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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Bravura of Hagia Sophia

VoucherCloud, a money-saving app, last year released a world map that identifies each country’s most popular tourist destination based on TripAdvisor’s top-rated “things to do” feature.  Surprisingly and with a bit of disappointment, the stand out for my country, the Philippines, was Kayangan Lake.  But where is that?  I wonder how this lake beat and knocked out world-class destinations like El Nido, Boracay and Bohol.

spectacular especially at night
massive indoor view
impressive minbar, the pulpit where the imam stands to delivers sermons
grand calligraphic panes!
selfie muna
monolithic marble cubes: these massive liquid container is used to distribute juice to the public for holy nights and prayer celebrations

But when I checked Turkey, I was super happy to know that this beautiful country’s top destination was the Hagia Sophia.  Though they seem to be a flop in the Philippines, VoucherCloud and TripAdvisor are so correct with the Turkey result.  I have recently been to Turkey and only a stupid, puny and absurd tourist will miss the majesty, grandeur and beauty of the great Hagia Sophia.

As one of Turkey’s most celebrated landmark, the great Hagia Sophia was a Byzantine church for 916 years. It was later converted into an imperial mosque by a Sultan of the Ottoman Empire and stayed as such for 482 years.  Then in 1935, it was transformed into a museum and was later considered to be a UNESCO World Heritage site.  It may have a turbulent past but because of its rich and significant historical background, Hagia Sophia easily earns respect from all religions and occupations.

Though every nook and corner of this building seem to have an intense and loud story to tell and despite being the busiest and most visited attraction in Turkey, the Hagia Sophia still maintains its calm and peaceful effect towards its visitors.

I don’t have a tip on how to explore this ancient structure.  The only advice I can give to all those who will be fortunate to visit this top Turkish destination is to breathe, digest and admire the bravura of the rich stories of this spectacular structure.

mother mary with baby jesus in the middle. to the left is emperor john komnenos while to her right is empress irene
theotokos! apse mosaic
lovely dome
ancient deisis mosaic treasure…
at awe!

Nakakamangha!

A Palm Sunday in San Francisco and My Anti-Ageing Cream is Working

My Holy Week last year would most probably be the holiest Holy Week I will ever have, it is because I got to spend it right where the holy Holy Week happened, in Jerusalem, Israel.  This year I am in San Francisco USA.  And though it is definitely less divine compared to last year, I nevertheless got to observe Holy Week here.

I got to attend and celebrate Holy Mass at Grace Cathedral last Palm Sunday.  I actually arrived 30 minutes before the mass started that is why I got the opportunity to take photos and go around the holy church.

my 2017 palm sunday church
lovely
solemn…

One funny thing happened though.  As I was about to leave the church after dipping my fingers into the Holy Water to make the sign of the cross, a lady approached me with the biggest smile.  She expressed that she was so glad to see such a young man like me attending a Holy Mass on a Palm Sunday.  She further expressed in a very gentle voice that new generation whom according to her I belong no longer attends a Holy Mass.  She then uttered “God Bless you young man!”

turista…
my instagram post last palm sunday
selfie muna
eto na yun… palaspas nila… pinitas lang.

I did not say anything.  I just stood there.  Listened to her and smiled.  If she only knew how old I am and that I may actually older than her.  I decided not to correct nor rectify her statements.  Besides, I don’t want to ruin her beautiful morning.  I just left the church smiling and thinking how much love I have for my anti-ageing cream….

Lumelebel… o baka naman malabo lang ang mata ni Inday.

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!

Pater Noster: Prayer For Life

Just like missing prayers before a meal or going to sleep I missed writing about the Church of Pater Noster. Also known as the Sanctuary of the Eleona, Pater Noster church is located on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.

pater noster church
pater noster church
lords prayer in its first two language...
lords prayer in its first two languages…

Being a Catholic, my not writing about this place felt like heresy of some sort.  It is because this special spot, where I and my sister visited when we were in Israel, is where Lord Jesus believed to have taught the Lord’s Prayer.

Not all Catholics were blessed enough of being able to see and experience what it was to be like in such a special place.  Honestly, I consider Pater Noster to be one of the highlights of me and my sister’s tour of the Mount of Olives.

This 4th century Byzantine church is serene and beautiful.  And underneath this massive structure is a cave which I think is considered the holiest spot of the area for it is believed to be where Lord Jesus taught his disciples  the ‘Ama Namin’ (translation: Our Father) prayer.

highlight!
highlight!
selfie inside where it's taught
selfie inside where it’s taught
searching for the tagalog version...
searching for the tagalog version…
got the ilonggo version
got the ilonggo version
feeling so blessed...
feeling so blessed…

The walls of the structure are placed with multilingual plaques bearing the Lord’s Prayer in different languages.  Feeling proud Pinoys, I and my sister failed to locate the plaque in Filipino-Tagalog language.  We nevertheless was successful in locating the English and the Filipino-Ilonggo prayer versions.

