Sunday, November 20, 2016

SR. TERESITA CASTILLO, The Visionary of Lipa

Just last Wednesday (11/16), as I was browsing through the late-night posts on FB, I was shocked by the news that Sr. Teresing, the humble lady who saw Our Lady at Lipa, passed away. She was 89.

I remember that very intimate moment I visited her abode and listened to her inspiring words. In the midst of concerns I am currently facing, the words of Sr. Teresita re-echoed in my heart: Just lift your problems to God. What is impossible to man is possible for God. 

True enough, after that wonderful encounter with the seer of Lipa, a wave of bad things happened to me. These things somehow shook my person and it was all my fault. But in entrusting my concerns to the Lord, I felt his grace. Somehow, I was able to recover from my faults, though I know there are wounds that may take time to heal.

Eventually, these faults led me to rediscover myself, my purpose in this life. Carefully, though I am really that hard-headed guy who just cannot follow easily, God did not give up on me. Things may indeed be impossible for me, but it is truly possible for Him who loved me more than I can return. Somehow, the encounter with Sr. Teresing became a foretaste of the things which are about to come.

This encounter, I was able to share with you THROUGH THIS POST, which was read by thousands of devotees and faithful who wanted to know more about the Visionary of Lipa, and her current condition (in 2014). Up until posting time, a silent stream of viewers visit this particular page and read my share of the story. Thank you for letting me share Sr. Teresing with you. Let this story be a living testimony of the benevolence of this simple lady who witnessed Mary's love for the world.

I have to admit, the devotion I had to Our Lady watered down because of the final decision of the Church authorities which defined the verdict of 1951. That same somehow gave a drastic end to the efforts of the faithful to ask the Holy See to grant its approval, as far as the apparitions are concerned. Sad as it may seem, we felt obliged to obey the decree of the Holy See. However, this did not waver the love I and all of us Filipinos have for the Blessed Mother. We shall always have a mother who cares for us and intercedes for our needs.

And yes, on a personal note, I reaffirm my belief to the apparitions of 1948, though it may only be on a personal level, and I pray that the time will come that the Holy Mother Church would come to recognize the apparitions, and its messages, and its impact on the faithful, which is very timely. I believe. I believe.

Sr. Teresing, we may have met once, but you touched my heart deeply that its impact may last as long as I live. Salamat po, for being an inspiration for all of us. Salamat po, for sharing with us Mama Mary's love. We promise to continue loving her and Jesus, the way you did show your love for them. I ask you to please remember me before Our Lady, remember this poor man who sought to follow His call.

May you rest in peace, Sr. Teresing. Mahal na mahal po namin kayo! Until soon!

"I know all of you here who came to visit me, all of you will be blessed by Mama Mary."
(Sr. Teresita Castillo, 2014. Pic courtesy: MMMLDI/Cyrus Santos)

Friday, July 08, 2016

TIDBITS: Remnants of Cebu and My Augustinian Journey

One of my dreams came true last summer, when I and Jason (Sanchez, a former brother at Dominican Laity) visited Cebu. It was not really a planned journey, and there were obstacles especially when we prepared our finances, but the last week of April came and we were able to push through with our summer getaway.

While at Cebu, we had many encounters with the revered image of Santo Niño de Cebu. Since we stayed at Patria de Cebu (the hotel in front of the Metropolitan Cathedral), we managed to wake up early in the morning, to walk towards the Basilica (which is two blocks away) and venerate the image for quite some time. We did this all throughout our stay at Cebu; we saw it as indeed a blessing since not everyone has the opportunity to visit Cebu.

Cebu has an important place in the heart of Catholic Philippines. Here, the faith started to blossom forth from the image of the Child Jesus. The Santo Niño serves as the image of the Filipino faith: young, humble, cheerful. Five hundred years have passed and the trust of the nation in God remains steadfast despite the tests of time, and the challenges of the generations.

Who may have known that after a few weeks, I would enter the Religious Order which promoted the devotion to the image for hundreds of years? From Cebu, the love for Jesus spread throughout our country and to other places through the Augustinians. And we keep it alive until the present through our continuous prayer before the sacred image of Santo Niño every Friday.

