By Dhel Nazario
Chinese-Filipinos or “Chinoys” normally make a dash for the temples before or during the Lunar New Year to pray, offer, and meditate. This coming Lunar New Year, stop by these temples found all over Metro Manila where you can get an auspicious start to the Year of the Pig.
FO GUAN SHAN MABUHAY TEMPLE
Location: 656 P. Ocampo St. Malate, Manila
It was in Cebu back in 1989 where the first Fo Guan Shan temple in the country – the FGS Chu Un Temple – was established. It was soon followed by FGS Yuan Thong Temple in Bacolod City, FGS Mabuhay Temple in Manila, and Fo Guan Yuan in Ilo-ilo.
Fo Guan Shan temple is perfect if you wish to escape the noisy and busy Manila streets. The temple boasts of contemporary beauty, sophisticated design, and activities patterned after the Three Acts of Goodness: do good deeds, speak good words, and think good thoughts. The temple will be open on February 5 for those who wish to get a dose of serenity and peace.
Those who have been to the place would tell stories of delight when asked on their experience inside.
OCEAN SKY CHAN MONASTERY
Location: 716 Jose Abad Santos, San Juan, Metro Manila
Located in Little Baguio, Greenhills, the Ocean Sky Chan Monastery is the Philippine branch of Taiwan’s Chung Tai Chan Monastery. The temple, which was established back in 2001, offers free Zen meditation classes and other services, under the direction of Chung Tai and Grand Master Wei Chueh.
The temple follows traditional Chinese Ch’an, emphasizing on teachings based on sudden enlightenment and gradual cultivation.
The temple has five floors designed to be spacious, bright and elegant with a meditation hall and an auditorium to accommodate hundreds of people performing Chan meditation, or for listening to Buddhist scripture. Hoping to inspire Buddhist virtues in all, they also offer meditation classes in both Chinese and English; Buddhist chanting classes, children’s summer programs and summer camps, meditation retreats and other activities.
Female monastics at the temple all graduated from the Taiwan Institute of Buddhist Studies with the goal to spread compassion. The “Four Tenets of Chung Tai” serve as the basis of the temple’s teaching method, aiming for purification of the human mind, and the realization of life’s true value and meaning.
The Four Tenets of Chung Tai are:To Elders be Respectful; To Juniors be Kind; With All Humanity be Harmonious; In all Endeavors be True.
FILIPINO CHINESE TAOIST TEMPLE
Location: 478 El Cano Street Binondo, Manila
The temple is well-known for spiritual minister Master Co who has more than 15 years of Feng Shui experience advising clients from the working class to the rich and wealthy as well as international financial institutions.
It is a good stop before you take a stroll down famous Chinatown in Manila. You can experience traditional Filipino-Chinese religion by meditation, praying, lighting candles, and food offerings at the temple.
Master Co, apart from being a distinguished Feng Shui master, has the ability to turn misfortune into fortune for corporations and individuals.
Master Co was said to accurately predict the stock market breaching record points in 2000. Ultimately he is said to have spiritual powers to cure the sick which he even showed during a recent Chinese New Year celebration.
SANTO SING KONG BUDDHIST CHURCH
Loc: 657, Morga Street, Tondo, Manila
Santo Sing Kong Ecumenical Church is just a few minute walk from busy Divisoria along Tomas Morga Street.
The place is said to be funded by the rich Chinese community to which the Chinese pastor also provides free consultation.
It is also said that some of the nation’s top leaders consult him regularly as they did his predecessor.
The place is not too noisy and busy except during school days. But on holidays or weekends, this quiet street in Tondo is well worth a visit if you are just within the neighborhood or if you’re in for a good stroll away from the center of Divisoria.
The church is artfully decorated. On wooden pillars are more than a hundred little statues of Gods from different religions.
SENG GUAN TEMPLE
Location: Narra St, Tondo, Manila
This temple is considered a prominent Buddhist edifice and the first Buddhist temple in the country with its own resident monk, the Venerable Seng Guan after whom the temple was named.
The temple contains a “stupa” or a huge repository for urns of human ashes, several meditation rooms, and various shrines.
It is a major cultural center for the Chinese Filipino community The temple was established by Wu Jianglu, Wang Zhenwen, and members of their Chinese Buddhist Society in the Philippines. Seng Guan from Fu Kien, China, was active in teaching and organizing work in Southern China, Manila, and Rizal.
His work laid the foundations for several institutions, including the Samantabhadra Institute in Santa Cruz, Manila, and the Hwa Chong Buddhist Temple complex in Tugatog, Malabon where his ashes are enshrined in a stupa.
Chinese temples often have gongs, bells, drums, side altars, chapels for praying, and shrines devoted to certain deities. Generally, there is no specific time for praying or making offerings. People visit anytime and the only communal services are funerals.
In Chinese temples, the colors orange and red signify happiness and joy. White represents purity and death. Green symbolizes harmony. Yellow and gold represent heaven. Grey and black symbolize death and misfortune.
If you have respiratory problems, one good thing to remember is that busy Chinese temples are filled with materials that are endlessly burning. The place is crowded with people saying their prayers while lighting joss sticks, leaving offerings of jade orchid blossoms, throwing sheng bei, and donating ghost money to a variety of ancient gods in order to receive good fortune.
Temple goers usually burn paper money which is believed to bring lots of good things to their dearly departed in the afterlife. Apart from paper money, they also burn paper cars, and other paper materials that resemble valuable objects such as silver, gold, clothing, or common objects.
Another temple ritual includes the “kowtow” which are bows done as acts of worship. Worshipers bow three times before the image of a deity, place incense sticks before it, cast lots of numbered bamboo sticks, and make donations. Pilgrims visiting temples sometimes line up and stop every few steps and bow.
Today, only fragments of the traditional kowtow remain. The standing bow has already replaced the traditional bow. Sometimes, others will choose to kowtow before the grave of an ancestor or while making traditional offerings to an ancestor.
Direct family members may also use the traditional bow at the funeral of their ancestor, while others would just simply bow. At weddings, couples may sometimes kowtow to their respective parents, although the standing bow is currently a lot more common.
In extreme cases, the kowtow can be used to express profound gratitude, apology, or to beg for forgiveness.