End of the Month Roundup - February 2013

Ah February! You are the shortest of months but also a turbulent one.

Yes, this is what I feel with February. She is very turbulent indeed but not for this blog but for my life in the offline world.

Today is the last day of February and this is the last day of pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI. I am saddened by his departure but what can I do? All I can do now is to thank him and to pray for him.

Farewell poster for Pope Benedict XVI


My exile here in Thailand is about to end so I already did some shopping. I also visited the Grand Palace, which is the best tourist spot in Bangkok.

I also said my farewells to Bangkok Cathedral and my favorite Holy Rosary Church. Aside from that, I managed to buy my most valuable souvenir, an image of Our Lady of Thailand.

February is the month when I launched my newest blog, entitled Tome of a Layman. This blog is for my musings about my Faith and other issues affecting the Philippine society. Let us just say that I returned writing about socio-political topics, which I stopped years ago. If you want, you can read the reason why I started this new blog.

I was glad to discover that Wikipedia cited my post about the Pink Sisters in its entry about Tagaytay City. It seems like this online encyclopedia considers my blog a credible source of information. Thus, my Refresh Post about the Pink Sisters' convent is very timely. 

A Pink Sister praying in front of the Sacred Host


I persisted in cookery this month. I posted three dishes that I cooked. The first is the very easy carbonara-styled spaghetti. Another dish, which perfectly fits the Lenten Season, is the ampalaya with egg. The dish that generated much buzz is my Afritada de Ahab.

My failed attempt to cook afritada


Many commenters (Einz, Phioxee, MeCoy, Fiel-kun and Unni) were confused. Someone even gave me a grade of F. Well, I couldn't blame them. This dish does look weird.

I also talked about my visit to Bang Saen Beach, which is not the usual haunt of foreign tourists to Thailand.



I also posted about another visit to a Catholic church near BTS-Surasak Station. Too bad that it was closed during my visit but I was still glad because I reached the Papal Nuncio's office in Bangkok.

Interior of St. Luis Church


The best tourist spot that I posted about this month is the Victory Monument. I learned many things about Thailand while I was I writing my blog post about it.  It is definitely a good read.

Statues of soldiers on Victory Monument in Bangkok


Finally, I posted about the visit of Saint Camillus' incorruptible heart to the Philippines. I was awed with this saint who served the sick even to his death.

The heart of St. Camillus on display at Our Lady of La Paz Church, Makati


February was a busy month! I expect March to be busier and more bloody, because of the Conclave, the coming Holy Week and my imminent return to the Philippines.

End of the Month Roundup is the monthly segment of this blog that summarizes all the adventures that I featured for the month.

Ampalaya with Egg

I hate ampalaya. When I was a little kid, I always complain to my mother whenever we have this vegetable for dinner. I usually argue that ampalaya is bitter because it is poisonous. But she didn't say anything to contradict me. She just continued eating the ampalaya, as if to prove that it is not a poisonous veggie.

My Beloved declared that her favorite vegetable is Ampalaya. She told me that she will cook it more often so I should better try to like it. (Oh no!!!!)

Actually, my “hatred” to ampalaya has lessened a little bit. I can now eat it despite its bitterness.

It is now the Season of Lent for Catholics. I vowed not to eat meat for this whole season. Vegetable, egg and fish are now the stars in my menu. Thus, I cooked ampalaya with egg.

First thing that I did is to cut the ampalaya to bite-sized pieces.

Ampalaya being sliced


I then sauteed it on a hot pan.

Ampalaya being sauteed


I waited for the ampalaya to be cooked. I then poured the beaten egg. Then some vetsin (MSG) and fish sauce.

Voila! My ampalaya with egg is finished.

Ampalaya with Egg


The ampalaya is not fully cooked but I think that was ok because it made the ampalaya crunchy. 

