Send-Off by Bishop Joel Baylon
Departure from Albay Cathedral
Evening Praise at Nuestra Senora de Penafrancia Basilica
April 8 - Day 2:
St. Catherine of Siena Parish
We were housed in homes of the brothers and sisters from St Catherine of Siena Parish in Samal, Bataan.
Amanda, Valerie, me, and 3 others were dropped off in the house of a Christian couple in Samal. Tatay Boy and Nanay Belsie were very hospitable and accommodating foster parents.
Proud parents of three children who were able to find their own places in the world, the two choose to live a happy and simple life in a small apartment and earn their living through their frontyard carinderia while their original house just along the corner of the street was bigger and could have been more comfortable for the two of them.
They welcomed us with zeal and enthusiasm and showed nothing of trying to make an impression or hints of pretense in having us for the night. We ate what they served us and slept in the place they prepared for us (a first time for me to experience sleeping in the home of a foster parent as a pilgrim!), and they even made us good breakfast and packed us lunch before we took of the road to our next destination.
Before the day came to a close we had our first celebration of the Eucharist in one of the pastoral centers in Bataan. The following picture depicts the roundabout dance after the celebration. During the sharing part, perspiration dripped around my forehead and along the sides of my neck and back as Reggie approached me to help him with a live translation of what is being shared by a sister and a brother in the community, but I was just as happy to be of service.
Due to time constraints however, we weren't able to join the Bataan community in their commemoration of Bataan Day or at least visit the commemorative statues of General MacArthur and his men along the shorelines, so in consolation, we say to ourselves the general's famous line: "I shall return!"
April 9 - Day 3:
Sta Monica Parish and Benedictine Monastery
Indeed, there is no greater radiance than that which comes from the beautiful face of a young nun. Sister Felomina, about 28 years of age witnesses in the joy she had found in contemplative life.
The parishioners and community brothers and sisters and the oblates of the monastery received us well into their parish. After the brief testimonial by Sister Felomina, we were toured into the place where the Benedictine Perpetual Adoration Chapel is.
Before we left, we had native cookies to eat and the oblates also gave each one of us pilgrims a Benedictine medal as a token of gratitude for our visit in their place.
Sister Felomina's sharing of experiences and her own struggles before she took it to heart to enter the sisterhood and her own daily life as a young nun inspired many young girls in our group. They said that listening to her and watching her in her habit helped them decide that is also for them to dedicate their lives in service of the people of God. It echoed that call inside of them and made it grew louder it would be vain not to heed.
In the call for vocations, these girls stood up among the 140 and presented themselves before the bishop of Pangasinan during the gathering of the youth in Dagupan.
San Sebastian Cathedral
Here in Tarlac, our group had a popular mission. Having been sent off by the Bishop of the Diocese of Legazpi, we were out to preach and announce the good news to the people we encounter along the way.
From the San Sebastian Cathedral, we marched in procession towards the New Public Market of Tarlac.
At the center of the market is a little plaza with just a few benches to for the tired shopper to rest. In this spot, I met and became friends with Ron, for whom the previous post is for. Today, the words of Anais Nin about each friend representing a world in us, a world not born until a friend arrives, came into life. I do not know if we shall ever meet again, but that there are many things about this meeting to be thankful to the Lord for is something that I will continue to bear in my heart as I move along in this spiritual journey.
Just as amazing is the word that we received from cutting the Bible in the middle of our conversation. It confirmed for us how wonderful it is that he welcomed us and allowed us to bring him the good news, for he will be helped and he will also help us as we all move forward in our journeys towards a better relationship with the Lord and the people around us.
The President Hotel
Before the end of the day, we got back to our buses and set off to Lingayen. We were staying at the President Hotel for the next few nights until the youth meeting is over.
April 10 - Day 4:
Our Lady of Manaoag Shrine
Morning Praise and Procession of the Madonna
We honor the Blessed Virgin in her shrine at Manaoag on this day. In one of the gardens of the shrine, we had our lauds.
Offering our morning prayers for the continued devotion to the mother of Christ, the covenant of God from whose womb the savior came into the world.
