Category Archives: travel
Ok, not the franchise. Just our own race from Manila to Bacolod and within Bacolod. The teams are tearing up social media trying to get the fan favorite vote. Because if you win fan favorite, and you win the race, you get double the prize money. Let’s look at the 20 teams:
You can vote for your favorite here.
I didn’t choose the pairs. They mostly have not worked closely together though. And are not in their usual “circles”. So it will be fun to see them communicate and work together to make it all the way to the end. Fearless forecast? I think the teams to beat are:
3. David and Goliath
See the results live through Twitter on Sunday.
Today is the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The Patroness of the Unborn, as she is believed to be pregnant as she appeared to Juan Diego in Mexico. Very fitting that today is also the day our pro-RH Bill (read: condoms, contraception, population control of the poor, less money for food and job opportunities) president and his paid-up allies (in pork barrel and international funds) ram the Bill down our throats.
They have been trying to do it for the past 15+ years (isn’t that already an indication that the Filipino people do not want this bill?), and this time, they have enough international funds to do it. They control the Congress sessions, so every complaint or amendment pro-life congressmen want to raise up is shot down via VIVA VOCE or palakasan ng boses. And according to people who have attended the sessions, no matter how loud the pro-life side is, the pro-death bill side always wins.
Our Lady of Guadalupe, guide us all to Jesus and His plan in this trying time.
I actually went to Mexico in 2000. I was in New York at the time (around May), and had a free weekend. My friend Eric, who was living in Mexico at the time, teased that I should fly down and visit him. I checked the airfare and was pretty decent. I checked the consulate, and I could apply for a visa even if I was not in my home country. And so I went.
But on one day I had there, I visited the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It was 2000, and I believe I was having some… um… issues at that time. I went to the Basilica, prayed, looked around, even went to the back to see the exhibit. I saw the image of Our Lady. And I know she helped me with all the prayers I asked her to intercede on my behalf.
I look back and all the issues I had at that time are resolved. I am married. I have four kids! And living the life I always knew I wanted. She helps, for sure. I do look to the day when I can go back with my whole family (though that might be a long time coming considering how expensive it would be! Ha ha).
And on this day, she will help us again. She will help us either way. By strengthening our convictions or by strengthening our resolve. She is our mother, and when you go to your mother for anything, she always acts in a way that will help us become better. She has our best interests at heart.
Our Lady of Guadalupe, happy feast day
Ok, before I get into the specifics of the trip, I have to say: IT WAS AWESOME. I think EVERY Pinoy should take the trip out to Biak-na-Bato and visit history and nature. Awesome place.
So some history: Gen Emilio Aguinaldo escaped from Batangas to Biak-na-Bato and created our first Republic. It was short-lived as there came a truce a month after, and Aguinaldo went into exile in Hong Kong. But Biak-na-Bato was their hideout for a time, and there was a cave to accept volunteers, caves for supplies and a medical cave. Cool beans.
The whole National Park has 100 caves. 50 are open to the public. And they said it would take 4 full days + one overnight stay to visit all 50 caves… why would you do that? Anyway, for our day trip, we went in 5 caves and saw another one from afar.
We got there almost 12 noon coming from Manila. We decided to go to the first area that all tourists go to. The main attraction. So we walked a bit and saw the place where the Republic was announced:
Across this you can see Aguinaldo cave. But it is across a river, and we didn’t want to get wet that early. So we just saw it from afar. If you want to go to Paniki (bat) Cave, it’s a few more hundred steps away. And we went there next. WORTH IT. Here’s the view from the deck across the cave:
We walked INTO it after! Side story: we saw a hanging vine, and my brother Joshua and brother in law Carlo swung on it and it looked fun. So I tried it. After two swings…. it broke and I landed on my butt and back. I am fine. Just hurt my pride.
The cave is HUGE. And there are bats flying overhead. Water is still rushing through the cave, and during storms, it even goes up to two storeys high. They don’t allow people in the cave during storms, obviously. I took crazy pictures and you can see them on Facebook.
We got back to the entrance past 1PM and had lunch nearby. One of the carinderias. There are no restaurants, so if you go, bring lunch. Or call ahead and have them prepare food. I don’t know how you can call them there, as only Globe has a decent signal as of this writing.
Then we went to the other fun caves. The guide said that there is another area, accessible by car, that we can go to. 4 more caves. One even in pitch black darkness. That’s where the medical area was, the food storage area and the greeting area during Aguinaldo’s time. You can also get there coming from the entrance of the park, but it would take about an hour walk. By car, it is 15 minutes away.