It is still bitter but that's OK. It reminds me of the bitter part of my life. Yes, this ampalaya helped me reflect on many things. We can say that life is like food. Not all of it are sweet. We also have the sour days, or that period when salty tears are pouring, or the spicy anger that take holds of us, and then the bitter moments when we feel so much pain.

Some experts say that ampalaya is good against diabetes, malaria, cancer and other diseases. With medicinal effects like these. I might consider eating ampalaya, especially if it cooked by my Beloved.

Heart of a Saint

Note: I'm still in Thailand but I will post something that is currently occurring in the Philippines. No! I don't have the power to bilocate to witness that event. The photos that I posted here was donated by a friend.

One of the things that amazes me are the incorruptibility of the bodies of some saints. I had read about the incorruptible tounge of St. Anthony of Padua, the incorruptible body of St. Bernadette Soubiros and other saints that was given the grace to have their body to be supernaturally preserved.

Seeing an incorruptible body (or part of a body) is a rare opportunity that's why I felt sad that I wasn't in the Philippines when the relic of St. Camillus de Lellis visited the country.

So, I just contented myself on seeing the photos shared to me by a friend.

Image of St. Camillus


St. Camillus is established the Order of Clerks Regular, Ministers to the Sick. This saint cared for the sick, especially those who are poor. He suffered abscesses to his feet during his priesthood but he never stopped visitng the sick, even if he had to crawl from his bed.

His great love for the sick is possibly the reason why his heart is incorruptible.

Filipinos venerating the relic of St. Camillus
Heart of St. Camillus.

The journey of the heart of St. Camillus around the world is part of the celebration for the 400th death anniversary of the St. The heart reached the Philippines last February 18 and was first displayed in Our Lady of La Paz Church in Makati.

Altar of Our Lady of La Paz Church
Altar of the Our Lady of La Paz Church.


The queue of the people who want to get near the relic is quite long.

Queue to the relic of St. Camillus


The line even extended outside the church!

Queue outside of Our Lady of La Paz Church for the relic of St. Camillus


Too bad that I'm not in the Philippines. It doesn't matter if I have to wait in line for a long time just to see the incorruptible heart of St. Camillus.

A knight of Columbus guarding the relic of St. Camillus


If you're in the Philippines and interested to see St. Camillus, then I suggest to visit the Camillians' Facebook page to see the schedule of the relic's journey.

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Information about St. Camillus was obtained from the Catholic Encyclopedia. Second image on this post came from the Facebook page of the Camillans.

Passing By Victory Monument

There is one landmark that I almost never miss whenever I go to a tourist spot in Bangkok. This landmark stands conspicuously in the midst of busy traffic and no tourist in the area will not notice it. 

This attention-hogging landmark is the Victory Monument.

Victory Monument of Bangkok, Thailand


I was surprised when I saw a commenter (from Bangkok) at TripAdvisor saying that the Victory Monument “should be demolished” because it is “a monument to celebrate a great victory that actually was not really that great.”

This comment from a Thai compelled me to make a little research about Victory Monument.

Another shot of Victory Monument in Bangkok


Victory Monument was erected in 1941 to mark Thailand's victory during the Franco-Thai War. This monument was built during the dictatorship of Field Marshal Plaek Pibulsonggram, who is the militaristic prime minister of Thailand. The war occurred during the Second World War at the time when France already fell under the rule of Nazi Germany.

Thailand, during the time Victory Monument was erected, was in a chaos. The absolute monarchy was just recently removed by a coup d'etat and was replaced by a parliamentary monarchy. King Rama VIII, the current king during that time, was not in Thailand. Thus, it is Pibulsonggram who virtually ruled Thailand at the time. This dictator brought Thailand into an alliance with Japan.

The Victory Monument became a “monument of shame” when Japan was defeated during the War. Thailand was forced to return all the territories that it gained during the Franco-Thai War. The Victory Monument became a reminder of the militaristic regime that many Thais don't like.

Poster of King Rama IX at Victory Monument, Bangkok
The most loved king of Thailand.

