“Sa bawat sandali ng aking buhay, ikaw ang siyang gabay” – Sa ‘Yong Piling
I was once like you. I was a student from Ateneo who just went along with day-to-day problems and day-to-day joys. No biggie. Nothing was wrong with that. The thing is I am not that person anymore. I have changed. “Ina” changed me. I had many fun and inspiring experiences in Naga City, but I’d like all of you to feel and see what I did when I met “Ina”.
It was Saturday, September 21, and we Ateneans—both from Manila and Naga city—were waiting for the fluvial procession to take place. It had been by tradition that “Our Lady of Penafrancia” would always pass through the river to get back to its Basilica. She would be carried on a pagoda with a group of faithful Bicolanos escorting her. Time started to pass, and many people started to arrive. The entire sidewalk near the river was packed with people. Then out of nowhere I started to hear a distinct noise coming from afar. It was she. I knew it was she. I knew “Ina” was nearby. It turned out that not only I knew this but everybody also felt her presence. Everyone took out his handkerchief and started waving it in the air. People started to chant “Viva La Virgen, Viva!” with all their power and might. I didn’t know why they did this but I joined in the waving and chanting as well. And that’s when I saw her. I saw the most talked- about-lady-in-town. I felt so overwhelmed with her presence. I really can’t describe the feeling when this image of Mary passed through. I couldn’t move. My hands were trembling. I was sweating. I really felt like the Mother of God had just passed.
Right when “Ina” had passed through our line of sight, all of the devoted Bicolanos and us left the viewing area and headed for the Basilica. Oh, how I wish all of you saw how hectic and intense the way to the Basilica was. Everybody was shoving and pushing each other just so he could make it to the Basilica. We were stuck in the human traffic for around an hour or so, and we finally made it to the Basilica. The joy and relief I felt when we arrived could not be explained. All the pain and hurt I felt in going there was all going to be worth getting a one-on-one session with my “Ina”. We sat down in the grass area and lit some candles for some light. I closed my eyes and I silently prayed to Ina. I talked to her in the hissing light of the fire in the candle. I felt that she really was with me in that spine- tingling moment. All the hair on my arms went up and I felt the power of “Ina”. All the questions I had going to this trip were answered. I knew from that point she would be my guide in life. She truly was the Mother of God.
Now that I’m back here in Manila, I have my own image of “Ina” in my room. Whenever I would need her, I would just have pray to her in my own home. I realized that the day I first caught a glimpse of “Ina” could truly be compared to all our lives. Both the wait I experienced while waiting for “Ina” and the shoving I experienced on the way to the Basilica can be compared to our hardships in life. Even if the wait was so long and boring, and the pushing were very painful already, I endured all of this just to see “Ina” and reach the Basilica.
All of us have our own “Inas” and “Basilicas” that we seek. Our goals and wants in life cannot be obtained without enduring some hurt and pain along the way. I challenge everybody to fight all these obstacles so you can find what you seek.
I know my life won’t be perfect from this day on. There will be times when I will feel like I can’t wait anymore or I should simply give up. But I know I will have to endure all of this to get to my goals and wants in life and get to the biggest Basilica of them all—God’s Kingdom.
Naga City and everyone I met there will forever be in my heart. From Sir Flores to Trixie to Jude and everyone there, I will truly cherish them forever. Hopefully all of you may experience what I experienced and you may be able to visit this beautiful city. It truly is a beautiful city, the home of many loving people and the home Our Lady of Penafrancia. Naga is now my second home and its people are my second family. And “Ina”? Well, even if it sounds as if I’m swearing in Filipino, there is only one statement to describe her: “Siya ang ating Ina”!
Let us all pray to our God and thank Him for our loving Mother.
Thank You for helping Ateneo give us this kind of an opportunity. Thank You for giving us the friends we made in Ateneo de Naga, and may You bless them for the rest of their days. May You guide all of us Ateneans in our journey to our Basilicas in life. May You never leave us as we continue to adore You for Your love and sacrifices! This we ask through the loving intercession of our beloved Ina, AMEN.
Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us, sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
Our Lady of Penafrancia… (Pray for us.)
St. Ignatius of Loyola… (Pray for us.)
+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Note: Lorenzo “Enzo” S. Matutina was in 2nd year (Grade 10) high school when he made this reflection of his experience of Our Lady of Peñafrancia during the fluvial procession in Naga City. It was our Spiritual-Cultural Experience, a program for Spiritual Development. Enzo now is in Grade 12 and will be graduating in 2016. He delivered this reflection over the PA system for everyone to consider for prayer on 1 October 2013, a Monday.