So we went! And here is the pitch black darkness cave entrance:
We had flashlights and all that. And at one point, dad had everyone turn off all the flashlights and we sat in darkness. In total silence. Even with my eyes open, it was total darkness. Nothingness. It was awesome.
A lot of climbing jagged rocks. Slipping and sticking on mud. Descending and ascending tunnels. Lots of low hanging rocks and pointed stalactites and stalagmites. So much that my back, butt (from my fall) and now my legs are killing me. But so worth it.
It took as about 5 hours to go through everything. And you don’t even take note of the time. You sweat buckets. And body aches. But hey, it is history and nature in one place! It is good to read up on history before you go though. The guides are helpful, but always good to have extra knowledge.
Dad, the brother and the brothers in law took a dip in the river after. Which I skipped. Killjoy, yes. And no extra clothes. Bring extra clothes so you can swim.
It was a good day And I really encourage everyone to visit. I never imagined there would be such a place in the Philippines. Even in Bulacan! But there it was. And majestic caves. Beautiful place.
Plan your trip now.
[From NLex take the Sta Rita or Baliuag exit. Then make your way towards San Miguel. Biak-na-Bato National Park is there. Get ready to ask for clarification regarding directions along the way because the signs aren't that good. Google Maps it before you go. It's about an hour from Sta Rita exit. Definitely worth it.]
It was a full day! I didn’t expect to have such a full day, especially since I just arrived last night, but it was a great blessing to be able to go to the places I went to today.
We went to a funeral service of a family friend of the Abalos family (where I am staying). He was 35 years old when he passed. And with a son. Such a sad event, but his life was being celebrated by those who loved him and those whose lives he touched. And it is also a reminder of where we are all going in the end. Where we should be excited to go, and so we live our lives to be ready and able to enter Heaven
After that we headed on out to the Matrimonios para Cristo CLS. It was in this huge church – St. Anne. The church itself was huge, but it had a whole mall-type structure beside it for conference rooms, etc. Wow. It’s the 5th biggest church (in terms of population) in the whole USA.
It was talk 1, and there were so many participants! More than 60. And everything was done in Spanish. During the song above, I just felt so loved. Like my soul was shining. And that everything was alright. I had no idea what it meant, but tears were welling up in my eyes. I had to ask someone (over Twitter) what it meant. Here it is: “move in me,touch my mind & my heart,fill my life w/ur love. move in me,Holy spirit move in me. *quedate – means remain in me.”
The Holy Spirit doesn’t need language to touch your heart. He just needs your heart
And after that we went to a birthday party! One of the YFL members here. I of course crashed the party. And came in time for this:
Aldrin, the celebrant, gathered all his guests. And to celebrate his birthday, he led everyone into worship. That was just… wow. AWESOME. I have never thought of doing that. But after tonight, I think everyone should do it. What better way to give thanks for life but to thank the one who gave you life.
So today, I celebrated a life lived, new lives in Christ and life! It’s all grace. Thank God
I finally got here after such a long trip! I can never get used to these long trips. And it is harder to sit through it. I was always thirsty, and so I was always having to go to the toilet. And my seatmate smelled of smoke. I watched about 5 movies, so after 20+ hours of traveling, I arrived in Dallas.
And it is hot.
Sarah picked me up and we went straight to the Household meeting of SFL here. This was about 7:30PM with the sun shining bright in the sky. As if my jet lag wasn’t bad enough. I had fun in the Household. I gave the session on Choices that Kill Community from the CFC FFL Year Topcis. And I DID learn a lot from their sharings. Always good to be able to attend Household. Even if in a different area.
One mentioned about the weather being a sign (even in the US!), and maybe it really is. Not Global Warming, but God’s Warning.
I miss my family. I missed my daughters’ family fellowship (it was moved from last weekend to today). I hope I don’t miss any more of those in the future. Time to get some shut-eye.
The last full day we had in Israel was one of the most fun. Though we were rushing to places and were more hectic (it was a Friday, and there were more tourists and pilgrims), the time at the Dead Sea was great. In the morning though we went to a couple of places first.
The Chapel of the Ascension. On the top of the Mount of Olives is a small Chapel where the rock where Jesus stepped on before ascending into Heaven is. The rock is just there on the ground, not even encased in anything. And supposedly there’s a footprint. Check it out if you see it:
Inside, it was dark with a stream of light coming through the window.
