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.
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!”
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
I 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!
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!
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.
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.
Parang gusto ko tuloy sakupin at ikongker ang baryong ito.
One common yet unofficial belief of religious and unreligious Catholics is that they can make a wish every time they enter a Catholic Church for the first time. Others, may they have a religion or none, would take the opportunity to make a wish every time they came across a wishing well.
I love churches and wishing wells, these spots gives me the feelings of positivity, optimism and upbeat emotional strength. Both feels like they have strange and mysterious healing powers!
Almost all people, I guess, after making a wish in these places would either forget about it or let fate and providence be the arbiter if such longing will be granted or not. No one I guess ever thought or dared of going back to the church or wishing well to follow up his or her wish. Relaying a reminder for the granting of a yearning is not part of the tradition or the custom of making wishes. This is definitely something rare and uncommon.
And since I am rare and uncommon, I did the rare and the uncommon. I followed-up.
Last Thursday, after touring a very interesting meat processing plant in Malvar, Batangas, me and my colleagues decided to go for a side trip. We went to the old heritage town of Taal, Batangas. For a very brief exploration, we went to 2 old churches and one mystical wishing well in Taal.
We went to the St. Martin De Tours Basilica, the largest Catholic Church in Asia and at the Shrine of Our Lady of Caysasay, one of the few churches in the world that was given the special privilege by the Vatican for plenary indulgence. To cap our short Taal trip, we went to the old spring-fed wells of Sta. Lucia, a miraculous wishing well.
Since I have been to all these three spots just a couple of weeks ago, this means, I would not have the opportunity to make a wish. Thus, to make this trip a more fruitful one, I simply expressed a reminder for the granting of my wish. The same request I made the first time I went there.
At the miraculous Sta. Lucia wishing well, people are obliged to return to this site when their wishes has already been granted. Grantees return so as to offer white or violet-colored flowers and to pray their deepest thanks. Since my wish has yet to be granted, I did not bring with me any flower but nevertheless say a short prayer of thanks for being well and alive.
Still at the miraculous Sta. Lucia wishing well, while dampening my face, my neck, my arms and my hair with the banal na tubig (sacred water) fetched from the well I was literally uttering in a sweet gentle tone, “Follow-up lang po… follow-up lang po…”.
Everyone was laughing when they heard me say this. Maybe it’s because it’s unusual to follow-up. My colleagues knew that I was just there few days ago, that is why they were giggling when I was making a follow-up.
So, to make my wish become more potent, I called for reinforcements! I requested my colleagues’ that part of their wishes is that they wish that my wish be granted!
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.
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.
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!