By: Madhava Smullen on Sept. 10, 2011
Sri Sri Radha-Madhava Mandir
9105 Banuyo Street, San Antonio Village, Makati City, Metro Manila
(+632) 890-1947 or 896-3357; mobile : 0917-8378176
Sri Sri Radha-Madhava, Sri Sri Pancha-tattva and Srila Prabhupada.
Temple Management Committee:
Mahendra Dasa, Sham Daswani and Radha Lila Dasi.
August 17, 2006, during Srila Prabhupada’s Vyasa Puja (birthday) festival.
Residential two-storey Filipino-style house. Originally designed as a Protestant church, it was renovated to include an altar for Sri-Sri-Radha-Madhava, as well as two kitchens—one for the Deities, and one for the devotees and locally run Food For Life program.
The temple is two streets away from the residence of Philippines Vice President Jejomar Binay, and is located on the same street as the house of his son, Makati Mayor Junjun Binay.
Distinctive food offerings:
Foods of Indian, Italian, and Chinese origin are offered to the Deities, as is organic produce.
Number of residents:
Number of visitors:
Seventy to eighty people during a normal week, 150 to 200 during smaller festivals, and 1,200 to 1,500 on major festival days such as Janmastami.
Best time of year to visit:
On any Vaishnava festival day, although major festivals such as Janmastami, Gura Purnima, and Kartika make for a special experience.
The story of ISKCON’s temple in Makati City—one of the seventeen cities comprising the Manila metropolitan area of the Philippines—begins with head pujari Baladeva Dasa and temple administrator Radha Lila Dasi having a dream to invite Sri Sri Radha-Madhava to their city.
In early 2006, the two received the blessings of Philippines Governing Body Commisioner Giridhari Swami to establish a permanent temple in the Manila area—a dream that had also long been cherished by the late Tamal Krishna Goswami.
With the advice of Jananivasa and Pankajanghri, the head priests at Sri Sri Radha-Madhava’s original home in Mayapur, India, Baladeva Dasa approached the same sculptor in Jaipur who had carved Mayapur’s presiding Deities. Soon, their namesakes, Sri Sri Radha-Madhava, appeared from black and pure white marble respectively.
Ratha Yatra in Manila
“Meanwhile, back in Manila we were busy looking for a suitable home for them,” says Radha Lila Dasi. “We thought it would be easy to find one, but somehow there always seemed to be some hitch, even with buildings that seemed perfect and fit the criteria of the ancient Vastu science of architecture. We just could not finalize a deal.”
With Radha-Madhava set to arrive in July, and the Janmastami festival coming up in August, the devotees became anxious. But still, they could not find the right building. Finally, on June 28th, after months of prolonged effort sustained by faith, they found the current location in Makati City.
Working at a feverish pace, devotees began to renovate the property in preparation for the Deities’ arrival. Time was running out.
When their Lordships Sri Sri Radha-Madhava arrived on July 17th, the building was still not ready.
“When we opened the packing crates and saw them for the first time, we were struck speechless with wonder,” says Radha Lila. “They looked so beautiful, so sublime, and so merciful. We welcomed them with flowers and bhajans, and settled them in the home of ISKCON well-wisher Mr. Sham Daswani, where they stayed for almost a month.”
In the meantime, the devotees continued the renovations, working tirelessly day and night, but by Janmastami day on August 16th, they had still not finished. The festival was celebrated at the Army Function Hall in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City, as the devotees officially welcomed Sri-Sri Radha Madhava with a grand Abhisheka bathing ceremony. The next day, on the auspicious occasion of Srila’s Prabhupada’s birthday, their Lordships finally moved onto the altar in their new temple.
“Since then, we have hosted many senior Vaishnavas, who graced our temple in various ways,” Radha Lila says. “In September 2006, a month after the Deities were installed, Krishna Baladeva Dasa conducted a series of talks on the Srimad Bhagavatam, and in October, ISKCON kirtan singer Vaiyasaki Dasa guided us in chanting the most ecastatic bhajans. They were followed in 2007 by Janananda Swami, Ramai Swami, and our GBC regional secretary Tirtharaj Dasa.”
Philippino devotees happily chant and dance
In October 2007, the Manila temple was formally opened to the public, and people began to pour in through its doors to receive the blessings of Sri Sri Radha-Madhava and gaze in wonder at their extraordinary beauty. In October 2008, Indradyumna Swami visited to participate in a huge Ratha Yatra festival, and in 2009 Bhakti Brihat Bhagavat Swami, Harikirta Dasi, ISKCON Food For Life Director Priyavrata Dasa, and ISKCON Communications Director Anuttama Dasa delivered a series of Vaishnava classes and training seminars.
Today, Sri Sri Radha-Madhava Mandir has become an extremely popular destination for Manilans, with over a thousand people filling the temple to bursting point on major festivals.
“Metro Manila is an alive, vibrant city, filled with many attractions and facilities,” Radha-Lila comments. “But all of these satisfy only the body, while the soul remains parched. People are so busy running around that they seldom find time to look within, and they are always filled with tension and unrest. So Sri Sri Radha-Madhava’s temple is like an oasis in the desert, a place where people can go to quench their thirst for spiritual fulfilment.”
The ISKCON Manila devotees don’t wait for people to come to them, however. With their many outreach programs, they make sure to contribute to their local community.
Food For Life, for instance, serves 2,000 plates of sanctified vegetarian food (prasadam) daily to underprivileged children, including breakfast, lunch, and afternoon snacks, and the program continues to grow.
During Kartik, the sacred month of Lord Damodara, devotees visit homes in their area to sing “Damodar carols” and deliver figurines of baby Krishna and his mother Yashoda, as well as lamps to offer to them. They also hold daily house programs, with thirty-five homes visited and blessed by Lord Damodara last year.
The devotees of ISKCON Manila are also gradually increasing their interfaith outreach, attending interfaith meetings with various groups and NGOs, and serving prasadam to all the participants.
“We also spread Krishna consciousness through Harinam, book distribution, and university lectures, and are making a strong effort to reach out to the large community of Indian families and involve them in the temple,” says Radha Lila.
Devotees of the Manila temple distribute free vegetarian food
Recently, exciting new developments have appeared on the horizon for ISKCON Manila. Since the current temple is a rented building, devotees have always strongly desired to acquire land for a permanent home for Radha-Madhava. But until now, their efforts were unsuccessful.
“In April 2009, Shyam Dasa and I found a 2,000 square-meter plot of land in Taguig City, where we celebrated our first Janmastami with our Deities,” Radha Lila explains. “We were excited, but negotiations for the land fell through. Over the next two years, we looked at fifty more plots with no luck. Finally, we returned to the Taguig City land for another shot, but were disappointed to find that it was just about to be sold to a Mormon community. Two days before they were to pay, however, the owner called us and said that his heart had told him to give it to “the Hare Krishna people.” We signed the Deed of Sale on August 16th, 2011, the exact anniversary of Sri Sri Radha-Madhava’s first Janmastami here five years ago.”
With fundraising currently underway, ISKCON Manila hopes to open a permanent temple built in the traditional Vedic style on the new land within three years’ time. In the future, the fully completed complex is expected to include guesthouses, ashrams for resident celibate students, a restaurant, a bakery, an educational facility, a yoga studio, a cow protection facility, a commercial kitchen for Food For Life, and a BBT office for Srila Prabhupada’s books.
“Our aim is that it will be the hub of ISKCON Philippines, with all the other centers in the country acting as its satellites,” Radha Lila concludes.