After there, we made our way down the street to the Pater Noster Church. This is where Jesus taught His disciples how to pray. I love the Our Father. And “Your Will be Done” has become sort of a motto for my life.
Here’s the Our Father in Aramaic.
And our creative shot while waiting for the other pilgrims, He he
We then made our way by bus to two more sites near each other. The Upper Room where the Last Supper was, and the Church of the Ascension of Mary, where she slept and was assumed into Heaven. Of course, I told Des to take a picture there for her old work place and for the school of our girls.
Dormition Abbey, what they call the place of the Ascension of Mary
And then we made our way to the Dead Sea. It is the lowest place on Earth! And the rivers lead into it, but nothing is released. Water is just evaporated. So it is now 30% salt and has so many other minerals in it. The mud, they say, is good for the skin. And true enough, my skin got smoother after rubbing it all over. I tasted the water, and it is nasty!
You can only stay 20 minutes in the water, or else it will be hazardous to your health. But that is enough time for the wonderful experience. You really float, even if you don’t want to.
It was a great way to end our trip. Having fun after all the praying and walking and reflecting. Just as everything should be. Don’t forget to have a little fun in life
Thank you, Lord for this experience. And thank you too to Mahir and Tamar for guiding us the whole week. Shalom!
Today was THE day. We woke up extra early to make it to the Old City when they open the gates (apparently they close the gates every night). We would be doing the Stations of the Cross in and around the city, and it would be chaos if we went when all the shops were open.
10 of the stations were around the city while the last stations were all near each other in the surrounding area of the Holy Sepulcher. And the stations around the city really did go through main roads with cars and trucks passing by. It goes through stalls and stores of people selling anything and everything. And if we did reach opening time, 94 people doing the Stations of the Cross would be chaos.
I carried the cross with Des for the length of one station to another. It pales in comparison to what Jesus carried. It was definitely lighter. We wore better shoes for the pavement. We weren’t whipped and cut up before doing it. There were no people jeering and spitting at us. But it still tore our hearts. How could we allow this to happen to Him? How?
We got to the area of the Holy Sepulcher. You go up a few steps to see the place where the Cross was put. And then back down to see the slab. And then a few steps away, you see the empty tomb. This is what our faith is about. The passion, death and resurrection of Jesus! The victory in seeming defeat.
What is sad though, is in that area, is that there are different Christian Churches that own parts of the Church. Some Catholic, others Orthodox, or Coptic or Assyrian. Every few steps, you see different decorations and different people. There are stories of fights between caretakers. Just because of a few inches.
It pains me that there is no peace. Not only among Christians, but also in this land. Israel is under so much stress with their surroundings. Why can’t there be peace? I reflect on CFC, and see that in our own local reality, there is no peace as well. Court cases, and the like, are still active. When we are all doing the same thing, and believe in the same thing.
I didn’t pray for my usual intentions at this place. I prayed for peace. I prayed for understanding. I prayed for Christian unity. It isn’t impossible. But it does need a lot of work and understanding.
If there is one thing I can take home from this life changing experience – it is peace. Peace for myself. Peace in everything that I do. Peace towards others.
Where the Cross was put on Golgotha
The slab where Jesus’ body was put after His death
The Empty Tomb
We rounded up the day with stops at the Church of Peter’s Denial which is also Caiaphas’ house, the pools of Bethsaida, the home of St Joachim and St Anne (the birthplace of Mary), the Wailing Wall and the Ratisbonne Seminary of Don Bosco.
Wailing Wall, men’s side
My feet are sore, but this is all worth it. Each step I took, and still take, is towards peace and unity.
Before I get to what I really want to share, I’ll just go through quickly what we did today. If you allow me. No choice, actually.
We left Israel and went into the Palestinian Authority to visit Bethlehem (just like Jericho, it is outside Israel). We visited the Milk Grotto, where Mary breastfed Jesus and some of her milk dripped onto the cave floor and turned everything white. Now people get particles for healing and if they want to conceive.
We didn’t have the Mass in the Nativity Church because it is owned by the Greek Orthodox Church. So we just visited the site after Mass at St. Catherine’s. The place where Jesus was born is under the Church. You have to bend to reach the Nativity Star inside a small nook. He was born in a limestone cave, and not a manger.