This historical tidbit helped me understand why the Thais have high regard to the monarchy. It is their king, the then King Rama VIII (older brother of the current king), who brought stability to Thailand after the war. This respect was also inherited by the current king of Thailand that's why he is loved and respected by all.

Traffic around Victory Monument, Bangkok


The Victory Monument is at the center of the busy rotunda. Many public vans going to provinces can be found around this monument. This is where we rode a van to Rayong for our weekend trip to Koh Samet Island. There are vans here going to Pattaya and other beaches in Thailand.

The place is also a good place to eat yummy Thai dishes. This is where I ate the boat noodle soup, which I will talk about in the future.

I was happy that I have a new camera that has 10x optical zoom. I managed to take a zoomed-in shot of Victory Monument.

Statue of a seaman and soldier on Victory Monument, Bangkok


Victory Monument has a feel of being copied from the monuments found in communist or fascist states. It doesn't have a hint of Thai architectural style. This monument is composed of an obelisk sorrounded by statues representing the army, navy, air force, police and bureaucracy.

Statues representing the Air Force, Bureaucrat, Navy and Army at Victory Monument, Bangkok


The area around Victory Monument is always a busy place. I saw Thais rushing to school or office. I saw tourists also rushing to their destinations. I guess Victory Monument is a good place to watch people.

Walkway at Victory Monument, Bangkok


Victory Monument is a good place to take photographs. I think that this monument has the most photos in my camera.

The photo below was taken after my visit to MBK and Siam Center.

Afternoon rush at Victory Monument, Bangkok


Be it a monument of victory or shame, the Victory Monument is still an important relic of Thailand's past. It is worth your visit.

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Information for this post was obtained from the Victory Monument page and Franco-Thai War page of Wikipedia.

Do you have a monument in your country that is not liked by many people? Tell us about it by leaving a comment.

Hesitant at St. Louis Church

My search for Catholic churches in Thailand continues. After checking out the Bangkok Cathedral and the Holy Rosary Church, my sight was next aimed to a church located near the Surasak Station of the Skytrain. This church is the St. Louis Church.
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St. Louis Church in Bangkok
(Source: St. Louis Church website)

My intention in going to St. Louis Church was to pray and then take some photos. So, I packed my camera and rode the BTS (or Skytrain) to reach this church.

I wondered who is this St. Louis and why the church was named in his honor. According to Catholic Online, St. Louis is the only canonized king of France. He had fought in the crusade and died during a siege of Tunis.
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Painting of St. Louis
Saint Louis King of France.

The naming of St. Louis Church showed that this church was built or managed by French missionaries in the past. The name is the hint of that French connection.

I discovered that St. Louis Church is within the compound where various institutions are located like the St. Louis Suksa School, St. Louis Commercial School and the St. Louis Hospital. Of all the institutions located within the compound (other than the church of course), what delighted me the most is this:
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Signage of the Embassy of Holy See to Thailand


I was glad to reach the office of the Papal Nuncio to Thailand. A nunciature is a sort of an embassy of the Holy See to other countries and the Nuncio is the Pope's representative. The presence of a nunciature in Thailand means that the Thai government is in good relationship with the Church.
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Seal of the Apostolic Nuncio to Thailand


Too bad that I haven't met the Papal Nuncio.

Unfortunately, St. Louis Church is closed during that time. I didn't got the chance to pray at least one “Hail Mary!” :-(

I am getting used to the situation of churches here in Thailand. Most of the time they are closed. I sorely miss the churches in the Philippines where I can just enter any time I want to pray.

I just decided to walk around the church to look for an opening. I found none. Though I discovered, to my delight, the tarpaulin that contain the life story of Saint Lorenzo Ruiz and Saint Pedro Calungsod.
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Tarp of Filipino saints in St. Louis Church (Bangkok)


I exclaimed, "Never thought to see you here in Bangkok Pedro and Lorenzo!"

