Monday, December 1, 2014

ICA Golden Jubilarians receive roses and kisses for they have come a long way

Famous heartthrob Daniel Matsunaga gallantly gave the Golden Jubilarians long-stemmed roses when he appeared as guest performing artist at the Immaculate Conception Academy’s recent alumni homecoming. The serenade highlight of the evening’s memorable program saw the tall and dashing actor and model of Brazilian and Japanese parentage plant kisses on a few of the surprised honorees in long gowns.

The Batch 1964 alumni included Pho Hoa restaurateur Nancy Cua, Miriam College dean Lourdes Samson, CEO of Philscan Travel and Tours Sylvia Sangco and journalist Nancy T. Lu.

A Microsoft PowerPoint presentation of pictures from Helen Cokee's scrapbooks of memories unfolded while the Golden Jubilarians were in the limelight. With help from her staff at the Miriam College, Lourdes Samson put this together for projection during the program.

The 6-foot-1 entertainer’s moves titillated the audience during the “CHICA NA!” event on November 22 at the ICA Greenhills campus in Little Baguio, San Juan City. As he suavely romanced each of the 18 alumni in the spotlight with his song, the watching younger alumni gushed and screamed with delight. Crowd pleaser Matsunaga at one point went down on his knee before the flabbergasted alumna Mary Ng. Unstoppable fans finally rushed onstage to mob the 26-year-old ever-smiling Matsunaga.

During the preparatory meetings called by the Silver Jubilarians who were behind “CHICA NA!” on November 22, Hilda Tan So served as coordinator for the Golden Jubilarians. She kept everyone posted on the developments regarding the details of the program.

The ICAns belonging to Batch 1964 went through months of preparation for the celebration of their 50-year milestone as alumni. The fund-raising for their beloved alma mater got launched last year with Helen Cokee and Lourdes Samson opening a bank account for the purpose. The target goal of one million pesos was surpassed during the bank account closing time. One million pesos went to a scholarship fund for the poor and 300,000 pesos to the health care of the aging sisters. The money turnover took place after a Mass offered by Father Ari Dy, principal of Xavier School and himself a Silver Jubilarian of the Jesuit school he now runs.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Jadeite Cabbage remains main attraction at National Palace Museum in Taipei

By Nancy T. Lu

Back in 1889, when Qing Dynasty Emperor Guangxu’s Consort Jin arrived in the imperial court for her wedding, she brought as part of her dowry the famous Jadeite Cabbage with Insects, a must-see for present-day visitors at the landmark National Palace Museum in Taipei. Somehow the daily queue leading to the showcase of this symbol of female virtue is always exceptionally long. The partly white, partly green jadeite has a white stalk symbolizing purity, leaves meaning fertility as well as locust and katydid suggesting children.

Imperfections of this piece of jadeite, including cracks and patches of different natural shades, have been skillfully and cleverly turned around by an unknown 19th century sculptor to create the veins of the cabbage’s stalks and leaves.

According to the National Palace Museum, the repository of fabulous art treasures once kept in the Forbidden City in China, the cabbage first began to turn up in Chinese paintings during the Song Dynasty (960-1279). Artists opted then not to hide the traces of insects, in fact, drawing them instead with the plants and even allowing them to nibble away, fly or jump about. Captured, therefore, was the rhythm of life and interpreted was the ideal of a harmonious co-existence of all living things in nature.

The Chinese cabbage took on different meanings for different people in Chinese history. Rulers saw the humble cabbage as a symbol of self-reflection. Subjects offered cabbage, inspiring those in power to make sure that people did not go hungry. Scholars perceived the cabbage as symbolizing lofty ambitions. Instead of pursuing fame and fortune, they were moved to seek satisfaction in what they had.

Hands of great craftsmen converted flaws of jade into priceless masterpieces, enriching lives with beautiful memories for generations. The jade treasures still are looked upon with admiration and awe by people from all walks of life.

The Jadeite Cabbage with Insects, in particular, was loaned along with calligraphies from the 7th to the 14th century to the Tokyo National Museum from June 24 to July 7 this year. This unprecedented move took place after lengthy negotiations which were begun in 2013. The item, thus, made a rare first voyage overseas in 65 years.