Their footsteps, we long to follow now. We don't know what lies ahead, yet we seek his face in greater strides.

Friday, July 01, 2016


So what happened to everything I left?

Simple answer: I left them behind. All of them.

I have written somewhere in this blog before that my life has been a roller coaster, being in one place now and moving on later. True enough, life has been a long journey for me so far, and with all the journeys I undertook, decisions made and everything else. But this decision - leaving everything behind for the Seminary - has been one of the biggest decisions I had undertaken, a new YES to God who never left me alone all these time.

But how about everything I had before? Ganun na lang ba lahat?

After five years of life with the Dominicans, I entered the life of the Augustinians. After four years of working as a teacher, I now try to reach my dreams as a Priest of Jesus. And these two were never easy.

It's really painful to let go. But we all know that it's all a part of the process of leaving the things you love for the greatest thing in life. I don't know what lies ahead of me. I mean it. 

You see, entering a seminary is a no-joke. You study things of higher level, you tend to live in a community of people you don't know, some won't be friends with you pa. You wake up at a uncomfortable time just to fulfill seminary schedule. We enter a new reality, far from our ideas before, from our comfort zones. In this reality, you do not depend on what you think might make you happy; you only depend on the greatest good. You search for it, not on material things, but deep inside you, in the spirit. You carefully - and sometimes, painfully - leave your old self to wear the new person.

It certainly takes time and lots of effort, but it will never be without God's help. Everything's impossible without complete trust in his Will. On this thought I depend as I embark on this journey. Yung gulong ito, magiging maayos rin sa awa ng Panginoon. God will take care of this. 

I plan to revive Ur Dose if time allows me. I don't know how this could be but in any case, this blog would still be regularly updated. Thanks for the continual support and prayers.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

June 26, 2016. It was raining when I and my co-aspirant brothers asked for the Mercy of God and for admittance to the life of the Community under the example of Saint Augustine. In response, Fr. Peter Casiño, OSA gave us the insignia of the Order of St. Augustine: the heart pierced by an arrow, placed upon an open book, signifying the thirst for wisdom and knowledge under the guidance of the Cross of Jesus. Since then, life has never been the same. All over again.

YES. After years of running away, after many failures and loopholes, I now stand up and take the challenge. I thought life is already enough for me, but then there is still a deeper desire in my heart to return to my dreams and make them a reality. This is the start of a long journey full of joys and challenges, all towards Jesus.

Not only I, but WE take the challenge. This is the start of a new chapter in our lives, and we will never make it without God's grace.

Please pray for us that we may be really strong in the Lord.

Saturday, June 18, 2016


Yes. It's been ten years since I first wrote my very first post on this domain. Time flies very fast. A lot of things have changed since I first did that. Aside from reminding me the reality that I'm getting old (and fatter... duhh), this blog would always take me back to those carefree days when I am free to write on anything and everything that comes out of my mind. 

I was 15 then, too young for someone to write (back then. Perhaps not now, since technology advanced that far since the very first day I wrote, and many youngsters started making their kilig novels.) Now, I'm 25, and unlike before, thoughts become too complex to be written in a simple note like this, aside from the time constraint that my job and other sorts gave me, lessening the opportunities for me to write many things in the liberty of my time.

True enough, much has changed. But the blog is still here, frequented by people from every part of the world, just to read posts related to faith and travel, whatever. I planned to have a week-long celebration of posts like what I had in 2011, but things suddenly changed, because of a big decision I made which changed my life. 

It's been a while since I responded to God's call to become his priest, and I have to admit, the journey I had after I tried (and failed) with the Rogationists in 2006 formed me made me realize that it is not easy to go away from the things I love and, eventually, that call to follow him. In the years that followed, I saw myself not drawing away from the religious life, as an altar server in our parish in Navotas, to a Mukha Ader and Dominican Lay in Santo Domingo, intertwined with the many achievements I had as an educator, photographer, and everything else.

Despite the challenges and failures I encountered along the way, God did not change, and his love remained. For this, just recently, I reconsidered the tiny whisper to follow Jesus again, and enter the religious life as an Augustinian. It was a big decision, since I need to leave everything behind, for something better than life has for me. 

