Seeing the Lady of Guadalupe Cloak on My Birthday

Last year on my birthday, I went to the Love Valley in Cappadocia, Turkey, and surprisingly met an angel in disguise.  This year on my birthday, I went to Mexico City and saw the cloak of Saint Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin.

My birthday this year was really special because I got to visit the Basilica de Santa Maria de Guadalupe! The basilica that houses the very popular cloak in which the image of our Lady of Guadalupe has been miraculously been impressed and printed so as to authenticate Virgin Mary’s apparitions in the area. 

seeing this was for me a miracle already
amen!

My birthday this year fell on a Saturday yet there was a Holy Mass service held in the basilica when I arrived.  This gave me the opportunity to hear a Mexican Holy Mass and say humongous thanks to the Lady of Guadalupe for the rare travel gift of experiencing the amazing city of Mexico.

The modern Basilica de Santa Maria de Guadalupe is vast and massive complex.  It is the most visited Marian shrine in Mexico because it houses the cloak containing the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  It is interesting to know that the new basilica was only completed in 1974.  The old basilica (finished in 1709) on the other hand is just adjacent to it but is already sinking.  Its floor has got some deep slope and its façade has evidently tilted.  It looks like it will dangerously fall and crumble anytime.  

notice how tilted the old church is?
selfie with the Lady! 

My prayer to the Lady of Guadalupe was all about my being thankful that I got to experience Mexico.  I did not asked for any miracle because my seeing and marveling over the beauty and holiness of the cloak during my birthday has been one major miracle for me already.

Santa Maria! Salamat!

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Sister Isabel’s African Adventure with God

When my elder sister (Gaying) and Nengkoy recently had some pieces of their jewelries commissioned for cleaning and polishing, they were given some giveaways by the jewelry shop.  Nengkoy kept the photo of Our Lady of Guadalupe while my sister handed over the giveaway book to her son, my nephew Luis.  I however snatched the book from Luis telling him to let me be the one to read it first and will just hand it to him after I’m done.  Luis joked that I might develop itchiness and skin rashes while reading it because the book was written by a Catholic nun. 

The book laid on my dining table for some considerable weeks already.  Still, quiet and unmoved.  Two reasons why it took me some time to start reading it.  First, it was written by a Catholic nun and I was not ready to be preached about some Catholic dogma.  Second, it was written by a Catholic nun, therefore it’s going to be so boring.

But as soon as I decided to scan and read the initial pages of Life On A Mission by Sr. Isabel Villacarlos, I no longer stopped and dropped it until I finished the very end part. 

When asked how she survived all the challenges of her mission,

Sr. Isabel answered, “one must have a major in Faith,

a master’s in Hope and a doctorate in Love.”

Life on a Mission chronicles the adventures, quests and journeys of a Catholic nun in north western portions of Africa.  Sister Isabel can be considered one extra ordinary nun.  She learned to ride a camel, dealt with poisonous snakes, drove a truck,  fell onto a bridge while driving a car, assisted in delivering babies and battled a storm are some of the highlighted adventures of Sr. Isabel in the book.

I guess being a travel addict myself made me stick to reading this book.  But the beauty about the experience of Sr. Isabel in Africa was that she was able to reveal and uncover the presence, manifestations and attendance of God in her adventures, which for me is such a cool thing!

Life On A Mission may not be a bestseller, but it is one remarkable book that definitely deserves more!

Wala akong masabi sa adbentyurs ni sister!

My Christian Warrior

nengkoy & joe

I grew up in a Catholic family.  My father was Catholic when he converted to being a Born Again Christian back in the late 80s.  Ironically, his conversion happened in the Islamic country of Saudi Arabia where he was based as an overseas worker.

When my father retired and decided to stay for good in the Philippines with my family, he was one active member of his church.  He even attempted to convert every one of us in the family.

Too bad for him, he started with me.  I actually commend my father for trying.  His strategy to start with me was so genius.  He knew that if I will be converted, it would be very easy for the rest of the members of my family to become Born Again Christians.

Up until the last days of my father, he never stopped in convincing and converting me.  I guess he knew that I am really the one who needs to be saved from the fires of hell. Hahaha! I can still remember the funny and humorous intellectual debate we had about how to be a true Christian while he was in the hospital.

It has been years and my father has gone to heaven.  He may have failed to convert me, yet I am pretty sure that in spirit, he still looks after me, Nengkoy and the rest of my growing family. He has always been my Christian Warrior.

I guess my father’s failure to convert me is really not a failure after all.  Because a true Christian Warrior will simply let you be the seeker of your own Truth.  And that is one of the multitude of impacts and contributions of my father to me.

