Chemist Board Exam Blog Series Part Six
Mama Mary and Me
September 6, 2008 was one of the most memorable days of my life. For it is in this day that I successfully completed my first pilgrimage. I am finally about to reach my destination: Simala. It is a very popular place in Cebu. Furthermore, Simala is known as a place where Mama Mary presented a series of miracles through her sacred statue.
However, Mama Mary’s miracles were unknown to me. So, part of my journey was discovering the wonderful things that she has done. And of course! I planned to get at least six pieces of stampita for my loved ones. My cousin told me that a stampita is given to those who would sponsor a Holy Mass.
I was really worried of going to Simala alone. Oh! Where exactly in Cebu is it located? All I know was that it is in the mountains somewhere in Sibonga. And that is very far from where I live. Luckily, my mother decided to come to Cebu and accompany me. Surprisingly, my grandmother decided to tag along. So that solved the problem. At last! There was no need to worry about getting lost alone.
“There will be lots of people in there since the feast in Simala is nearing.”, my grandmother said. Mama Mary’s birthday is on 8th of September and they celebrate it annually. Despite that, I hoped that we could have a chance to pray in front of the Holy Image of Mary.
At six o’clock in the morning September 6, 2008, we were already riding a bus going to Sibonga. Amazingly, a lot of people in the bus were heading to Simala, as well. That was a relief!
We expected the trip to take along time. Then, about an hour later, many passengers were leaving the bus. “Myka, we’re already here!” , my grandmother called me.
“Whoa! That was fast! Looks like the bus really sped up! Finally! We’re here”, I thought.
Well, looks like I got excited too soon. When I saw the tricycles there with some people lining up for a ride, I inferred that the journey is not yet over. Not far from there, I saw a small billboard: “Mama Mary’s Sanctuary. This Way. Five Kilometers.” Oh no! It was another long ride down the road!
After what seemed to be an eternity, we finally arrived at the Church. It was still closed. We were there at around 7:00 AM but it opens at 8:00 AM. But the exterior of the church was already a busy place! Lots of people were crowding the restaurants, some were buying local fruits, and others were already lining up by the Church’s gate.
Since we had a lot of time to spare, we decided to look around and buy souvenirs and other items. By 7:45 AM, we lined up by the entrance. Everything went fine, except for the burning heat of the sun! But we were saved by our umbrellas.
At 8:15 AM, the church gates were opened. The people quickly rushed inside. Even my grandmother ran off, leaving me and my mother behind. They were running to the Church that they missed the great view that the whole place offered. It was still another long road going to the Church inside the gate.
However, while others were dashing, my mother and I took our time and observed the great view of the mountains that surround the Church! The images of the seven Archangels by the entrance greeted everyone as they come in. The route to the church was full of green plants, cottages, and fountains. The place was perfect for camping!
When we finally reached the Church, we followed the very long queue that stretched outside. We waited under the heat of the sun that we lost track of time. When we were nearing the sacred image, we were asked to take off our shoes as a sign that we were in a Holy Place. The Holy Image was located at the second floor, at the back of the Church Altar.
A beautiful Lady was shining like the sun in her shimmering golden vest. Her skin resembled rosy porcelain. She looked gentle and her charisma was welcoming! A burst of Holiness surrounded the place. As Mama Mary’s presence was felt, we were all conquered by the spirit of prayer.
I was very happy that I finally reached the pinnacle of my pilgrimage! I was very proud of myself because I was able to be successful in this endeavor. My mother and I decided to join the others by praying in the Adoration Chapel. It was a wonderful experience! I could feel a rush of emotions in my heart: of love, happiness, and excitement.
After that, I slowly got up and went down. Then, I ended up in the mini museum where I learned the miracles of Mama Mary in Simala. The Holy Image of Mary cried true tears a lot of times. The first miracle happened when Simala was plagued by dengue fever. The monks decided to help the people by conducting a prayer procession to Mary every morning in order to drive the mosquitoes away and for the healing of sick persons. Then one early morning, while the monks were having their prayers, the Statue of Mama Mary glowed and the whole place diffused a sweet smell of flowers. Furthermore, the monks saw that the Statue shed tears. They were so touched that they were also moved to tears. From that moment on, pilgrims came from all over the Philippines.
The mini museum also showed some Thank-you Letters written by persons who had their prayers answered. And a whole lot gave thanks to Mama Mary when they passed their respective board exams. There were nurses, lawyers, pharmacists, and many more. That place gave me hope that my friends and I could also pass the coming Chemist Licensure Examination.
After that, I was reunited with my mother and grandmother. Together, we attended the Holy Mass. Before going home, we strolled around the park-like exterior of the Church and made a wish in the wishing well.
It was a very busy Saturday for us. It was weird though. A setting of queuing, heat and a crowd would usually irritate and tire me. But on that special day, I felt different. I was energized and arrived home happy. As I packed my things ready for my flight to Manila the following day, a flicker of hope grew in my heart as I get ready to face the Chemist Licensure Examination!