Monte Maria

I had so many blessings to thank the Almighty for, and I know that those blessings would not have come my way had I not invoked the help of the Blessed Mother.  Despite my multiple misgivings, Mama Mary had seen to it that all my prayers be granted. Gradually, blessings came, one after the other, and all I had to do was to utter 3 Hail Mary, or when I am troubled, the Memorare.

And so I insisted that by way of thanking God and His handmaid, the Legion of Mary CEO, we – that means Praesidium Mirror of Justice and I – go on a pilgrimage to Monte Maria. It was, after all, time for summer function. The members, mostly college girls, needed that bonding and breathing, or simply a real good break from everyday routine. The girls had been very devout to  the Legion, heeding to the commands of the Blessed Mother even if the tasks given them conflict with their personal schedules. Student life is totally pressurized, but the girls dutifully commit their Sunday mornings to weekly meetings and rendering Catechism to the marginalized children of the community. They know that there is a lot of more work to be done but for now, they had to deliver only what they can offer.

But when I mentioned Monte Maria, their eyebrows raised!  They only saved PhP700 bucks for their summer leisure! A pilgrimage would simply be a dream. But I urged them to activate their resources without mentioning that Mama Mary makes all things possible. The Legion of Mary can never solicit nor accept any donation, but by the end of the meeting, the girls had transport and food for the trip.

And so Monte Maria, here they come!

But what is Monte Maria? And why do many people set on this pilgrimage when two or three years ago, it was probably never heard of.  Google can answer the basic facts…. but here is what we discovered…

The pilgrimage to Monte Maria subtly subjects the pilgrims to a misty, modern miracle!  This simply means: we got LOST!

Okay, google was not clear what road to take, nor what province was Monte Maria located. So we groped our way, asking locals which way was it to Monte Maria… but in the process of stopping and asking , we saw the mist over  Taal Volcano, the world’s tiniest volcano which lies in the heart of a lake, and right then and there, everyone can feel the mighty power of God, guiding us through our journey…which, at the end of the day, I really literally said, what a journey it had been…

We did reach Monte Maria. It was situated some two kilometers after Alfonso Cavite, so technically, the real property tax goes to this province. But the cliff seemed perched on the borderline of Batangas, because I believe we are just a ferry boat to the island of Mindoro. And when I asked a youth volunteer where we were exactly, he told me a tale about Calle Ruega being so beautiful that I forgot what my original query was…

And so, I had my hot arroz caldo, although the caldo was just a bone and there was a hard boiled egg in exchange for the chicken… while the girls posed for picture mementos. The sun seemed to be hiding somewhere because although it was a bright morning, the rays were nowhere to be seen.

We arrived sometime after seven, just as the rest of the pilgrims were beginning to arrive. Probably, every other soul was surprised as I was because the Shrine was invisible to the naked eye! And before I forget, I must write that that Exupery adage is true, it is only with the heart that one can see rightly, for what is essential is invisible to the eye!

But as I said, the girls had fun capturing  some scenery, especially the flowers, most likely a present day version of Mary’s flower garden. And after I had my bowl of hot arroz and egg, and after I had that enchanting chat with the youth volunteer, I also posed for my pictures. By the way, by way of calming me down, the youth volunteer expressly said that no matter the volume of rain nor the howling of the winds, it does not flood in Monte Maria, and all we ever get is the passing of the gentle breeze… That, of course, gave me a thought… a thought that the answer of which was just about to unfold….

So we got lost, and I enjoyed the mist, and I couldn’t see the Shrine, and wondered where the sun was…can anything yet be more marvelous?  Read on….

The girls and I decided to occupy the aisle seats, so we can have a better view of the altar. We already learned from the youth volunteer that Fr. Fernando Suarez, the now famous healing priest, would not celebrate the mass. He is in France, most likely healing the French! They probably need him more. 🙂

As the mass started, I let out a sigh as I looked far into the horizon. The pine trees line up the distant mountain top, and I said to myself, what a view!  And the slopes of flowers to my right, what a surrounding I would always wish to be in… And then minutes after that thought, from out of the blue, the heavy rain poured. The pine trees vanished and a white wall occupied its space. I looked to my right, I can see the green slope but no way can anyone pass that way…!  We were isolated from the world.

So I listened to the homily. The priest was asking the faithful from where they came…Someone said from La Union. Another said Palawan. Two said Mindanao… The priest did not say anything about the downpour, as if it did not exist. The downpour, amazingly, was not deafening, because I could hear my daughter whispering Move Ma, the rain is dripping on you!   There was obviously a hole on the roof, but it was so tiny it was only dripping on me. But I love the feel of drops so I let the raindrops roll on my hair…

And before I knew it, the mass was over, and the drops that was pouring down my skin was already the agua bendita. The priest was blessing us graciously. I looked again into the horizon. The pines were vividly aligned on the mountain top. Where did the rain go? All of a sudden, it stopped!, as if it did not drop at all. But all I said was Thank You, Father, and the priest administering the blessing answered You’re Welcome!,  as he made his return route to the altar.

The rest of the trip was a joyful one. I realized that we passed by a long, narrow, winding and rolling road from Sta Rosa exit, a concealed highway where pineapples grow and simple folks dwell. We stopped at Mang Inasal and ate grilled chicken for lunch. We also stopped by Collete’s delicacies and bought Buko Pie. Julie said that we had spare money for dessert and she bought a real large peanut panutsa. It was gone before we were home, ha ha!

Here are my photos…and the young girls with me are Elaine, Maki, Jean, Julie, Bam and Gwen…

Move over Natalie Portman, THOR is mine!

