Wednesday, February 27, 2013

On a pilgrimage. Involve yourself! Part 1

I was out for four days. Last February 22, I, along with my co-parish workers, ventured on our way to sunny-skied Tagaytay, which also happened to be foggy-skied at that time. The rain was pretty high that day and showed no sight of letting up. Little did I know that the moment we stepped into the building, our real journey has just begun. 

I was called "bunso" or "baby", because I was one of the youngsters of the group, and by youngsters, they meant the young adults. Because of that, I had the pleasure of meeting my fellow youngsters. Miko, a volcanologist teacher, Jet, a fellow stay-at-home kid who also happens to be the leader of the Parish Youth, Jeriel, the Media Ministry Coordinator and expert programmer of sorts, and Lawrence, the real youngest one because he is actually 14 and the sakristan-mayor of the Parish. 

We all became fast friends and spent most of our meals together, talking about, well, youth things. In a separate table, we had our own thing going while the adults talked about, well, adult things. 

The four days were rather fun. 

We had a short prayer after our arrival, then the real thing began. We were grouped into three, which Father Caloy, our facilitator, labeled as Learning Partners

(In case any of you are wondering why my teeth are pink in the second picture, I just had three Lipps lollipops that day. Go figure.) 

My fellow bespectacled friend is Miko, and our elderly friend is Tita Christy, a catechist from the IHM (Immaculate Heart of Mary) Cluster. The three of us became fast friends as well, and we all learned a thing or two from each other, I believe. Our sessions were very fun. 

We were all told to pick a certain "totem" or birthmark, similar to the movie Brother Bear. I told myself that whatever I pick, it's the will of God. 

There's no such thing as chance encounters. 

Pic is uploaded on Instagram!

Father Caloy stated that whatever you picked, it's a quality you had ever since you were born. I'm not denying this. In fact, I'm quite in love with it. It's just right!

For our first activity, we were then merged with two more groups, which made us nine in a group. Father Caloy asked us to assign certain members to be Architect, Engineer and Foreman. I became the Architect. We were tasked to make a tower our of drinking straws without the use of any adhesive or glue. 

At first we were all, "What?!" 

But it was possible. Surely they wouldn't assert it if were impossible... Right? 

So we began our grand plan: to construct a life-like model of our beloved parish, Transfiguration of Christ, our of drinking straws. Drinking straws. We were getting the hang of it, y'know, until suddenly, Father Caloy fished me out of my group and transferred me to another. 

What's going on?! 

And so without any basis on what to do, I just gave my hand to whatever my new group was doing. They were weaving straws to make walls. Father Caloy then replaced the group's engineer, then the foreman, then the laborers until everyone was left with a building that's different from what we all started. What happened afterwards?

This! Everyone managed to at least get the structures to stand up. 

Quite a funny activity, really, even after Miko and I were blamed because of our youth and that we were too ambitious with our plans. You can't blame kids for dreaming too big. Even so, we were all applauded for our amazing teamwork. Gold stars for everyone! 

Father Caloy emphasized something important about that activity. It was not just a game; it's life. And I believe in that. Parish life is not simple. I may not be in the right place to speak about how hard or how easy church life is, I have an idea on how it's like. 

Afterwards, we did a very meaningful pilgrimage dance that was said to strengthen our ties as a church community, with Father Joel leading, of course. Then, we were all told to go and hug everyone! 

Free hugs! But of course, I, the crybaby, started to bawl because... because... 

There's so much joy in my heart, I don't know where to put all of it. 

We had dinner afterwards. From then on, I had a feeling that this was gonna be a very memorable stay. 


I spent most of the night listening to Tita Zeny, Tita Lani and Tita Zita talk about random parish happenings. They didn't exactly feel the need to be careful with me, but they told me just the right stories. We ended up sleeping around past 11. It was kind of like a sleep-over, but not with giddy teenage girls like me, but with ladies with families. 

The next day, Saturday, would have to be the busiest day ever for all of us. To be honest, I couldn't help but think that time that the day was extending itself. 

We had a so-called "dry mass", which I found very relaxing. It was like a mass, but minus the songs and homily. All we had to do was just sit there, talk to God and listen to what He has to say. 


After we all had breakfast, the fun was about to start. Last night, Father Caloy spoke to several people, who were vital parts to the activity we were about to have. 

What activity, you ask? 

Finding God. 

