's the chapel!  I slowly pushed myself inside - it was a bit dark without any lights on but only the illuminated red flame mounted at the right side of the altar.  I figured it was an electric fan heater.  I saw the same thing in Full House when I traveled in South Korea in Year 2010.

I felt a bit frightened but whisked it off.  Why should I fear when I am looking for Him?

I walked a few steps to take the seat at the last row of the center aisle.  I looked around quickly with undeniably fearful thoughts. I'm not afraid of ghosts but seemed like the devil is at work.  I took a deep breath and kneeled down.  It felt different!

It was so silently solemn that I cannot explain what it was like. 

I haven't felt that before even in the most solemn recollection that I attended back in college years. 

Then, I started praying not silently but with a voice that echoed within the four corners of the chapel.  I was listening to my own voice.

It was a monologue but seemed like a conversation...... with God.

After my "short, heartfelt and sincere speech" while holding back the tears (it's not the time yet to be emotional, I might feel homesick), I took a seat and just breathe the solemnity of the place.  I prayed on full mystery of the Holy Rosary, took a few pictures and promised to come again on the next day.

Then, with indescribable feeling of inner peace and calmness, I went out and took the bus to Jungmun Tourist Complex and celebrated the rest of my special day with Mr. Teddy at Teddy Bear Museum.

I found the reason to celebrate there!


OrangeBangkok22 said...

Anywhere is nowhere unless we are with HIM. And what a coincidence, I'll be spending my birthday too next month in Jeju and was looking for a church when I came across your blog. Love it! Happy travels to you...

OrangeBangkok22 said...

Anywhere is nowhere unless we find HIM there. What a coincidence! I too, will be celebrating my birthday in Jeju next month. I came across your blog while looking for a catholic church there. Happy travels to you....

Wanderer Claire said...

Thanks for your nice comments! :-)