The Meat-shaped Stone, another important treasure in the collection of the National Palace Museum in Taipei, went on view also this year at the Kyushu National Museum in Japan. The banded jasper resembles pork with defined layers of fat and lean meat. As a reciprocal gesture, the two museums in Japan will lend rare works of art to the National Palace Museum in Taipei next year. 

The Jadeite Cabbage with Insects has been returned to the museum in Taipei to once more draw the admiring glances of visitors from all over the world. Displayed briefly along with the star cabbage attraction during the recent absence of the Meat-shaped Stone at the Taipei museum were the Chinese Jadeite Cabbage, the Jadeite Cabbage Floral Holder and the Nephrite Brush Holder with a Jadeite Garden Scene, all dating back to the Qing Dynasty. The eyeful of cabbage did make an impression on the exquisite Chinese taste for the vegetable.

Photographs shown above are courtesy of the National Palace Museum in Taipei.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Conductor Leonard Slatkin offers tips to entice young people to classical music

By Nancy T. Lu

Conductor Leonard Slatkin is a parent who listens to the music which his 14-year-old son likes, he revealed during his Taipei visit a few years ago. Knowing the music of this generation is important, he said, for it enables him to share with his child what is interesting in his life like classical music.

"When I was young," he recalled, "I was fortunate to have been exposed to all kinds of music, including rock, jazz, blues, as well as country and western music."

But he added, quoting Duke Ellington: "There are only two kinds of music - good music and bad music."

Slatkin observed that young people today tend to have a larger view of the music culture. But he also pointed out, this time quoting Leoanrd Bernstein: "We hear music all the time, like in the department store, in the elevator and down the hallway. But many times we don't really listen to the music. Music simply becomes something in the background."

According to Slatkin, classical music represents a kind of history. He remarked: "No great music is without connection to social history."

Slatkin conducted the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at the National Concert Hall in Taipei during his visit.

Aaron Copland's "Appalachian Spring Suite" was in the program. According to Slatkin, the piece originally commissioned by choreographer Martha Graham for her ballet is about the Shakers, a people living in Pennsylvania and trying to build their homes and to integrate into the American life.

Gustav Mahler's "Symphony No. 1" was likewise in the repertoire. Slatkin explained: "Mahler literally took folk music and put it in the symphony. The third movement is a funeral march. Mahler abandoned the Jewish religion to convert to Catholicism. This is reflected in his music."

Slatkin also cited Beethoven's "Symphony No. 3." The composer originally dedicated it to Napoleon. But even before he could finish writing the symphony, Napoleon declared himself Emperor of Europe. Beethoven in his anger scratched out the name of Napoleon in the title. The first two chords of the symphony consequently reflected his anger.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Late Hollywood star and screen legend Lauren Bacall confessed to a life of rejection

By Nancy T. Lu

Forty-four years after she first found stardom in the motion picture, “To Have and Have Not,” American actress Lauren Bacall expressed during a visit to Taipei in 1988 her decision to remain in the acting profession. But if an aspiring actress should approach her for advice then, she would have this to say: “Go to another profession.”

After stunning her listeners with the remark, the then 64-year-old Bacall proceeded to explain herself: “Acting is a great profession but it is a hard one. Seek it if you want a life of rejection. You have to be prepared for this. All your life you will have to audition constantly.”

The blonde Hollywood celebrity with catlike green eyes, who was invited along with Glenn Ford to grace the 25th Golden Horse Awards in Taipei, said that she did not have any secret to share regarding survival in the competitive acting profession. She went on to put it briefly, “Keep working. Keep trying and keep hoping to get a job even if there are not too many openings.”

Many people get to the point of fantasizing about making it in another field. Asked if she ever imagined herself in another profession, Bacall confessed: “I would like to come back as Fred Astaire’s partner.” Out burst her throaty laughter.

The actress who belonged to the golden age of motion pictures originally wanted to be a dancer. In fact, she trained in different kinds of dancing for 13 years. But in the end, Bacall decided that she was not as good in dancing as she wanted to be.

