ATE MARIVIC GCASHED me P500. She didn’t deem it practical to fetch Ate Veron in San Juan and then drive to Quezon City where I am before proceeding to Timog, our assembly point, and ultimately leave for Laguna to conduct an ocular visit of the five churches of our planned pilgrimage in November.
That should take care of my fare, she decided.
I was up at the alarm time, ready in 30 minutes, walked to where a taxi was waiting outside the village gate, and reached Madriñan in no time. No sight of them yet so I tried the doorbell once. No one came to the gate, it was not yet 5 am, so I sat on the tree stump outside and watched the hotel lights across the street flicker away one by one. I rang the bell again 15 minutes later. Bro Armel let me in and I greeted him and Fr. Fed “Good morning.” Shortly, the bell signalled the arrival of the ladies. Off our sixsome went.
Our first stop was Regina Rica (Rosarii Institute for Contemplation in Asia), our 2019 pilgrimage final station, an innovation conceptualized by Fr. Fed, to logically recall the highlight of the last journey as a perspective for the next. To my mind, the procession to the Lady on top of the Hill put a sacred lid on our trip. Revisiting the place vividly recalled that intimate incident. But the Rica was not open to visitors on Tuesdays so we moved on. I will have to email or call them for the arrangements later.
Tanay’s Martessem Mountain Resort took our breath away. It was less than two hours away from Madriñan and, decidedly, its Whitehouse Restaurant was ideal for a breakfast stopover, for us presently and the pilgrims thereafter. The air was chill and the view was cool, both for honeymooners and practical photographers like Ate Veron who didn’t miss the heart-shaped archway to the misty mountainside.
From an invigorating breakfast, our church hopping was a cinch. Greatly eased by Ate Marivic’s expert and uncomplaining driving and helped by the cooky pranks of Pads and us, even if coy Aaron (Ate Marivic’s son) chose to simply smile through it all. Ate Veron thrives in ocular outings so was naturally jolly and jocular.
Therefore, from Pakil to Paete to Longos and, ultimately Lumban, the exercise was a breeze. It was at the Parish Office of San Sebastian Church that God called my attention. We were done with our purpose with the Parish Office Secretary when Ate Veron asked if the book she was bearing was for sale. The book, “I Heard God Laugh,” could not be ignored. Its paperback cover was white, ostensibly to let the colorful title shine, and it was easy to get smitten by its front and back cover blurbs. In the bottom right corner of the back was a boxed almost insignificant notice “Not for resale, promo only.” Did I hear right what the Secretary said that it was free?
Matthew Kelly is a New York Times bestselling author. That we got the book for free is not downplaying him. The spiritual coach is so confident of his charisma he evangelizes for free. Weren’t the disciples sent out as apostles to spread the Good News with nothing but the shirts on their backs and sandals on their feet? Why shouldn’t he?
But don’t take my word for it. Let me give you an excerpt of his epistle: “We are not what has happened to us or what we have accomplished. We are not even who we are today or who we have become so far. We are also who and what we are still capable of becoming. We are our realized and unrealized potential. God sees us and all our potential, and He aches to see us embrace our best, truest, highest selves. He yearns to help us and accompany us in that quest.
“Wherever we are, whatever we are feeling, however life has surprised and disappointed us, he reminds us of one thing: the best is yet to come! There are times in life when this is easier or harder to believe, but the best is truly yet to come. We should open ourselves up to it, so we can see and embrace it when it emerges!”
I thanked Ate Veron after perusing a few pages of the riveting book. When I got to the Prayer Process, I messengered her a decent thank-you letter in praise and thanksgiving to God’s making her an instrument; I’d have missed that gift without her quick eye! I’ve returned to the book twice already and I know it will serve as a constant reminder of my comitment to life’s essential daily habit.
My prayer life has progressed faithfully up to this writing.
Wednesday night found me clad in an olive green barong to join my fellow friends of St. Joseph who will be conferred the medallion in the 6 pm installation rites during the Mass presided by Fr. Andrew Fernandez. I caught the tail of the Perpetual Help novena and was certain of my devotion to the day of my patron and advocate, terror of demons St. Joseph. Before the Mass started, Manay Sis Lorna saw me, waved, and approached bearing his pledge for my maintenance meds. I protested that it wasn’t Thursday yet and she smiled that grace rained early. I smiled her back my “God bless you!”
When Ate Francing persisted in asking me to go back to Friends of St. Joseph, she made sure no holds were barred. I ran out of excuses and confessed to Mary and Joseph in shame and for forgiveness. It wasn’t accidental that we met inches away from the Church where I reiterated my gratitude for her insistence. I, therefore, walked proudly, joined the others in front of the altar, was exhilirated when Fr. Andrew conferred on us the medallion, and about-faced to the beaming, applauding emerald sea of Josephite advocates.
I proceeded to my Sto. Domingo friends after the conferment ceremony, apologized to Ate Francing for not joining the group rosary before leaving, confident that I will do it later in my prayer porch, a nightly habit. I prefer praying the rosary alone, meditatively, or with fellow Legionaries, but do not make an exception of praying it in wakes, although, on my own, I feel a connection with Mary more so mostly pray in solitude.
Weng said they ate dinner already and prepared my portion quickly. Always unable to decline her innate hospitality, I accepted her butsi and ampalaya combo and was done quickly. She saw me off towards Ate Beng’s and promised to follow after a quick shower. On my way up, I passed by Nimfa whom I asked to join us and settled on a chair next to Ate Beng. Her husband Oliver was taking a bath so she begged my leave to buy tube ice and bar chows, the obviously missing pieces on the table. It didn’t take long to complete the party. It was my first time to encounter Nimfa in a libation. She was candid, didn’t hold back, and said what was on her mind without pretense or apology. As was my wont, I lapsed into English every so often but she seemed comfortable with everything that came out of my mouth. She never asked me to explain my outpourings and gave as good as she got. We connected naturally. We were appreciating our instant rapport when I realized that the easy exchange we were having capped my blessing downpour for that day. She was the laughter that I was aching to hear from God. I cried of a sudden. Not for sadness because I was happy and thankful and have heard what I was praying to hear since I read Matthew Kelly’s bestseller. At that moment, I was talking to God and crying and thanking Him for delivering Nimfa in the midst of our friendly, happy togetherness. She was crying, too, however not as much as I was, and appreciating the insights she heard from me for the first time. I must’ve told her my life story briefly because she agreed to my sponsoring her to a PREX seminar when the program resumes in August. I was with my friends, we were happily talking and, every now and then, there would emerge a pause in the middle of our joyful noise. Someone would exclaim the “May dumaang anghel” cliché. It was then I recalled the moment Matthew heard God laugh. Scary. Because he heard His laughter in the silence of a Church. While I heard it happen in the lull of our laughter and cheerful conversation. It was unlike the sound Matthew heard: like a baby’s smile; a bird high in the sky; an anticipated first kiss; a morning breeze; a father’s love; a long drink of cold water in the scorching sun; the beach and mountains; the roar of a lion; the gentle touch of a mother, but it seemed all that because it overwhelmed and made me fully aware that, because I always pray even before a libation, because even liquor is a gift when ingested properly and in thanksgiving, the conversation we were having centered on the bible, and Nimfa was appreciating my focusing on my evangelizing efforts, and that created an impact on me I couldn’t contain so I broke down and thanked God for her and Ate Beng and Weng and Oliver and making me hear Him laugh!