Chinese Buddhist temples of the Philippines (3)

This is the third of a series about the Chinese Buddhist temples of the Philippines. There are around 36 in different parts of the country. Much of the information is from a thesis of Venerable Chuanmiao (Hsuan Chuang University, 2008), a Buddhist monk affiliated with the Thousand Buddha Temple in Quezon City.—Ed.

3. Che Wan Temple (靈鷲寺)
550 Santol St., Sta. Mesa, Manila (Tels.: 714-5695, 714-7957)

Two women from Fujian are behind the establishment of this temple.

The first is Ven. Ruimiao 瑞妙 (Suibiao See), the first Buddhist nun to propagate Buddhism in the Philippines. She was born in Jinjiang in 1924 and first took the Bodhisattva vows under Master Xingyuan (性願) in Xiamen in 1948.

Xingyuan later founded Seng Guan Temple (信願寺) on Narra St., Manila.

Ruimiao had planned to join her father in Manila in 1949 but she stopped first in Hong Kong to train for ordination there.

Invited by Manila’s Poh Chong Temple (寳藏寺), she arrived in the city in 1954 and undertook various works, including a stint at the Sam Po Temple (三寳寺) in Zamboanga.

Her partner Xinlian (心蓮 Simlian Ko) was born 1922 in Shishi, and left home to become a nun in 1945 at the Lingjiu Temple (靈鷲寺) in Shaohui (燒灰), Jinjiang. She traveled to Hong Kong in 1957. While there, Ruimiao invited her to Poh Chong Temple, Manila.

In 1962, the two women invited several lay Buddhists to form a foundation to start a new temple. The Che Wan Temple opened in 1965, taking the same Chinese name as the temple where Xinlian started her religious life. Ruimiao served as the first abbess, and Xinlian succeeded her in 1975.

Main buildings. The temple began with only one building housing two worship halls on the second floor, and reception and dining hall on the ground floor.

Prominent Chinese from different parts of the country donated the various statues of Buddha and Bodhisattva. Under Xinlian’s leadership, a columbary/ancestral hall, a lecture room, and a school building were later built.

Leadership and primary activities. After Ruimiao left the Philippines in 1975, the temple has been staffed only by nuns. Xinlian is still the abbess in name. Daily affairs are managed by local-born nun Limei (麗美). Four others live in the temple, including one who arrived from China in 2010.

Chanting services are organized on the usual Buddhist feast days, especially the three annual Guanyin feasts and the chanting for the dead during the Qingming festival and the seventh lunar month. The temple is unique for organizing the Eight Precepts (八關齋戒) three-day retreat twice a year, during the first and ninth lunar months.

Ruimiao and Xinlian wanted to promote Buddhist education among Filipino youth. To this end, Xinlian built a schoolhouse and started a small kindergarten, but lack of staff in 2010 prompted her to entrust the facilities to the administration of the Philippine Amitabha Society.

The Society is linked to an international network of societies inspired by Master Jing Kong (淨空) and promotes Confucian education through a contemporary Confucian text called Dizigui (弟子規), or Standards for Being a Good Student and Child. — First published in Tulay Fortnightly, Chinese-Filipino Digest 25, nos. 15-16 (January 15-February 4, 2013): 23-24.