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…

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