BEFORE I got into media, I was a very active local governance consultant and I have handled about 200 local government units (LGUs) all over the country in a span of five years, some in my short courses and trainings while others I really immersed as an organic senior executive in their LGUs. And so I almost always find myself on the road most of the time.
One time, after an exhaustive series of training for capacity development of LGUs in Davao and Makati City, I was dragged into yet another journey. This last one, however, I was not prepared. With friends comprising a nun, an engineer, a political consultant, a seaman and a skeptic (I was the skeptic), we ventured on a Marian pilgrimage in the north.
Our route was to visit the apparition site in Lipa City, an overnight stay with the monks in Tagaytay, then head to the shrine of Our Lady of Manauag in Pangasinan. My skepticism was not because I don’t believe in Mary the mother of Jesus, because I do. In fact, I have the highest respect for her for rearing the child who has the greatest influence in my life. My reluctance with the pilgrimage comes from my belief that every place is holy. If one cannot find holiness in the place where he or she is at and with the people he or she encounters then most likely he or she could not also find it elsewhere.
Half-heartedly, I journeyed with my friends. But I could not complain. In my thoughts I needed the break, besides, it was all covered for. While they were so excited to reach the so called “holy places,” I was enjoying the scenery of the countryside, a win-win situation.
Then I sudden felt weird as we reached our destinations, one after another. Let me share three things I have experienced in our pilgrimage:
1. For every shrine we stopped I had this increasing feeling of unworthiness to step on them. I was always the last one to get in and I would just stay at the corner to pay my respect and say my humble prayers. Ironically, my sense of unworthiness is always overshadowed by the overwhelming warmth and generosity of everyone I met and with the friends I journey with.
2. It was so easy to see Christ in everyone I encountered. I have to admit, my sense of spirituality only gets heightened on Sundays and feast days. Yet on this pilgrimage it was almost instantaneous to see the suffering Christ on the poor people and the loving Christ through the compassionate acts of my companions. It felt like I was in the company of the first community of Christians where love and compassion overflows. The more I felt unworthy.
3. Everytime we leave a sacred place, I always leave with a strong resolve to make amends and to want to become a better person. Every experience I had moves me to at least pass forward the blessings I have received from my prayers and from the people I encountered.
I still think and believe that every place is holy, but my experience on this pilgrimage made me consider that perhaps there are places where God’s love is manifested more fully. Afterall, Abraham was led to a holy place and so was Moses. Even Jesus had to retreat to a holy place to pray.
For what it’s worth, I feel blessed to have experienced such a spiritual journey, and I thank God and my friends for that.
Have a blessed weekend everyone!