Okay, okay, Natalie, don’t get me wrong, but THOR is mine. I had claimed him long ago, as my club gripping mighty god of thunder hero, all clad in nothing but a loincloth. True, I enjoyed Casper, Betty Boop, Gumby, Pop-eye, and Tom & Jerry, but THOR, he was my prince, all muscles and that ever titillating selfless heroism that makes him human, and thus, my prince…

One cannot imagine how excited I was as THOR came to my life, forty years after, via that silver screen. And I watched him lured by this girl Portman, you Natalie, all sweet and smart, Hmpf, please go back to Anakin, He is all yours.

Ha ha! I stayed for a second screening for my THOR, and my daughter who gladly put up with my childish whims, suddenly said, THOR is now my favorite mighty hero!  Whaaack! What was that again?

Now I realize that THOR has come to conquer all the damsels on earth, young and old! My THOR, my first lesson on mythology! No offense to all the Greek and Roman mythical gods and heroes, THOR was my only dashing mighty man!

Okay, okay Natalie, my daughter also said you look great by THOR’s side. I will not contest that even if I think it is a debatable claim. Shucks, my only consolation at this point is that I am keeping THOR in the deep recesses of my heart.

You Marvel makers, don’t you hurt him in anyway…

The typhoon has come…

Talk about the weather, it is always unpredictable and, on occasion, unkind…but…

The temperature was searing uncomfortably high five days ago, that I spent so much water sprinkling the crispy fried plants, but look now, the leaves have suddenly greened and blossomed with the heavy rain waters brought about by typhoon Bebeng.

As if a comparison can  peculiarly be juxtaposed with my own reality, my Jean is battling her own typhoon right now… She is out in the cold, groping her way, marking her chart in the map of life…

I know she will blossom beautifully in time, but I do pray she hurdles every barricade the storm presents clean and easy….

Here’s a mother not keeping my fingers crossed, but hands clasped in prayer, for a daughter so loved, that she be safe in her journey…

Blessed Mother, protect my Jean with your blue mantle, I beg….

What do you mean Mother’s Day?

Okay, I know that it is a kindly gesture to set one day of the year especially to remember and honor mothers. That is because, all the 364 days had been extra heavy for each and every mother of all ages… You think only the nursing mothers are the only ones getting sleepless nights? No siree, as only caring and worrying mothers with teen-age children could attest, the sleepless nights are mentally draining when one kid is on an overnight party or gig somewhere on a white sand beach…

And as I only know too well, my own mother could not rest, despite her septuagenarian state, because there are a thousand and one things she has to attend to, both for children and dearest grandchildren….

Don’t get me wrong, I like the treat to a fine dining, and I love that bouquet of flowers with the star gazer gazing… but the mother is probably the most neglected member of the family… So get on with this Happy Mother’s Day fuzz and make the morning meal from this day forward…:)

The Intelligence is in the Genes…

In 2007, my nephew Lance Michael was bestowed the President’s Education Awards Program  in recognition of his Outstanding Academic Achievement as he graduated from Porter Middle School. My mother sent me copies of his diploma and certificates, proofs that intelligence runs in the blood… ha ha! I can’t get over yet this photo album making… It’s just the kids are reaping the fruits of their hard labor. This might be four years late, and my nephew Lance had grown tall and bearded, but hey, it always feels good to remember the achievement of loved ones…

UP Marks Century Graduation in Pomp!

Ha ha! Many could boast about making it to the Graduation Rites of the country’s most prestigious university. But only this batch 2011 could say they belong to the 100th set of graduates who made it to the march. Here’s some photos of my Jean, lovely and svelte even under the searing heat. She wore a spare white dress instead of the Balintawak. The conferment of bachelor’s degree was by college anyway.

By the way, the inspirational talk was given by no less than  President Benigno Aquino III. He was the only one in toga.

Notice the sablay? The graduates wore it on the left shoulder now. Ha ha!

And here’s more trivia:

The sunflowers bloom for the graduates on graduation week.

The leaf-clad Oblation wears a sablay, too, on graduation week.

The Torch of Wisdom, Honor and Excellence, is aflame on University Graduation Day.

University Graduation was held at the University Amphitheater, at the back of Quezon Hall, April 17, with some 2000 presidential security guards manning the area! :X

My Jean graduates from college!

Ha ha! See the pictures? Those are my Jean’s official college graduation photos! My other daughter Tish and I enjoyed the graduation rites, tremendously!

And if you want to see how talented my Jean is, she is actually on youtube, playing on the keyboard the graduation song she composed for her batch. It is entitled Moment in Time!

By the way, in  UP, the candidates for graduation wear the sablay, or Ilo-ilo embroidered sashover a native dress. That’s the rather expensive balintawak my Jean and I splurged on! The sablay is worn on the right shoulder. On the University Graduation, when the UP chancellor has confirmed the degrees on the graduates, the sablay is shifted to the left shoulder without ever removing it from the body. I think UP is the only university which does not use the toga for graduation.

Graduation Rites was held April 16, 2011 at the UP Film Center.

Mickey Mouse Party

My lifelong friend Menchie turned 50, and in all eccentricity, she celebrated it with her favorite mouse of all: Mickey Mouse!

I brought my two girls who were initially bewildered when we received the Mickey invitation, but later got excited about what costume to wear. Both swore that they never had enjoyed a golden birthday party in such a hilarious but intimate, loving and genuine fashion. The Sarreal and Aquino families, Menchie’s mathematically endowed clan, do not need entertainers for hire to provide fun and laughter. The clan is already blessed with a natural host, raw but with vibrant vocal chord balladeers, superb dancers, and comedians…

Kuya Tony was a riot! And her girls, wow! galing! 🙂

Menchie’s 50th birthday was held @ Rustica Restaurant Mother Ignacia St., 1st of May!