The two persons who influenced the screen and stage actress the most were her mother and her first husband, Humphrey Bogart. She said: “Both have influenced me in the way I feel and the way I live.”

She pointed out that her mother and her first husband, who was 25 years older than her, were contemporaries. Both, she stressed, were “strong characters.” She felt that she had something in common with them.

Bacall elaborated that having character was important. She went on: “Character has to do with how you conduct yourself and how you relate to others. It has something to do with what your standards are.”

Bacall with her air of self-confidence was identified with acting roles with character. She lamented though that the acting parts for women tended to be “mindless.” According to her, film makers didn’t seem to realize that the adult world existed. In addition, the trend seemed to indicate that life was over after the age of 25.

After her first motion picture directed by Howard Hoggs, Bacall appeared in films like “The Big Sleep,” “Key Largo,” “Written on the Wind,” “Sex and the Single Girl,” “Cobwebs” and “The Shootist.”

Bacall kept copies of some of her movies. Others were not readily available. She said that she did not bother to look at her old films. As she emphatically put it, “You just have to keep looking to the future or you will have no future at all.”

Bacall found the coloring of the black-and-white movies “disgusting.” In her opinion, it showed “the mediocrity and cheapness” of people in the movie business. Such practice ruined the movies, she commented. It reflected a lack of respect for films, she added.

Making “To Have and Have Not” proved one of Bacall’s most unforgettable experiences. “It changed my whole life,” she said. But the former model also enjoyed making motion pictures like “Murder on the Orient Express.” She tried to be happy making each film.

Which was her most difficult project? “Living has been the most difficult,” replied the entertainment personality who went through many struggles in her life.

Bacall did stage plays for a while. “Applause” was a most memorable stage production for it was her first musical. However, she went back to making movies. In 1988, she was seen in “Bogart.” This was a television production about her late husband as an actor.

Bacall became Bogart’s fourth wife in 1945. She was widowed in 1957. She remarried a few years later but the marriage to Jason Robards ended in divorce.

Aside from acting, Bacall also wrote. A 1978 autobiography titled “By Myself” was translated into Japanese. She also published “Now” in 1994 and “By Myself and Then Some” in 2005.

Bacall, one of Hollywood’s legends, suffered a stroke and passed away in New York last August 12. She was 89. Her art collection, including works by Henry Moore, Joan Miro and Pablo Picasso which were kept in her homes in Los Angeles, New York and Long Island, as well as her jewelry and furniture will go on auction next month and in March next year. She was also a collector of African art. Her fortune will be divided among her three children.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Legendary Marcel Marceau stands out in magical world of mime in his lifetime and even long after

By Nancy T. Lu

Of the many great performing artists who made an impact on their audience, the late Marcel Marceau (1923-2007) was a virtual giant. To watch him on the stage – with face painted white, lips colored red and eyes emphasized with black lines – was to love every moment of his performance.

No spectator could sit unmoved by the showmanship of this compleat artist. He harnessed his face, arms, legs and entire body to articulate a poetic idea or gem of thought. The depth of his perception of humanity was remarkable.

Laughter filled the hall wherever the great French mime performed. He made an adorable Bip clumsily trying to keep his balance on ice during a first attempt to skate. Or he affected the hilarious mannerisms of a train passenger struggling to keep his bearing and his suitcase on an overhead rack in a swaying train.

As a man on the verge of suicide, he considered taking poison but ended up relishing the drink. He eyed the rope as another possibility but ended up swinging his cord like a baton. As a samurai, he thought he could handle a sword but found himself having a hard time keeping the weapon from rising strangely by itself out of his scabbard.

Marcel Marceau sought not only to amuse his audience but also to give them some food for thought. Behind the veneer of foolishness and ludicrousness was always a suggestion of wisdom. He tended to philosophize a bit in his eloquent acts. 

Writer Nancy T. Lu meets Marcel Marceau in Taipei.

Every time Marcel Marceau came to Taipei years ago, he was prepared to bare his heart and soul. He readily warmed the hearts of his countless fans. Every pantomime in his program gave away his deep understanding of life and living.