Happy Father’s Day Tatay!  You got one proud son here…

Amishyu!

Holy House of Mother Mary in Turkey

Let me start featuring my Turkey solo journey posts not based on chronology of events.  Instead, let me commence by featuring one of the holiest spot in Turkey for the Christian Catholics like me.

I have been to the holy house of Mother Mary.

Hail Mary!

When the tour guide of the tour group I joined announced that the first site to be visited was the Holy House of Mother Mary, I got a bit worried.  I became so nervous and anxious because the guards of this pilgrimage site may see my invisible wicked horns and would not allow me in. Hahaha!

full of grace…
where are the pilgrims?

Anyway, the time of my specific visit to the House of Mother Mary according to our Tour Guide was something bizarre.  According to him, this Catholic pilgrimage site is often visited by hordes of tourists and pilgrims.  But on the particular instance that we visited, only me and my tour mates (a Singaporean couple, a Vienna-based Korean solo traveler and a Chilean lady physicist) were the only people at the site.

The Tour Guide who can’t seem to fathom that there was no people around justified that we must be some very special visitors of the house.  He mentioned that this must be some sort of a gift from the heavens so that our group would be able to deeply marvel and appreciate the beauty and sacredness of the holy site.

beautiful
and i was actually allowed inside the house… taking photos inside though is prohibited
pose muna kahit nakaka-paso!

Except for the Chilean lady physicist everyone in the group were non-practicing Christians.  But I was the only Catholic and was the only one who took the rare opportunity of lighting a candle and writing a note and tied it along with the bunch of other written wishes and prayer intentions on the humongous wall of notes.

When we left, the Tour Guide asked the group if someone wrote on a piece of paper and tied it on the wall of notes.  The Vienna-based Korean pointed at me.  The Tour Guide then told me not to divulge to the group the wish and prayer intentions that I have written on my note so that its realization would not be spoiled.  I then zipped my mouth and kept quiet.

But let me reveal what I have written.

salamat!
Mother Mary must be very busy… that’s a lot!
tied my thank you note…a wish fulfilled…

I actually did not wrote any request or any appeal.  I simply wrote a thank you note gor I consider my Turkey journey a gift from the heavens.  I did not wrote any desired intentions anymore because my being at the House of Mary and in Turkey (for that matter) is already a realization of a ginormous wish.

Heyl Meri!

Kissed a Relic

national shrine of padre pio

One of the highlights of Nengkoy’s birthday celebration last week was my whole family’s visit to the National Shrine of Padre Pio located in Sto. Tomas Batangas (80 km south of Manila).  Except for my younger sister Joie, it was everybody’s first time in the church.

Before proceeding to the main church area all of us took time to roam and check out the grounds of the holy national shrine.  We even lighted a number of votive candles to give thanks and pray for some groovy and awesome intercession.

votive candles…. got myslef a green for health, nengkoy took a brown for birthday while nephew miggy got himself a yellow for money! hahaha!
smiling nengkoy with smiling padre pio
come holy spirit…
few of my monster nephews… denden, luis, kambal, neil and miggy
got to kiss this…
a super blessed day… (nephew alexis: a photo bomber hahaha!)

We failed to attend and listen to a Holy Mass but we were nevertheless lucky and were at the perfect time to have attended an awesome Healing Liturgy.  And part of the blessed ceremony is that people got to kiss a sacred relic of St. Padre Pio followed by an anointment of a fragrant oil on both palms and the forehead.

Though it initially freaked me out, because I thought my lips are gonna burn (hahaha!) when it touches the relic, the experience was something serene, calm and divine.  I definitely felt God’s blessings and Padre Pio’s embrace.

Visiting Padre Pio church in Batangas was one beautiful experience.  It was one blessed experience!

Mwah! Mwah!

Blissful Encounter with the Lady Named Caysasay and an Angel Named Mark Vincent

It has always been my belief that entering a house of prayer or a religious temple for the first time goes with a lot of perks.  I am with the faithful belief that you can ask for three wishes if it is your first time to enter a church.  This of course is aside from the opulent opportunity to pray for your loved ones, express your heartfelt gratitude, catch-up with God and in a way save your soul.

simple yet powerful!
simple yet powerful!
mystifying
mystifying

But my first time visit to the church of Our Lady of Caysasay in Barangay Labac, Taal has more than what I expected.   I only knew through a brochure write-up of the hotel were we stayed in Taal that pilgrims and visitors of this church as decreed by Vatican may actually receive the rare and priceless plenary indulgence.  This means, if you visit and pray at Caysasay Shrine all your sins, wickedness and impiety will be washed away.  Upon knowing this, and since my wickedness is already up to the brim, I made sure that I and my friends must go there.