The presence of the guards made me hesitant to take photos of St. Louis Church. What I just took is the side view of the church.
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St. Louis Church in Bangkok


And the supposed front view of St. Louis Church.
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St. Louis Church in Bangkok


FAIL!

Since I couldn't enter St. Louis Church, I just decided to go to the Holy Rosary Church because I know that it is open during the day.

I'm still hoping to visit St. Louis Church before I go back to the Philippines. I saw the photos of its interior and it is beautiful also. This image from the website of St. Louis Church is the proof.
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Interior of St. Louis Church in Bangkok
(Source: St. Louis Church website)

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Was there a time that you wanted to enter a church so badly but became frustrated because it was closed? Tell me your experiences by leaving a comment in the comment box below. Thank you for the visit!

The “Hidden” Bang Saen Beach

Whenever I search for Thai beaches in Google, the topmost result will either be Pattaya or Phuket. These two beaches are so popular that they are the only beaches where foreigners go to. Many tourists don't know that there are other beaches in Thailand that can are also gems but less costly than Pattaya and Phuket.

One of the beaches that are below the radar of foreigners is the Bang Saen Beach in the City of Chonburi. This beach is the closest beach from Bangkok and it was said that it is just an hour drive from Suvarnabhumi Airport. Please go Bang Saen page of WikiTravel for detailed info on going to this beach.
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Bang Saen Beach
Bang Saen Beach

I was fortunate to be brought to Bang Saen Beach (for free, yey!). The travel is work related though so I didn't got the chance to wade in the sea.

I can say Bang Saen Beach is not the typical high-end beach that have great facilities. What it has are simple souvenir shops, food stalls and chairs to laze away the day. The lack of these high-end features is a plus, however, because it made many things in Bang Saen Beach less expensive.
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Umbrellas and charis for rent in Bang Saen Beach

Another plus is the absence of the “prostitution” bar and clubs that are typically found in Pattaya. Thus, this place is perfect for family getaway.
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Path to Bang Saen Beach


The beach is almost deserted by people when we went there during a weekday. My office mates said that Bang Saen Beach becomes crowded during weekends because many Thai families flock the place.
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Brownish sea in front of Bang Saen Beach


The beach is OK but I found better beaches in Koh Samet Island (I will post about that in the future). The sea is also dirty and I saw some plastic wrappers and other refuse floating around. I hope that the administrator of the beach ensure the cleanliness of the area.
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Boat for hire in Bang Saen Beach


There are many things to do in Bang Saen Beach and you can read some of the events at Bang Saen Beach website. I saw paddle boats during my visit. Too bad that I didn't have the time but I really want to try it and challenge my office mates for a race. Too bad, work first before pleasure.

Souvenir shops can also be found in the place. I visited many of the shops but they don't have the ref magnets that I wanted.
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Souvenir shops in Bang Saen Beach


We immediately left Bang Saen Beach after we finished our work. My hope of wading in the sea vanished. So sad.

Well, if you're a tourist who want to try beaches that are cheaper than Pattaya or Phuket, I suggest that you go to Bang Saen Beach.

Afritada de Ahab

I recently cooked one dish that I instantly liked. I enjoyed this dish so much that I even shared it on my Facebook wall, where it became an instant sensation not because it looked yummy but because they had a hard time believing that what I cooked can be called Afritada.

So in my defense, I'm calling the dish that I'll be featuring today as Afritada de Ahab:
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Ishmael Ahab's version of chicken afritada


One of my Facebook friends called this kare-kareng afritada because the sauce made it look like kare-kare. Another one thought it was pochero. And I say they are wrong because this is not just an afritada. This is my own version of afritada. Wahahaha yes I found the perfect excuse.

I cooked my afritada by following the steps laid out by Filipino Recipes website. This website said that afritada is a Spanish inspired dish combining pork or chicken, potatoes, tomato sauce and spices.