The unforgettable storyteller turned heart eater in “Le mangeur de coeur” to reveal his insight of humanity. The mime with a title literally translated as “Heart Eater” told the story of a man who was searching for love. He decided to kill and eat hearts to find what he was looking for.

The character picked for his first victim was an evil man. The taste of the man’s heart did not appeal to him. For his second victim, he chose to devour the heart of a woman who had jilted him. The taste was much better but not quite what he was after. For his third try, he selected the heart of a child. The man found himself transformed into a child. He gave his own heart to the child so that the victim would live. As a result, life was snuffed out of the heart eater. 

According to Marcel Marceau himself, the mime called for a certain maturity in the performer. It required a lot of thinking. 


The mime artist needed a lot of experience to enter into the realm of fantasy. Marcel played a great deal with symbols. His acts were not always to be taken at face value. For this reason, he was fond of stories involving metamorphosis. His themes were often derived from literature. He incorporated ideas drawn from his readings into his works.

In “The Saber of the Samurai,” which was staged in Taipei, Marceau worked on the theme that the saber did not always mean the wielder was on the winning side.

Marceau revealed that he was fond of playing with mask changes. The transformation kept the audience wondering which was the real face. He frequently threw ideas to his spectators for them to reflect on. The scenarios raised unanswered questions. The conclusions were left to his mime fans.

Marceau confessed he turned to Chinese inspiration occasionally. In fact, he did not have a shortage of Chinese stories to tell. Marceau, for example, narrated a Taoist tale about a potbellied merchant who hired a coolie to take him and his heavy purchase to his destination. In return, he promised to give the coolie a big tip and three gems of wisdom.

Along the way, the poor coolie paused to catch his breath. The man finally gave his first advice: “It is more difficult to tell the truth than to lie.”

The trip continued. After a while, the coolie stopped again and asked for the second advice. The maxim he got went like this: “A man who is warned is worth two.”

Shortly the rickshaw driver asked about the contents of the package. He was told it contained “fine and precious things.”

After bringing the man to his destination and lugging the load with great difficulty up to the top floor of a building, the fellow was told the third and final advice: “If somebody tells you to carry a heavy load and promises to pay you a fat fee, do not believe him.”

Of the wisdom of age, Marceau remarked: “The older one grows, the better one becomes.”

Mime has a special affinity to Asian theater whether Chinese or Japanese, according to the legendary French mime. The masks and the movements in Japanese theater fascinated him. So did the movements in the Chinese opera. Even the “tai chi” motions are comparable to mime, he observed. Of special interest to him were the hand movements in the air.

Marceau’s program usually required the support of two assistants, often graduates of the three-year course at l’Ecole de Mimedrame Marcel Marceau in Paris. They helped create illusions with their hands. During his time, some 80 students from 20 different countries went for training at his school. Classical and modern dance, fencing, wielding a dagger as well as a baton were all part of the training. The mime students also mastered acrobatic skills. The main lessons though were naturally in the mime discipline taught by Marcel Marceau himself.

Every protégé of Marceau studied how to articulate his feelings, how to gracefully maintain balance, how to translate opposing forces like the Chinese yin and yang, how to dramatize contrasts, reminiscences as well as internal echoes of his life, how to let the virtuosity of his body and the sensitivity of his soul burst forth.

Marcel Marceau showed the art of a great mime through his portrayal of facets of humanity. Bip, a clown first presented by him in the Theatre de Poche in Paris in 1947, came to life on the international stage. “Bip Plays David and Goliath” and “Bip Commits Suicide” were numbers in his well-loved repertoire.

Marceau proved at his best when metamorphosing from one character to another. In “David and Goliath,” Bip emerged from one side of a screen as a puny David with his slingshot. He disappeared behind the screen only to make his reentry from the other side of the screen as a rough and brawny Goliath. His body language spoke out loud and clear in a world of silence. The shifts sometimes happened so fast. As a result, spectators began to believe that there were indeed two characters.

A 12-year-old fan once wrote Marcel Marceau in Paris after he fell ill and was operated on. The girl’s letter stood out in a pile of 500 mails from fans, all wishing him speedy recovery. She wrote: “I want Bip to live.” In the letter, she inserted a US$20 bill. Marceau, renowned for his emotion-filled acts, was greatly touched by the gesture.

