In the Philippines, Ramadan’s counterpart (Lenten Season) took place a couple of months ago. During this period, the so-called panata (religious vow) is widely practiced given the fact that the country is a predominantly Christian nation in Asia.
The Lenten Season commemorates the significant moments of Jesus’ life. During this period there are a lot of religious activities and among the most common ones is people flocking the national roads and churches to watch the procession reenacting Jesus’ life—from his preaching times to his death and ascension. They also use this time to reflect.
Traditionally, the season begins right after Ash Wednesday, which marks the start of abstinence, contemplation, fasting, and repentance. People try to live the following days by veering away from a sinful life.
Over the years, that way of commemorating said season has changed. What is more common nowadays is that people take this season as a perfect time to travel to places where they can reflect. Places that are usually away from the hustling city or places that are being frequented by tourists. It has become the highlight of the summer season for most people especially the young generation from then on.
Amid that evolution though one thing remains deeply valued. We, in general, make it a point to go to church on the last day of the Holy Week to catch that special mass in the early morning of Sunday or do, at the very least, Visita Iglesia. The latter made us (with my family) visit Our Lady of Manaoag Shrine in Pangasinan (the home of the Hundred Islands) during the Lenten Season in 2012. This is another unforgettable summer moment because my family, siblings and their children, in-laws, mother, and I got reunited after some time. Pulling the family members together, most especially in our case, is really hard nowadays. Most of us have already settled in places far from each other’s.
It was one fine summer day when we coalesce in a four-wheeled vehicle to head to the most miraculous pilgrimage site (Our Lady of Manaoag Shrine) in the north. We left the house with our sacs full and we arrived at the jam-packed road near the shrine’s gate five hours later from the metropolis. This was something expected knowing the time of the year.
We needed to scuffle with the crowd in the middle of the day just to enter the church, but all of those physical exertions became goose eggs once we got inside.
The main attraction at the entrance is the very statue of the Manaoag’s Lady. The kids were enjoying playing around the statue’s railings when our dear mother commanded us to catch the ongoing mass. All of us enthusiastically gave in. Inside the church, the sound of the choir and the voice of the priest provided a euphonius ambience, which kept us all awake until the end. There is quite a special feeling in seeing the family as one in such a solemn gathering like this. That feeling that combines comfort, for the most part, and sadness, knowing that it is ephemeral.
It still brings a smile on my face each time I remember our children’s high jinks on our way to the shrine. These were the things that cuittled, if not kept alive, the mood inside the congested vehicle. Kids are just natural entertainers when they do stuff.
The ensuing scene was we were having lunch in the national burger house of the Philippines (Jollibee) along the North Luzon Expressway. I am used to capturing landscapes and other nature wonders when I travel. At this juncture, I focused on the very poignant spectacle in my head by transferring the live screen to my memory card. Each time I turn the pages of that day, there is one that remains intact with me: Our boisterous laughter that drowned out the sounds of the plates, spoons and forks as well as our conversation in the heartbeat of the burger house. Funny how I refrained from pressing the shutter when I had to. Instead, I just snapped them through my mind.
This is a single moment of true joy. I consider it a miracle given by the Lady for me, for us, to cherish. A special kind of joy that will echo through me without limit.
Related Blog Posts
Bolinao, A Crazy Weekend Itinerary at guiltlessgetaways.blogspot.com
Pangasinan Summer Getaway: Manaoag at keepingtraces.blogspot.com
Manaoag Church of Pangasinan at travbuddy.com
A Pilgrimage to Miraculous Manaoag at choosephilippines.com
Churches of the Philippines for Visita Iglesia at islandsofthephilippines.com
Our Lady of Manaoag (en.wikipedia.org)
MIRACLES AT OUR LADY OF PIAT (AND STATIONS OF THE CROSS AT CALVARY HILLS), NORTHERN PHILIPPINES (inthewrongboots.wordpress.com)