The morning greeted me with what has become usual in my experience of the Philippines: traffic! We made a two hour journey north to a shrine that a parishioner encouraged me to visit while in Cebu.
We set ground on the Chapel of Simala. Housed here is a place of prayer and great devotion to the Virgin Mary. While the Vatican has not approved the claimed apparitions on this site, there was a deep sense of holiness and prayer that filled this enormous sanctuary. We even had to remove our shoes to approach the countless steps leading to the image of the Virgin for veneration.
The Filipino people in these past days have showed me their great love for Mary, someone so endearing to them that they address her as “Mama”! Her primary role is to point us to Jesus, to make us her sons and daughters. This is brought to light in the last statement she made in scripture at the Wedding at Cana, “Do whatever he tells you.”
As we made our way to Cebu airport located in Mactan, I sipped a cold refreshing drink from Starbucks and was filled with gratitude that the Spirit of God brought me to the Visayas in the company of good friends!
Coming here has helped me to have a much deeper appreciation of the faith that has been handed down for many generations to the present. It is a faith that we take such great pride in as we decorate our stores, vehicles, and businesses with sacramentals that remind us of the holy. As I tucked my seatbelt en route to a 45 minute flight back to Manila… I looked back to give the Holy Child one more wave good-bye and salamat Po for such a grace filled moment in my life.