 The aging Marceau once confessed his fear of flying. But his unforgettable visits to Taipei did not stop due to the overwhelming public clamor for his mime. Memories of Bip the Clown, wearing a hat with a quivering rose and standing like a ballet dancer before his adoring public, linger. He shone there on the stage with head held high. His arms moved with studied grace. Each time he made those graceful steps forward like a trained dancer, he was just beginning to sweep his admiring audience into the emotion-packed world of mime.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Renowned cardiologist William T. Chua amazes as inspired artist and sculptor


By Nancy T. Lu

Cardiologists generally look at the human heart strictly as a vital life-pumping organ with possible cardiac concerns for them to address as virtual plumbers and electricians. But Dr. William T. Chua 蔡景明, a renowned heart rhythm specialist with years of training and experience in electrophysiology, has taken his own doctor’s perception of the workings of the human heart to an exciting artistic level as seen in his collection of inspired paintings and sculpture pieces over the years.

Dr. Chua picked up the painting brush to become a true artist about 28 years ago. However, his doodling exercises began much earlier during his childhood days. He later even courted his wife with his drawings.

After building a reputation as a painter with a few successful shows to his name and special projects like the mural in the lobby of St. Luke’s Medical Center in Quezon City to his credit, he became fascinated with sculpture, a branch of the visual arts, three years ago. Since then, he has not stopped channeling his creative impulse and energy towards the creation of new shapes and forms during his spare time. In fact, he unveiled his monumental “Puso (Heart)” outside the Medical Arts Building of the Philippine Heart Center in late July last year. This landmark sculpture on East Avenue in Quezon City started out as a study created with television cables. Black iron pipes given a red urethane finish were tapped to make the final work of art with a black granite base.

Finding a life outside of his clinic and the hospitals where he makes his rounds seems to have kept this doctor with a kilowatt smile ever happy. His face truly lights up when he gets an opportunity to discuss his latest art activity with his famous artist friends among his cardiac patients like Romulo Galicano and Sofronio Y. Mendoza (more widely known as SYM). The late National Artist and leading Filipino painter Ang Kiu Kok at one point even emerged Dr. Chua’s personal mentor through his solicited critiques of the cardiologist’s paintings. Ang once painted over the doctor’s work completely. He obliged when Dr. Chua finally asked him to sign the painting for obvious reason. Advice from this teacher on the necessity of facing and solving problems encountered in a work in progress helped put the still groping Dr. Chua on the right track towards improvement and growth as a serious artist.

Although a late bloomer in the world of sculpture, the 64-year-old Dr. Chua deserves recognition in the field of sculptural art expression by virtue of his ability to subtly fuse his fantasy with the reality dictated by his medical profession. In his collection of fairly recent works of sculpture, he manifests a remarkable flair for giving new life and color to the subject of science and medicine.

Each crossover he makes from cardiology to art excites him. The artist in him goes ecstatic over female sexuality in “Eve’s Tricuspid” from his “Tangible Rhythms” collection. Three leaf-like shapes in this particular sculpture, while holding images of naked art, branch out gracefully on top of a tree given the surreally revealing curves of a woman. His fondness for foliage, which was previously noticed in his paintings, reappears in his sculpture.

Dr. Chua likewise contemplates the beauty of the nude female form and celebrates it sometimes in a provocative way as in “EKG Waveforms.” This work of art inspired by an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) interprets the rate and regularity of the heartbeat with eye-stopping effect. Elsewhere, his row of old painting brushes of uneven lengths in a much-used container gets perceived as a metaphor in “Art of ECG.”

As a highly-respected medical practitioner who is fully dedicated to the promotion of heart health, Dr. Chua pays extra attention to the ever-busy and stressed mitral valve of the heart. The bicuspid valve takes the seductive silhouette of a winged angel in his “Mitral Ring.” A golden loop, a reminder of the ring existing between the upper and lower chambers of the heart, hangs dramatically in suspended animation while highlighting a beautifully attenuated torso. Meanwhile his “Dancing Mitral” captures a ballet dancer on her toes. The artist’s cardiac ideas and thoughts just keep spinning off with surprising twists and turns to delight.