Awed. Jesus was born there. It is just a bit harder to imagine and get into the moment with a whole Church built over the site, and with hundreds of pilgrims before and behind you. But nonetheless, I am awed. I wonder why the “Vatican” is based in Rome and not here in Bethlehem? Wouldn’t that be awesome if the seat of our faith is based in the town where Jesus was born?
Then we left Bethlehem and made our way back to Israel and straight to the top of the Mount of Olives. There aren’t that many olives, but there are a lot of graves. The Mount of Olives face the closed Eastern Gate of Jerusalem. The Jews believe that the Savior will come and open the gates of Jerusalem, and the dead will rise. So those who got buried facing that gate believe that they will be one of the first to enter the new Jerusalem when that happens.
We walked down the Mount of Olives, using the same path Jesus used on Palm Sunday. Then we stopped at the Dominus Felvit. Or the place where Jesus wept for Jerusalem. Further down is the Garden of Gethsemene. And in the Church there, there is the rock where Jesus cried tears of blood. The agony in the garden.
I reflected a lot on the agony in the garden. Jesus must have really been in agony to have shed tears of blood. And I thought to myself, have I ever been in so much agony? THAT MUCH to shed tears of blood? Yes, I have been through a lot in life, but I cannot say that I ever went through something like that. And it is because of two things. One, I am a simple person. I don’t like complicating things. So maybe things don’t affect me as much as the other person. And two, it is because I know that Jesus went through everything already for me. And everything will be OK in the end. The rock where Jesus shed His blood is still there. And it is telling me that Jesus is my rock. He went through agony for me. And He is still there. His suffering, death and ultimate victory is already ahead of me. And He is in control.
Can you think of any other radical person such as Jesus? He spoke out, and spoke the truth. I believe He knew what would happen to Him. He knew He would rise on the third day (why would He preach it if He didn’t believe it?). But He also knew what kind of betrayal, suffering and pain He would have to go through before that. And that caused Him agonizing feelings. I mean, who wouldn’t be in agony if you knew you’d be whipped, cut, spit on, nailed, broken…. I can’t even imagine.
But, thank you. Thank you for doing that for me. Thank you for being radical. For me. It encourages me to be radical, like you, for you. My agony will never equal yours, but it gives me courage to get through anything the world throws at me. I will speak the truth, and live in the light. Just like You. For You. Thank you.
We started the day at Dalmanutha. It is the place where Jesus multiplied the 5 loaves and 2 fish. This is the one aside from the Sermon on the Mount multiplication. We were taught by Fr. Gustilo that everything is GIFT. Our life is a gift. We were born because we have a purpose. If we had no purpose, then we would not have been born. We shouldn’t forget that God wants us on this earth for a reason.
We had Mass there as well. Then drove to the “Other Side”. Jesus mentions that he goes to the other side, and now that other side is the Golan Heights. Formerly part of Syria, now part of Israel. We passed the spot where Jesus drove out Legion into the pigs and into the Sea of Galilee.
Then we crossed the Jordan river. It is so thin! Not wide at all. You can practically jump across. We got to the renewal of Baptismal vows site. It wasn’t the original site of John the Baptist and Jesus because that was nearer to the Dead Sea, and the water is too rough there now.
What an experience. The water was cold. The “skirt” they gave us was thin. But again, I was reminded of my being a gift. Not only as part of the earth, but as part of the Catholic world. I am a gift, and I have a purpose.
After that, we drove through the Judean desert. Saw the Bedouin tribes along the way. And stopped over a place where you could see the Mount of Temptation – where Jesus was tempted. It was SO HOT. I got dizzy afterwards. I wonder how Jesus managed to go through 40 days and even decline the temptations of the devil. It was really hot.
We got to Jericho, which is part of the Palestinian Authority now. It is outside of Israel and Israeli Jews aren’t allowed to enter. Just like Bethlehem. Isn’t that sad? I think the conflicts within religions and groups is really sad. We all want the same thing. Salvation for all. So sad to see people banning and suing others from using names, and all that.
The day wasn’t over yet. Though I admit, I was really exhausted by this time. We had two more stops. We went up to Jerusalem (saw the 18 foot wall they put up to separate the Palestinian Authority area) and straight to Ein Karem. The place of the Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth. It is so interesting really to imagine the travel time it took people from one place to the other. It is so easy now, via bus. But still with the heat, tiring. Can you imagine how it was 2,000 years ago?
Mary and Elizabeth both had gifts. Babies. And these gifts became gifts to others. We are also gifts. And we should NEVER EVER forget that.