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.

I Think I Like Pope Francis

Because of a couple of hot-button issues that I don’t agree with the Catholic Church, I consider myself a “Catholic in bad standing”.  Though born a Catholic, I don’t even have a friend or even an acquaintance who’s either a Catholic priest or a nun.  Nevertheless, I participated in welcoming with huge open arms His Holiness, Pope Francis to my country, the Philippines.

one cool pope...

one cool pope…

I think I like Pope Francis.  I like him because he has an effective way of changing the public’s perception about Catholicism.  His tone is totally different as compared to a traditional, strict and highly conservative Catholic.

I think like him because he is not out in the world to evangelize the non-Catholics.  He is out of Vatican and visits parts of the world to re-evangelize the Catholics (like me) to reconsider the Catholic virtues of compassion, love and service to fellow human beings.

I think I like him because he is not the usual judgmental type of a Catholic.  He seem to be the type who would just let you be what you be as long as you mean no harm and it is in pursuit of love or of helping the poor.

I like him because he concedes to the idea that God shall be your judge at the end of the day and not those people with ostentatious robes running the Roman Catholic Church.

Lastly, I think I like Pope Francis because he seem to possess the power to warm hearts.  Through the feeling of warm hearts, this opens up people’s appreciation towards the beauty of Catholicism, the strength of Christianity and the love of Jesus Christ.

After seeing Pope Francis in person, I know what the phenomenon dubbed as the “Pope Francis Effect”.  Seeing him was like one of the coolest things.  It seem like an out of body experience!

Maligayang pagdating po sa inyo…

My First Visita Iglesia

I have been to Bangkok, Thailand three times.  And in all those times I with friends tour their well known Buddhist temples in a day.  I even coined it Visita Buddhista.  This made a tinge of guilt because in my homeland and with my very own religion, I’m too lazy to pull off the Filipino Catholic Lenten tradition known as Visita Iglesia (Seven Churches Visitation).

But I’m guilty no more because in this year’s Holy Thursday, I have completed my very first Visita Iglesia. I did this pious tradition not with friends but with my family.  We did not chose the grandest and tour-worthy churches and cathedrals found in Metro Manila but instead we settled on visiting the houses of prayers that are in a way close and connected to our hearts. Five of which are located in Pasay City, 1 in Makati and 1 in Manila.

Here they are…

The Shrine of Jesus, The Way, The Truth and The Life

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20130328_150248Located near SM Mall of Asia, my family calls this MOA Church.  It’s literally is close to our family because it is the nearest church to Nengkoy’s house.  That is why it is so obvious that it is the first church we visited.

 

Our Lady of Sorrows Parish Church

our lady of sorrows

20130328_151812This church is very special to me and my siblings.  We consider this place of worship as the “Binyag Church” (Church of Baptism) because all of our catholic baptism rites when we were still infants were held in this very church.

 

San Rafael Parish Church

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This is my family’s Parish Church.  In 1962, this was the very church where the glorious wedding ceremony of my parents was held.  Nengkoy was all smile when she entered and left this very quaint church, she feels like she’s so part of it.  Also, this was the very church that I was scolded by a priest (mind you, it was during the homily) for wearing shorts when I heard a Holy Mass one early morning a couple of years back.

 

Sta. Clara De Montefalco Parish Church

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This is the house of prayers of Nengkoy when she was a young girl studying in St Mary’s Academy.

 

San Isidro Labrador Parish Church

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This one is the personal favorite of my nephew Luis.  The adjacent catholic school is where he studied in high school.  Anyway, I personally like the drama of this church… the holy cross was placed outdoor and visible indoor through a clear glass wall.

 

St. John Bosco Parish Church

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This is the church where my elder sister and her husband claimed to have first met.  Ewww super cheesy! As for me, I always wonder why every time I pray inside this church my prayers are in straight English.  Is it the location, is it the minimalist modern interiors or is it the stylish well-dressed church goers?  I don’t know why. (I think it’s the “pa-sosyal” in me. hahaha!)

 

Our Lady of Remedies Parish Church

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This very old yet majestic church was the venue of my elder sister’s wedding.  This church is a very popular church for Visita Iglesia aficionados.  It was full packed!  That is why when we entered to say our prayers the first thing I uttered was “Wow blockbuster!”  Anyway, Our Lady of Remedies otherwise known as Malate Church is a special church for me.  It is a stone throw away from my office.  That is why this is the church I go to for me to say my morning prayer every time I came too early for work.

Nanikip ang dibdib ko sa bisitang yan hah! Muntik na ko matunaw!

Dilemma On Quaresma: The Modernized Pabasa

pabasawithmicrophoneIts Maundy Thursday today and the traditional Pabasa Ng Pasyon (Chanting of Christ’s Passion) literally kept me up all night.  Not because I joined the bandwagon this year of chanting in monotonous tone the narratives of the life, passion, death and resurrection of Lord Jesus but because a community right beside the building where I live chose to chant the Pasyon in loud and proud manner utilizing a microphone with humongous sets of speakers.

I know Pabasa Ng Pasyon is considered to be a unique Filipino communal tradition which would run during the whole span of the Holy Week.  But do devotees today really have to use a microphone to fulfill this religious meditation? What about those who opted to follow the tradition of shutting their mouth and ears to find peace and serenity during the observance of the Holy Week?

I am not saying that Pabasa should be stopped in all corners of the land what I am trying to point out is that this tradition should be kept and observed in the traditional manner, that is, speaker-less, microphone-less with merely raw, genuine and unprocessed chants.

In my personal opinion, using microphones and speakers in Pabasa denotes artless, insincere and contrived expression and profession of the Catholic faith.  It no longer sounds the way I used to hear it – exotic, bizarre and mysterious.  For me, using these modern technological equipments turns the “modernized” Pabasa into nothing but a thoughtless, vain and immodest show.

It’s the Holy Week no one should be playing or making loud music for Pete’s sake!  I just hope the ear fatiguing sound from the nearby colony of human beings would stop while I write this post otherwise this week is turning out to be one unholy week.

Mataimtim na kwaresma para sa lahat…