Saying the Our Father has always been part of my prayer, in whatever form or state of mind I am.  And I may miss saying prayers before meals and before sleep but I will forever be so thankful that the stars has aligned for me to see and experience this holy place where the prayer for life started.

Oh ‘di ba, ang banal banal ko na??  

The Majesty & Magnificence of Callao Cave

20160630_182248.jpgI can’t recall if I have been to a cave.  This is until my attention, interest and curiosity was called upon by the beauty, majesty and magnificence of Callao Cave in Tuguegarao Province.  This grand and imposing natural formation is known as the site where the oldest human bone of a Filipino has been discovered.

Being inside Callao Cave can be considered a blessing.  It was such an awesome sight.  The grandiose rock formations and the dramatic effect of natural rays of the sun seeping through the holes and crevices above the chambers and domes were really breathtaking.  I never imagined that such a place actually exists!

20160630_192906.jpg
with mj, jb and willie playing with the rays of the sun…
20160630_181000.jpg
dramatic!
the rarest chapel ever!
the rarest chapel ever!
the stunning lighting effect are all natural...
the stunning lighting effect are all natural…

Me and my colleagues (MJ, JB and Willie) felt so blessed for we were fortunate enough to behold such a magnificent work of nature!  The stunning site gives you an insight that the caveman who lived inside Callao thousands of years ago must be spending some auspicious lifestyle!  His architect and interior designer was no less than Mother Nature.

My experience and beautiful impression of Callao is worth a memory that can be tucked securely in a corner of my mind which can readily be pulled out later, maybe for a poem, or a short story or a song.  And it will definitely take a lot for the succeeding caves that I will step into for me to get as impressed as that of the first cave that I have been to.  Callao was one stupendously gorgeous cave!

Hayop sa ganda ang kwebang yon!

Chronicling a Momentous Holy Mass in Old Jaffa

According to history, Old Jaffa in Tel Aviv was a place that was monopolized by the Canaanites and Philistines.  It was also the ancient town brought to knees by Biblcal King David, ruled by King Solomon and vanquished by the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Persians and the Phoenicians.  It was the historic site where Alexander the Great stationed his troops.  And it was reconquered by the Jews through the Maccabean rebels and also fell into the hands of the Romans.  Old Jaffa is also where some of the stories in the Holy Bible about Jonah and Apostle Peter took place.

Old Jaffa is also even written about in some Egyptian letters by an ancient pharaoh.  It is also believed to be the place where Andromeda (of the Greek mythology) was chained to a rock by her king father so as to pacify the tantrums of Poseidon.

st peter's church
st peter’s church
amen!
amen!
my sister outside the st peter's church...
my sister outside the st peter’s church…

And in the event I happen to become very famous and significant, let me pronounce and put in writing (so that people would know) that this historic site is where I attended my first Holy Catholic Mass in Israel.  Not in Jerusalem, not in Nazareth neither in Bethlehem.  It is in old, historic and colorful Jaffa!  This I guess would be one notable event that will be recognized in the future!

And for the record, the Holy Mass me and my sister fortuitously attended was celebrated in the Spanish language.  It was a special Mass for some Latin American looking tourists. Too bad I did not intently listened to my profesora in Spanish language subjects during my schooldays, only little could I understand on what the priest was saying.

But since me and my sister knows the dynamics of the Holy Catholic Mass – when to say amen, when to kneel, when to do the sign of the cross, when to pray a specific/standard prayer, when to stand and bow the head, when to respond (our response was in English though), when to say “peace be with you”, etc. – the experience was as divine and as hallowed like attending a Holy Mass which we could totally understand.

No, I don’t have plans of conquering this awesome place but it can now be said that Old Jaffa is now a part of my soon to be famous life.  Or the other way around, that is, I have at least in some strange twist of fate have been part of the historic Old Jaffa.

took a shot while the first reading is on-going...
took a shot while the first reading is on-going…
the massive church was aptly called st peter's church because this is where st peter lived for a while (inside simon the tanner's house) and had a vision/dream which started the christian  catholic religion.  old jaffa is also where st peter raised tabitha from the dead
the massive house of prayer was aptly called st peter’s church because this is where st peter lived for a while (inside simon the tanner’s house) and had a vision/dream which started the christian catholic religion. this house is also where st peter raised tabitha from the dead
up the hill in old jaffa. behind me is the catholic church of st peter.
up the hill in old jaffa. behind me is the catholic church of st peter.

Parang gusto ko tuloy sakupin at ikongker ang baryong ito.