Vendors of traditionally religious novelty items continue to lace the surroundings of the shrine from rosaries and novena booklets to anting-antings and native delicacies, and yet on the inside of the shrine the well-tended gardens continue to provide a sanctuary, a perfect retreat for the tired or broken spirit. The main church however is often filled with pilgrims and devotees that it is for you to find yourself a spot to contemplate and reserve in prayer.
I hope to go back to this place too and explore it further.
Grand Eucharistic Celebration
Cathedral of Saint Joseph
Alaminos City, Pangasinan
In Alaminos, a joint Eucharistic celebration was well attended by delegates from Bicol, Pangasinan, Bataan, Samar, and Leyte.
The day was perfect in timing with the commemoration of the passing over to the next life by the initiator of the World Youth Days and the Pilgrimage meetings of the Christian youth, the Polish Karol Wojtyla the Pope John Paul II.
We traveled back to the President Hotel to sleep for the night and set out early to Dagupan for the grand meeting with Luigi, the college of presbyters, the team of catechists and itinerants, and the youth from all over the Philippines.
April 11 - Day 5:
25th National Youth Meeting
Processional March and Grand Assembly
The main event took place at the coliseum of Dagupan, but before the grand assembly is one learning story.
We were dropped off the bus at one place near the coliseum to make an entrance march into the coliseum while singing songs along the way which has become a tradition for the pilgrims attending the meeting.
A 5-minute march, as it was supposed to be, but no sooner we realized that our guide is not ahead of us, and we do not exactly know where we are headed to, for nowhere within site is a big venue which could be the end point of the march.
Father Paolino exhorted, "Do you know where we are going?" and what is heard back is a reverberating "No..." A short pause and the guides show up, telling us we are somewhere near. Our presbyter approached a passing driver and is told a kilometer away from where we set off. The scorching heat of the sun and the almost desert-like surrounding was a challenge and yet the group remained altogher in place. A kilometer of walking, again we do not see any big venue where the meeting might be and we come across another man who tells us 2 kilometers more!
What the local community brothers and sisters may have anticipated is indeed a long walk than as usual and expected by all of us but nevertheless the whole experience was great and though tiresome, the important thing is we arrived with enough to continue the day and be one with the rest of the nation's youth.
There are too many things to tell about the exhortations of Luigi and the presbyters who spoke during the meeting and in the call for vocations.
During the call for vocations, a 120 boys and young men stood up:
and a 140 girls and young women stood up and said YES to serve the Lord and the community of the faithful:
But one quick and personal note on this event is the fact that while on the bus and cutting the Bible after the morning praise, the same gospel I received was announced in the meeting, which was about the young fellow who came to the Lord to ask what else he needs to do and the Lord's reply to him was to renounce all possessions and follow Him--the same message that was continually and repeatedly announced throughout the exhortations for life of special vocations.
On this day too, I am glad to see Nica again! My usual companion on my first pilgrimage and my seat mate on my first flight. She is now with the parish of St Francis in Manila.
April 12 - Day 6
Visitation to the Monasterio de Tarlac in the morning,
A quick plunge at the Hundred Islands of Pangasinan in the afternoon,
and a little Bon Voyage Party at Mary the Queen Parish in the evening.
Early morning we set off to travel again. Going back to Tarlac, our bus set uphill to the Monasterio de Tarlac which houses the relic of the Holy Cross. The place is also known as St Joseph of the Holy Cross Parish. In the barred altars is the sanctuary that houses the relic in a small chest.
Many sick and elderly people flock to pay respects and ask the intercession of the monks and pray to the altar relic for healing. In the words of the priest who said the mass on our visit, it is not by chance that we are there...but we are there because God willed it for us and what He wanted was for us to receive His special message that He loves us so much...whatever situation we are in, God loves us.
By lunch time, we ate again at Tessie's Grille and Restaurant:
In the afternoon, we were toured around the famous Hundred Islands of Alaminos, Pangasinan....
there, we also experienced the beautiful sunset of Pangasinan...
And by evening, we arrived at Mary the Queen Parish, where Marian's community brothers and sisters had prepared a functional dinner. The community youth sang Christian pop and rock songs and later our own delegates were up on the stage singing along with them.
As the day came to an end, we were redistributed into the buses taking account of each one's root parish. We spent the night at Ain Karim's in Better Living, Paranaque and set out early in the morning to the airport for our flights homebound to Bicol.
**Pictures owned by Pio, Ric, Nica, and me..:)