Monday, November 10, 2008

The Long Journey

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The Long Journey

When the quest approaches its completion, the pilgrim cannot help but feel a rush of adrenalin. Finally! After a long time, my journey is about to end. I only needed to visit three more churches.

Unexpectedly, my seventh church was St. Joseph the Worker Parish of Tabunok. I just got to a jeepney which happened to pass by it. The doors were open. So, without any second thoughts, I gave the driver a signal to stop.

It turned out the the church is celebrating its founding anniversary. The Holy Mass was being celebrated and I decided to stay for a while. And after the Mass, the priest invited everyone to go down to the basement for a banquet! Yummy! However, I didn't go there. Praying was my priority. I was also shy to mingle with new friends.

When the week's Saturday came, I was very eager to visit the last two churches. Beforehand, I have chosen the next church to be the Basilica del Sto. Nino. The last church remained unknown to me.

However, there was one problem. How do I get to Sto. Nino Church? What should I ride going there?

Taking my chances, I stood by the jeepney stop and listened to those jeep conductors' drills. Then, I finally heard, "Sto. Nino, Colon, Metro!". I hopped on that jeepney right away. After some time, I spotted a church.

"Maybe that's Sto. Nino Church!", I thought. I got down from the jeepney and observed the new environment I was in. Then, second thoughts came to mind. Sto. Nino Church is a very busy place with lots of people coming in and out. The church I was heading on at that moment had little people. In fact, only a gardener was outside and greeted me, "Good morning!"

"Good morning, too!", I replied. Then, as I looked around, I saw a billboard and the church's name was on it: Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral. Obviously, it wasn't the church that I intended to go to. But it was still a church afterall. With much happiness, I went in to that eighth visited church and prayed.

So, God has decided for my ninth church to be Basilica del Sto. Nino. But going there was still a challenge for me.

The answer was very simple.

A jeep passed by outside Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral. "Sto. Nino" was written on its signboard. I occupied the front seat as I said, "To Sto. Nino Cathedral, please."

"Huh? Sto. Nino? But it's near here, all you have to do is walk to the corner over there.", he replied as he pointed the way.

Oh! But I have a poor sense of direction. "Nah! I'll just ride!", I told the driver.

True enough, the jeep just made a right turn and stopped at the first corner. Oh my! That was so NEAR!

"That is Sto. Nino Cathedral. Just walk straight.", the driver said as he pointed on the church's visible entrance gate. Then, I gave thanks to that wonderful driver for leading me to my destination.

As I expected, the Basilica del Sto. Nino proved to be a busy place, full of kiosks outside and full of devotees inside.

While in the church and praying, one of the most amazing things happened to me. On one of my prayed Hail Marys, a sweet fragrance suggestive of roses filled the air. It seemed that I was the only one who smelled it. Other devotees were still praying on their own. Roses are a good sign, a miracle in essence. Roses are symbolic of Mama Mary, who seemed to congratulate me on successfully visiting my ninth church, the last stop before reaching the peak. But there were no roses in the altar...

After praying, I took a tour in the church. I also paid respect on the oldest image of Sto. Nino. Surprisingly, on one corner, I saw an oil painting of the church's old altar, which housed 15 images of Saints with Jesus. What's more amazing is the fact that almost all the Saints had their tabernacles pasted on that painting. The people weren't able to notice it. It was a blessing to me as I said a spontaneous prayer.

But of course, as my pilgrimage slowly ends, the memories of my visited churches put me in nostalgia. Life is a cycle, there are goodbyes and hellos. At that moment, my sadness was replaced by excitement as I was about to go to the ultimate destination of my pilgrimage: Mama Mary's Sanctuary in Simala.



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