Aside from washing away all my evilness, I also got to meet one remarkable kid in Taal.  His name is Mark Vincent.  I actually met him right inside the church.  After saying a solemn prayer, this kid approached me and asked if I wanted to personally hold the image of Our Lady of Caysasay.  I of course agreed.  He then told me to follow him outside, led me to the back of the church and asked me to go up the stairs which leads me to the back of the high altar.

the angel and the wicked
the angel and the wicked
our lady of caysasay
our lady of caysasay
feeling blessed
feeling blessed

When I reached the top floor, the main backdoor of the church was locked.  Mark Vincent noticed that I could not get in so he hurried downstairs and told the church’s personnel to open the door for me and my friends.  This is where the amazing and rare opportunity of touching the miraculous image, her vestment and even the hair of Our Lady of Caysasay happened.  This beautiful experience was indeed sublime and mystifying.

When I told Mark Vincent that he is supposed to be in school that Wednesday morning, he told us that his teacher ordered them to report halfday after lunch because it’s the feast day of St John the Baptist.  In Batangas province, part of its local tradition is to splash water to people passing by the streets from morning ‘til noontime during San Juan day.  The teacher then, as I supposed, must not want her students reporting at school in the morning all drenched wet.

I was expecting Marc Vincent to ask money from us upon making sure we experience what we experienced.  Usual Pinoy cunning and scheming kids would charge or ask tourists for money for the service they believe they’ve rendered.  But what is so remarkable about this kid is that he never asked anything from us.  He simply wanted us to have a deeper encounter with the Lady of Caysasay.  This is the point when I surmised that Mark Vincent, the genteel and well-mannered kid, must be some angel sent by heaven.  (I will write further about my encounter with this remarkable kid in the days to come…)

Sa wakas nahuhasan din.  Grabe. Ang linis linis ko. Hahaha!

Rebooted by Pope Francis

A miracle happened in Luneta hours before the Holy Mass was about to be officiated by Pope Francis.  It was a miracle that involved me and my elder sister.  Both of us did not whine nor whimper about going to and from the people-infested Luneta right in the middle of the storm.  In fact, we both actually enjoyed it!

My relatives know that in case I am subjected to any discomfort, I whine and grumble to the highest level.  While my elder sister is the most cautious and the least adventurous in the family.  So if we are together, nothing really happens and everything seem so dull.

thank you santo padre...
thank you santo padre…

But not today.  I would like to claim that I and my sister were rebooted and were recharged by the visit of Pope Francis in Manila.  At exactly 12 noon, I, my sister and her son Luis converged at Vito Cruz.  In our respective jackets and rain coats, we walked our way heading to Luneta to attend a once in a lifetime Holy Mass in Manila by Pope Francis.  Both of us surprisingly did not complain nor felt tired nor whine about the long walk, the drenched feeling, the muddy puddles, the dizzying swarms of people as well as the cold and heavy downpour of typhoon thrashing above us.

And when we were heading back, we were actually caught in a throng of people crammed and tightly squeezed together.  People were so compact, it was like a wave of people.  You cannot just standstill because the wave of people would thrust you in varying directions.

I actually got nervous for my sister and my nephew for it really takes a lot of energy to survive the shoving force of such surfs of moving people.  The three of us got separated along the way after about 25 meters.  But when the crowd got a bit loose and no longer too crammed together, I found a concrete planter box and stood up to look for them.

Luckily, in about five minutes my sister saw me high on the planter box and headed towards me and then suddenly my nephew appeared smiling walking towards us.  My sister told me that she was pressed towards a group of old ladies while my nephew was prodded towards a group of young foreigners also attending the Pope’s pastoral visit in Manila.

my elder sister enjoying the rain and the pope francis vibe
my elder sister enjoying the rain and the pope francis vibe

At an ordinary occasion, I would have wailed, whined and complained.  While my sister could have simply passed out.  But we kept our composure and actually smiled and congratulated ourselves for surviving such a deadly throng of people.  We headed back home happy and feeling accomplished.

Now that I am writing this, only now that I realized that I would definitely will walk that far or get drenched that drenched or brave a smashing typhoon or subject myself to be crushed by hordes of people if it is in the honor of the Holy Vicar of Christ.

This experience is definitely nothing but a miracle.

Maganda din pala kapag iniiwan ang kaartehan sa bahay.