12 Days of Reconnection, Day 1: Minor miracles at Parokya ni San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista, Sta. Maria, Bulacan

It’s not often that you find yourself suddenly faced with a 12-day holiday from work — like two days before it takes effect. While cheap flight offers to enticing Asia destinations kept coming to me by email (impeccable timing!), something was stopping me from biting into the temptation.

First thing that came to mind was to do a road trip on my own to places where I could drive myself. I wanted to cover different places as much as I can. So, anything that can only be reached by air or sea is out of the question.

I don’t know exactly what triggered it, but it suddenly came to me that I need to spend these 12 days wisely by “reconnecting” with certain people, including myself. People who I haven’t heard from in years. People who are living interesting lives from the last time we saw each other. People who’ve been asking me to go out but I would turn down because of work. People who I want to spend more time with.

And then there’s myself. I thought of lazing around in a quaint place where I can just sit and space out, or maybe read a few pages from a good book, then space out.

So I started texting like crazy, waiting for whoever would respond first. At the same time, I browsed through the Internet for any place where I can do my “active loafing” without spending too much. I was able to secure the first four days right away, and then worked myself up to the 12th day as I went along.

Fr. Nicanor Lalog (I call him Fr. Nick) and I are not really close friends. In fact, I’m closer to another priest friend. But when I was thinking of reconnecting with certain people from my past, Fr. Nick crossed my mind.

He was the first one to respond to my text blitz.

I was expecting heavy traffic since it was the first day of a long weekend break. People would usually take advantage and go out of town. But no. The streets were nearly deserted, so it took me only about an hour and a half for a 64-km drive. That’s my average during weekdays going to work!

We talked for about 6 hours, touching topics from politics to religion, and from death to books. We talked as if it was a casual thing we do regularly. No time and distance gaps in between. It was just two acquaintances becoming friends in one sitting with good conversation. You know, with peppermint tea and suman sa pinipig with buko on the side. The regular stuff normal people do.

We stopped only for him to do mass. On that day, the National Pilgrim Image of Our Lady of Fatima was going to visit the parish church. It was part of the commemoration of the 100th year since the Virgin Mary appeared to three shepherd children in Fatima, Portugal.  “You’re the Fatima’s advanced party to me,” Fr. Nick would later tell me. It didn’t sink in right away, until now that I’m writing about it.

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The Pilgrim Image of Our Lady of Fatima is carried down the aisle of the small parish Church of Bagbaguin.

You see, Fr. Nick was nervous about welcoming the image to his parish. The image is the one that the late Jaime Cardinal Sin brought to the Philippines after it was blessed by Pope Paul VI in 1967. It’s also the same Fatima that was the main image during the 1st People Power EDSA Revolution in 1986.

Part of the rites was to put a gold crown and a special rosary on the image. These blessed accessories were given by the Rector of the Our Lady of the Rosary of Fatima in Portugal.

Earlier that day, Fr. Nick and I discussed about the Catholic’s use of such images and other religious icons in the practice of our faith. He affirmed what I would often tell my non-Catholic friends who would bring up the topic. We don’t worship the images or the statues or the icons — they serve as our inspiration and reminders to live the Gospel.

In a way, it’s like having a picture of your boyfriend in your wallet. Or a poster of your Korean crush on your bedroom wall. Or a complete collection of Star Wars action figures. It’s just that the kind of worship is way different from spiritual intervention. You get what I mean.

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I visited Fr. Nick in his parish Church where he has been serving for 6 years, and he gave me anointing oil from the Holy Land, plus two brass-plated candle holders with tea light candles. That’s how thoughtful my friends are.

Before I left the Church, Fr. Nick gave me a blessing through St. John — Jesus’ “favorite” apostle, and the only one among the 12 who died without being martyred. Fr. Nick also gave me two brass-plated candle holders that he got from Marawi (but it was actually made in Germany), and a small bottle of myrrh anointing oil from the Holy Land. I consider that one the best post-birthday gift I’ve ever had!

St. John the Apostle, also known as John the Beloved and St. John the Evangelist, is the patron saint of love, loyalty, friendships and authors. Now, I know why I had to visit Fr. Nick first in this 12-day journey.
Chasubles, stoles, and tippets worn by Fr. Nick for various occasions.

It was a great way to start my 12-day reconnection. Somehow, after seeing the National Pilgrim Image of Fatima, I felt like the rest of my vacation will be well spent.

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