It was a rather fun activity and the instructions were very simple. We had to put on a blindfold, afterwards, we were led out of the room and scattered around the place. When we hear the signal, we had to go on and find God. Once a person is asked the question, "Are you God?", they must give out a simple "Yes" or "No". A certain person was assigned to be God, at a certain place, only to appear at a certain time. 

Finding God. Blindfolded. Can you imagine a large group of church workers scattered around a lot in front of a seminary, all blindfolded and arms extended...

Just to give you guys an idea of how we all looked like. 

Groping the air and asking the same question over and over again until we touch the right person. 

"Are you God?" 

I had my share of funny moments as well. I accidentally touched a man's stomach and asked him, "Are you God?" then he answers, "No, you're forgiven." 

I felt up another man's arm (which was strangely smooth) and asked him, "Are you God?" then he answers a very firm and stern "NO." (I had a hunch that this guy was Father Joel. I observed his arms once we were out of the folds and, well, he's got pretty smooth skin for a guy.) 

You know what triggered me to find God even more eagerly? 

I was with a group that time and we all got hold of Tito Ferdy, Tita Lani's husband. When we asked him if he was God, he gave us the most spine-tingling answer ever. "No, I'm not, but I already found God."

That answer sent everyone to a flurry of actions and emotions. Someone had already found God, that means we were gonna find Him, too. 

I was just behind Tita Lani when I finally got hold of God, who happened to be Tita Zita. 

When asked what my experience was and how I felt, I didn't exactly know what to say. 

I go round about. Pretty relevant. And the fact that I was relentlessly pushed back was quite an eye-opener to me. How is it relevant? Do you remember those countless times I forget myself and do my own bidding; giving in to temptations... That's how I was. I tried to pass through so many times, but this time, they wouldn't let me. Like angels setting me straight back to the right path. It felt frustrating at first, but I knew that they were only doing what was right. And the fact that your range of vision was blocked... Almost every way seemed to be right.

The activity went on until everyone found God. Take note, we were 50+ back then. I believe that the finding lasted for one and half hours, more or less. After we had lunch, we were given an hour or so to have a break. It was around 12 in the afternoon at that time and the sun was high above. Everyone else decided to have their midday siesta, but not me! 

I decided to have a walk.

To be perfectly honest, I felt like a fairy flitting in a forest. Yes. All I needed were a pair of fairy wings and background music. 

The lovely Pieta statue. 

A close-up of the beautiful pink flowers scattered all over the mini-forest. If you look at it closely, you can see that the petals are heart-shaped. 

Appropriate music for the appropriate situation.

We were all called back to the classroom for a brand-new activity. We were asked to write down our hopes, wishes and dreams for our parish. 

Colorful paper! It was a period of deep meditation for all of us. What exactly did we want for our parish? We could have wished for things like this and that, but every group had something similar in mind. 


This activity became the basis for our last activity of the day. We were again merged into bigger groups, and surprise! We were given two and a half hours to prepare for a presentation! 

Nothing else gets my blood pumping more than acting. I'm a closet actress, after all. Of course every group was just as excited as we were. I even passed on eating dinner because of too much excitement and, well, my stomach was about to explode. 

The evening program began with a soulful singing of our parish theme song, Salamin ng Pag-Ibig Niya (Mirror of His Love). The track artist, the beautiful Geli Federoso (whom I developed a  girl crush on) was there to sing it with us live. 

The song never fails to make me cry. (I'm actually surprised to see that the song is on YouTube.) It's probably because... 

Our group's presentation was quite simple. We presented the parish's core values in the form of a skit, which was concluded by singing an A capella version of the song "Pananagutan", arms linked and all. A feel-good ending to a feel-good presentation.

Yay performance night! I can't count how many feels I had during this moment. Everything about it was so beautiful and unexplainable even I don't know what to do or feel. I was told that I'm a strange kind of crybaby because I cry even when I'm happy. I just can't help it.

Either you let me cry my heart out or my heart will explode! 

That night, only me, Tita Lani and Tita Zita were up in our rooms because Tita Zeny had to stay behind for an EXECOM meeting. 

Just like last night, I spent most of the time listening to the pair talk about their foreign adventures, like Tita Lani's snowy train rides in Yugoslavia and Tita Zita's simple life in New York. When I get older, I too wish to have overseas adventures like them. Well, theirs weren't really adventures but rather, real life. 

I guess and adventure is just real life in HD. 


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