Friday, January 31, 2014

Churches of Brisbane - Worship Down Under

St. John's Cathedral (Anglican)
A church is always a part of a Filipino tourist's itinerary every time he steps into a strange new land. And if you're in Brisbane, this task becomes an easy one because the heritage-listed St. Stephen's Cathedral is situated in the heart of Brisbane's CBD (central business district) along Elizabeth Street, just a few steps from Brisbane Central Station. Moreover, a stroll along Ann Street will show you several churches from different denominations.

My favorite, as per architectural form, is St. John's Cathedral (top photo), an Anglican cathedral whose construction took 100 years to complete. The structure looks like a castle in Victorian Gothic style (Gothic revivalist), the only one of its kind in Australia. Its groundbreaking started in 1901 initiated by the third Bishop of Brisbane, William Webber, and designed by architect John Pearson. It houses the largest cathedral organ in Australia, a four manual pipe piece. It's also home to an all-men (adult and boys) choir.

Meanwhile, the Cathedral of St. Stephen is the seat of the Roman Catholic Diocese in Brisbane. Built between 1864 and 1922, they commissioned architect Benjamin Backhouse who designed a large church with Gothic Revivalist style (like St. John's) to accommodate the growing population of Brisbane. However, this design was downgraded several times for economic reasons.

The interior feels small for a diocesan seat which makes a visit more intimate. A special feature of the cathedral is the "floating block" of a Jerusalem Stone - the sacred place where Christian Faith was born. Though it may initially look like a mislaid cornerstone, the religious piece is held with pious regard. Religion really puts a premium on historical items that help remind people of the proof of a Higher Being. This is also why items like a strand of Buddha's hair, or a tooth relic, or a footprint, easily becomes a highlight in temples all over Asia.

Albert Street's Uniting Church easily grabs attention because of the brick color. The Good Shepherd Church of Christ holds free barbecues every Saturday afternoon at 5 PM. All Saints Church, along Ann Street, near Cathedral Square, is perched on a hill. I was reading their mass schedule and noticed something that piqued my interest. Its schedule mentions a "Low Mass" and a "High Mass" - and a separate schedule of "Evensong and Benediction". I've been schooled in religious and/or Catholic Schools from grade school up to my University years, yet I have never encountered such terms. What would constitute a "High Mass"? Or a "Low Mass"? Doesn't that make you think? Or at least make you run back to your laptop for Google's help? All Saints Church also has a backyard with a lovely prayer station - a cross, a few benches and the statue of a man praying. Isn't it hopeful that man still finds solace in a house of God?

This is the Eye in the Sky.

The Cathedral of St. Stephen

Jerusalem Stone is on display at the Chapel of Unity,a smaller enclave at St. Stephen's.  

The backyard of St. Stephen's. Mass schedule - Sundays at 8 AM, 10 AM, 12 noon, 7:30 PM; Monday to Friday: 8 AM, 10 AM, 12:30 PM, 5:10 PM; Public holidays at 10 AM; Saturday has a Marian Mass at 11: 30 AM. Penance has a list of schedule too.  

Albert Street Uniting Church
Mass Schedule: Sunday - 9 AM, 11 AM, 6:30 PM; 1st and 3rd Tuesday of the month at 1:15 PM; Friday (Holy Communion) at 1:15 PM. Website:
St. Andrew's Uniting Church at the corner of Ann and Creek Street.
St. John's Cathedral (above and below)

Good Shepherd Church of Christ
All Saints Church (Anglican Episcopal, above and below)
Mass Schedule: Sundays - 7:30 AM, 9:30 AM, 6:30 PM; Weekdays: MTTh at 12:15 PM; WF at 7:45 AM; Saturday during Advent and Lent at 9 AM. Email at

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Streets Beach at Brisbane's South Bank Parklands

At the South Bank Parklands, midway between Goodwill and Victoria Bridges is Streets Beach constructed for those who love frolicking on the beach, but want to stay within city limits. Finding this beach is a little jolt of surprise because I didn't expect a leisure swimming site here that feels like real beach, with fine white sand on one side.

It is easy to find. The Arbour Walk will eventually lead you here. The "beach" is roughly divided into a shallow and a deep portion. A demarcating line is provided somewhere (see photo 11 from the top). There are children playing in the midst of sea lion statues and squirting fountains. At the other end are adults soaking in on the sun. If you just want to roast yourself with enough ultraviolet rays - without getting wet (which is less fun), there's a grassland nearby where you find the younger demographic just reading their books or throwing frisbees.

I had to be a bit inconspicuous photographing this area because you don't want to be accused of taking advantage of people's modesties, but how else do you document a beach without bodies in bikinies or swimming trunks - or children playing? How do you capture the spirit of fun and frolic without the people populating the area? The world has become too paranoid, and I somehow understand why.

The beach feels like a special place. You could relax and sit on a bench, gazing at the atmosphere of revelry or cogitate at Brisbane's riverside just a few steps from this swimming space. The skyline is awesome from this point.

This is the Eye in the Sky.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Nepali Friendship Pagoda & Rainforest Walk - Brisbane's South Bank Parklands

I  have been to Nepal, but I can't quite recognize a Nepali temple when I see one. I remember an exquisite multi-level pagoda built like cubic consructions. Finding this Friendship Temple in Brisbane was a surprise. Located at the South Bank Parklands of Brisbane, this wooden temple looks like it has been manually assembled from Kathmandu. True enough, the art work was built by craftsmen of Kathmandu to help celebrate the World Expo 88. An inscription says that this was a creation of "love, peace, fertility and harmony". 

The artists started building it in 1986 and finished just in time for the Expo of 1988. Its interior has a wooden stair that leads to a narrow second, and even a third, level. There are benches inside that sat like church seats; and glass cover the windows. Intricate carvings of Buddha characterize the doors. Concrete statues of an elephant and a dragon guard the exterior ground, and a moat serenely dozes outside.

Adjacent to this temple is a series of wooden plankways that make up the Rainforest Walk, seemingly inspired by some particular sites of Indonesia or the Philippines. The surrounding ecosystem seems healthy because it is inhabited by a few wild animals, like a lizards we saw on the ground. If you suddenly wake up here, you might get disoriented and think that you're nowhere near Brisbane. But lo and behold, the Brisbane River is just a few steps away.

This is the Eye in the Sky!

Rainforest Walk is closed from dusk til dawn.