The sculptor introduces a fascinating maze to suggest what heart experts know as the Purkinje network in two pieces titled “Diastole” and ”Systole” respectively. The layman, however, does not need to dwell on the rest period nor the actively beating phase of the heart. Two abstract works of sculpture produced with a stretch of the imagination in Dr. Chua’s style invite puzzling labyrinthine exploration or simple art appreciation. A big decorative mural from the same art theme series hangs prominently in the reception area of the Health Cube in Greenhills, where the heart specialist holds clinic regularly.

Electric impulses conducted through the equivalent of electrical wirings in the human heart to keep it alive are a concern of Dr. Chua. He describes himself as an electrician who deals with the rhythm problem of the heart. Actual cables and wires from his everyday life enabled him to give a tangible dimension to the heartbeat or rhythm of the heart. Somewhere along the way, too, he discovered the possibility of making an art statement about “Escape Beat” through a juxtaposition of hardware stuff like screws as well as nuts and bolts culminating with an unlocked pair of handcuffs.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Recollections of pilgrimage of a lifetime to retrace footsteps of Man from Galilee

Writer Nancy T. Lu makes an unforgettable trip to Jerusalem.

By Nancy T, Lu

        Friends asked me what I brought back from my visit to the Holy Land. I told them, not joking at all, that I bought a framed crown of thorns complete with a certificate, saying it “has been sanctified in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher” in Jerusalem. I want to be constantly reminded that life’s pains and sufferings are nothing compared to what Jesus Christ went through.
        Traveling to Israel for the first time years ago and making what I truly believed to be the trip of a lifetime, I only knew that I must try to retrace the steps of Christ, especially his passion and sufferings.. The Garden of Gethsemane and the Via Dolorosa in the life of the Man from Galilee were marked from the beginning as of top priority. in my itinerary..
          My first whole day visit to Jerusalem began only hours after the wee morning assassination of Hamas spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin in Gaza City. Mendy Gonda, the Israeli tour guide with 30 years of experience, appeared visibly apprehensive that day. He was constantly using his mobile phone, checking out the situation in Hebrew.
Looking out to the right side of the tourist bus, he saw a police patrol car blocking a vehicle and accosting the passengers. He remarked: “The police are checking the identity papers of Palestinians who slip illegally into Tel Aviv to find work and rounding them up.”
        Israel was not taking any chance. The authorities were on full alert. So was the glib talker Gonda.
        “I am not sure that I will be able to get you all into the old city of Jerusalem today,” he announced the bad news.
        As he drove, he said: “There is going to be a bomb somewhere. This is all like Russian roulette.”
        The tour group spent a lot of time in the rebuilt Jewish Quarter of old Jerusalem, checking out the archaeological sites. During a visit to the Cenacle in a Jewish synagogue, the tour guide questioned the seating arrangement of Jesus and the apostles in Leonardo da Vinci’s “Last Supper.” In his opinion, quoting biblical passages, Jesus would in most likelihood not be sitting in the middle. Rather, he would be the second or third person on one side of the table. Judas would be next to him, driving Peter to complain. Furthermore, he would be in a reclining position, supporting his head with one hand and helping himself to the bread with the other clean hand, claimed the Jewish guide.
        The truly exciting part of the visit began near the Jaffa Gate not far from the famous Wailing or Western Wall of Jerusalem, where many Jewish pilgrims, the most prominent being the bearded orthodox Jews in black, turn up to pray and mourn the Temple’s destruction. Many stick folded pieces of paper with writings into the crevices in the wall. These are collected in a container regularly and buried.
        The hurried and nervous steps of the tour group led by Gonda provided little time for picture-taking. The guide had warned everyone about the serious security problem due to fear of Palestinian reprisals.
        Indeed the Arab-owned shops along the narrow but rather picturesque Via Dolorosa route were all shuttered up on this day. The protest and mourning over the loss of a charismatic leader, whom the Israelis labeled a Palestinian Bin Laden, had begun.
        It was impossible to cover completely the traditional route along which Jesus carried his cross from his condemnation to his crucifixion in what was known as the Via Dolorosa (Way of Sorrows). Even the guide book said that the Stations of the Cross may not be exactly the places where the cited incidents happened.
The first seven Stations of the Cross are in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City. The VIIIth and the IXth Stations are located on the border between the Christian Quarter and the Muslim Quarter. The final five Stations are all within the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.
        A small “V” at the junction of Tariqal-Wad and Tariqal-Saray marked the Vth Station, which I visited. According to biblical account, the heavily scourged Jesus fell on his way to Calvary or Golgotha and Simon of Cyrene was ordered to carry the cross. A woodcarving in the small chapel showed this scene.
The Roman numeral VI was on the door of the Church of the Holy Face and St. Veronica, serving as the VIth Station. Veronica was said to have wiped the face of Jesus with a piece of cloth and he left the imprint of his face on it.
Jesus’ fall for the second time was commemorated in the VIIth Station. This was also the Porta Judicaria where, according to legend, the death decree was posted. On this particular day of my visit, the door was open. I slipped inside and saw a huge painting there depicting the fall.
   The Xth and XIth Stations were in the Latin Chapel of the Nailing to the Cross on Calvary inside the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Here Jesus was stripped of his clothes and nailed to the cross. I had entered the church from the courtyard and climbed the steps to the right to get to the rock on which Jesus and the two thieves were crucified on Calvary or Golgotha. According to the guide, the mosaics here were fairly recent, except for one depicting the Ascension, said to be of the 12th century.       
The dimly-lit but richly decorated Greek Chapel of the Exaltation or the Raising of the Cross marked the XIIth Station. A crucified Jesus was flanked by the Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalene. Below the Greek altar was a small opening. I reached down deep inside to touch the rock surface of Golgotha. 
The small Latin Stabat Mater altar honoring Our Lady of Sorrows was sandwiched between the two chapels. This was the XIIIth Station. Here Mary received the body taken down from the cross. 