I used Hunt's tomato sauce for Afritada de Ahab.
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A can of tomato sauce I used for afritada


I had potatoes, drumstick chicken, onions, garlic, pepper, patis (fish sauce), and vetsin (MSG). I also had a pechay because I vaguely remember a tomato sauce dish cooked by my Mom that has pechay.
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My vegetables for my afritada
Sliced potatoes and pechay.

My ingredients are ready so it's time to cook!

The recipe said that I need some chicken broth so I boiled the chicken for 20 minutes.
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Chicken being boiled for broth for Afritada de Ahab


I made sure that the meat is fully cooked before I separate it from the broth. It is cooked if the meat comes off easily when peeled off from the bone using fork.

Next is I sautéed the sliced onions, sliced garlic and chicken for 5 minutes or when the meat is slightly brown.
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Sautéing chicken meat for my afritada


I then poured the broth and the tomato sauce and let it simmer for 5 minutes.
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My afritada is nearly cooked


I then added the sliced potatoes and let it simmer until it's cooked. Next to be thrown to the raging lava is the pechay. I let it simmer for 3 more minutes and then put patis (fish sauce), pepper and vetsin. I poured enough of those things until it suited the taste that I wanted.

The final product is Afritada de Ahab, as shown on the photo at the start of the post.

There's tomato sauce left after I cooked the Afritada de Ahab so I had to whip up another dish using it. The dish that I made using the tomato sauce is this:
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My own version of pork giniling with tomato sauce
Pork giniling in tomato sauce.

I believe that these two dishes (excluding my pork adobo) are the best that I made so far. These dishes were easy to cook and doesn't demand a lot of effort. I'll cook more of these dishes and I will make sure to cook the real afritada next time.

More on Pink Sisters' Convent in Tagaytay City

I noticed that many people are interested with the Pink Sisters of Tagaytay City. Many of the visitors on my post, A Visit to Pink Sisters' Convent, asked about the mass schedules, contact information, address and even about the requirements for being a Pink Sister.

I made this post to serve as a FAQ page for those who are looking for information about the Pink Sisters in Tagaytay City.
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A pink sister praying in front of the Holy Eucharist at Pink Sisters' Convent, Tagaytay

A Little Information about the Pink Sisters

The Pink Sisters are officially known as the Holy Spirit Adoration Sisters. Their community was established by St. Arnold Janssen together with Mother Maria Michael and Blessed Maria Virgo on 1896 in Holland.* They are fondly called as the Pink Sisters because of their rose-colored habit, which they wear to honor the Holy Spirit.

The Pink Sisters first came to the Philippines via the invitation Bishop Alfredo Versoza, who is considered as the first Filipino bishop of Lipa.** “10 pioneer sisters, 5 Germans and 5 Americans from Philadelphia, arrived in Manila in 1923.”*** They stayed in the convent of the “Blue Sisters” (Missionary Sisters Servants of the Holy Spirit), who are their “sister order”, before going to their convent in Lipa, Batangas.

The hot and humid weather of Batangas didn't suit the Pink Sisters and many of them got sick. Because of this, the Pink Sisters were transferred to Baguio City. Their convent in the Summer Capital of the Philippines is now one of the many convents of the Pink Sisters in the country.

Other Convents of the Pink Sisters

The Convent of Divine Mercy in Tagaytay is only one of 6 convents of Pink Sisters in the Philippines. So, if you are seeking for prayers from the Pink Sisters for your spiritual and temporal needs then you might not need to go to Tagaytay.
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Pink Sisters' convent in Davao City
Pink Sisters' convent in Davao City (Source: Pink Sisters' website).

You can find Pink Sisters' convents in Baguio City, Quezon City, Mandaue City, Davao City, and Kalibo (Aklan). You can see the complete address of the convents at the Pink Sisters' website.

Pink Sisters' Tagaytay Convent Contact Info

Pink Sisters' convent in Tagaytay
Divine Mercy Convent.

For those who want to send letters or packages to the Pink Sisters in Tagaytay, you can use this address:

P.O. Box # 08, Holy Spirit Drive,
Brgy. Maitim 2nd, East
4120 Tagaytay City

Unfortunately, the telephone number shown on the Pink Sisters website is wrong according to some commenters to my previous blog post. Other telephone numbers that I found in the Internet were also said to be wrong. It is possible that the sisters had their telephone line cut off. So, if you intend to communicate with the Pink Sisters it is better for you to drop by their convent and talk to them personally.

How to Go to Pink Sisters' Convent in Tagaytay

Going to the Divine Mercy Convent is easy and it is just around 300 meters from the E. Aguinaldo Highway at the end of Holy Spirit Drive, which in Bing Map is named as Arnoldus Road.
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Satellite image showing the location of Pink Sisters' convent in Tagaytay
Bing map showing the location of Divine Mercy Convent.

If you are driving from the north, just follow E. Aguinaldo Highway until you see the signage of the Holy Spirit Adoration Sisters to your left. Turn left to Holy Spirit Drive until you reach the convent at the end of the road.

Those who are commuting from Manila or other Cavite provinces located north of Tagaytay should board a bus going to Tagaytay or Nasugbu. Go down at the place where you saw the signage of Holy Spirit Adoration Sisters located to your left. Just walk along the Holy Spirit Drive until you reach the convent at the end of the road.
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Gate of Pink Sisters' convent in Tagaytay
The gate of Divine Mercy Convent.

Take note that buses, trucks, coasters, jeeps, tricycles and motorcycles are not allowed inside the convent grounds.

Things to Do Inside Pink Sisters' Convent

One thing to keep in mind when entering the Pink Sisters' Convent in Tagaytay is that it is a holy place. The sisters live a life of silence and contemplation and it is disrespectful if you are noisy or cause disturbance. You should also wear modest clothing.

The Divine Mercy Convent is not a park so don't act like a tourist in this place. With these reminders said, here are the things that you can do once you're inside Pink Sisters' Convent.

1. Pray

Silence fosters prayer and allow us to meditate deeply. The Divine Mercy Convent is a good place for prayer. Another plus is that you are praying in front of the Most Holy Eucharist. Thus, you are praying directly to Jesus Christ when you pray inside this convent.

Another reason why many people flock to Pink Sisters' convent is that many people say that their prayers were answered after they prayed with the Pink Sisters. One commenter on my previous post said that his petitions were answered after going to a mass in the Divine Mercy Convent.

2. Attend Mass

Divine Mercy Convent has daily masses and Sunday masses. Here is the of the masses according to Pink Sisters' website****:

Daily masses: 6:30 a.m.
Daily vespers or benediction: 5:00 p.m.
Sunday mass: 7:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. (with Vespers)
First Saturday mass: 4:15 p.m

3. Buy Yummy Treats

Anney, a fellow blogger, commented that Pink Sisters make delicious cookies. My brother also said that their buko pie is also delicious. I failed to buy those yummy treats when I visited their convent. :-(

If you're going to the Pink Sisters' convent in Tagaytay, I suggest that you buy some of their yummy treats. You will definitely enjoy eating it while you support the sisters financially.

4. Give Your Prayer Intentions

One of thing that I did when I visited the Pink Sisters' convent is to leave my prayer petitions to them. I  believe that the sisters were praying for my intentions in front of the Holy Eucharist.

There are papers and pens that are ready to be used by visitors who want to commend their intentions to the sisters. Just write your prayer intentions and drop it to the designated drop boxes.

So, I think that I already provided most of the questions that are being asked about the Pink Sisters' convent in Tagaytay. Hope I helped you with the information I posted here. Please don't hesitate to leave a comment if you still have questions.

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Information for these post was gathered from the following websites:

*Wikipedia article about Saint Arnold Janssen and Holy Spirit Adoration Sisters.
****Pink Sisters' website

Most of the images on this post came from Fr. Abe's blog.

Refresh Post is a monthly segment that aims to take another look at the old topics posted on this blog.