Stairs led the group down to the Stone of Unction, commemorating the anointing of Jesus’ body by Nicodemus prior to the burial. The present slab of limestone was said to date back to only 1810. The previous 12th century one was destroyed in a fire in 1808. Worshippers did not hesitate to touch and even kiss it. Hanging above the stone were lamps belonging to the Armenians, Copts, Greeks and Latins.
The Tomb of Christ, the XIVth Station, consisted of the Chapel of Angels, only 3.4 meters by 3 meters in size, and the even smaller Chapel of the Holy Sepulcher, only 2 meters by 1.8 meters in area. I queued and literally stooped to get inside the second chapel to pray. I could not stay too long for many visitors were waiting to gain entrance inside. 

On my second visit to the holy site only two days later, Zvi Harpaz – a more considerate tour guide if compared to the first one who even challenged me to convince him about my Christian beliefs – asked if I wanted to have a blessing from the Franciscan monk, who was around. I was delighted.
Moments later, on my way out of the church, a decently dressed guy caught up with me, asking me if I would like to make a donation to the priest who had just blessed me. I pulled out a 20-shekel bill and began to head back to the chapel. He offered to give the donation in my behalf. Fearing that I would be left behind by my tour group, I gave him the money. To my chagrin, he headed for the nearest church exit and disappeared with the sum which I handed to him.
The failure to see the Garden of Gethsemane on my first visit to Jerusalem made me ask my more accommodating second guide early on about including a stop there on my return two days later. On my first trip to Jerusalem, I only saw from a distant rampart the Church of All Nations (Church of Agony) with a gold mosaic façade depicting Jesus Christ as mediator between God and man. At last I was able to walk like many other pilgrims around the site, pinpointed since the 4th century as the place where Jesus prayed, was betrayed by Judas and was arrested. According to the guide, some of the olive trees seen there have been certified to be more than 2000 years old.
The basilica there, a design of architect Antonio Barluzzi, has purple glass on the windows, which dims the light entering the church to suggest “the hour when darkness reigns.” Devotees gathered near the section of the bedrock upon which Jesus prayed before his arrest.  
There I ended my pilgrimage to the Holy Land. But upon my return to my country of origin, with memories still fresh and vivid to make me feel the Lenten mood, I went out of my way to watch Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of Christ.”