Of course, like other seminarians, the first month of life "inside" is full of adjustments. That includes detachment from the life I and my other aspirant-seminarians used to have outside, and imbuing of the life we've chosen, a life of community and love, of prayer and study. And for someone active like me, who spent almost half his teenage life being aligaga, it is not easy, but certainly doable as long as we place ourselves in the hands of God, and entrust our life to the Heart of Jesus.

This is just the start of a new chapter of the story which this blog would continue to cover as long as possible. So, as I write this post on the Tenth Anniversary of this blog, I would like to ask for your prayers that we may persevere in this new journey I am about to take. Or better yet, let us pray for each other that God may always bless us every step of the way.  


Wednesday, May 11, 2016

ENCOUNTERS: ILOCOS (Pagudpud - May 7, 2016)

After a day of travelling to historical places, eating lots of food and conquering the sand dunes, we headed towards the other side of Ilocos Norte, to the place known for its white sand beach (yeop, like Boracay, less the people) and other frontiers that is not frequented by the usual mob.

Next stop: PAGUDPUD!

Our first stop: Big Electric Fans! Es te, The Windmills of Bangui!

Hot day, eh? xD

Yes, it is really a hot day. xDDD

Even my mom can't stand the heat, but at least she's still smiling!

Next stop: Kabigan Falls deep inside Pagudpud. Despite
its silent and mystic look-and-feel, it is still frequented by a good number of tourists.

To visit Kabigan Falls, you need a 30-minute simple trek from the main road. As
you take the trail, you will see lots of farmlands with ample irrigation, since their water
comes from the falls. The rest goes down towards the sea. The feeling is tranquil, even this
carabao can't help but to take a bath.

Yeop, that's me looking around my land. (Actually, my sea. Just kidding. xD)

I'm not sure what this is, but the view from where I was was super great!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

ENCOUNTERS: Ilocos (Laoag - May 7, 2016)

Two weeks before entering the Seminary, I and my sister treated my mom to a special trip to Ilocos. Though unplanned, it was nevertheless a great visit, since it was her dream to visit Ilocandia, a place of history, legacy and yes, relaxation.

After twelve hours of land travel (via Partas Bus. The special trip has designated hours, so we went thru the regular trip which was also relaxing anyway), we reached Laoag City in the morning of Friday. We spent the day travelling through its known churches, special places and try its sand dunes as the sun is just setting.

Here are some shots. I opted not to post the facade of Laoag and Paoay churches, since we are already familiar with them. Instead, I have here the shots from the Sanctuary of Laoag Cathedral, and the image of the Patron of Paoay Parish.

The interior of St. William the Hermit Cathedral under the Diocese of Laoag.

JM and Ajie posing in front of the Provincial Capitol, a few days ahead
of the election.
Mommy at the Sand Dunes of Paoay (which is beside... South China Sea? I'm not so sure)
Paoay Lake, a majestic lake beside the Malacañang of the North (the residence of
the Marcoses at Ilocos)

Our Holy Father Saint Augustine, patron of Paoay Church

Tuesday, February 23, 2016


When I find time to write on things, I make sure I grab the chance. Mahirap ulit mawalan sa kawalan. xDDD


In the past few months of journeying with life, I used as a guide a little book. Little as it seemed, it focused on the big things of life, especially one's relationship with the Lord. It has been used by many generations, especially by those in the religious life, clerics and nuns.

The title: Imitation of Christ by Thomas a' Kempis.

The book was given to me by a very close friend last October, as a birthday/vestition gift for that year. Being not so fond of reading books, it took me some time to read it. Until that night, I never thought what was inside the book. It was until one November night when I tried to see what's inside the book.

And indeed, it was more than what I expected.

From simple basics of faith, to things that helped me decide on which road to take, the Imitation guided me step by step, page by page, towards attaining holiness in a not-so-quick manner, in the here and now.

In the book, I reflected on how important obedience is, how great it feels to carry the cross and to pursue with the road of the cross, to keep my mouth shut except in praising God, among many others. As I read, I resolved to do these things the next day, to become better, to accept everything in patience, to be moderate, to control, and to become a model.

Imitating Christ in today's reality is very hard to do. Indeed, especially in a judging and criticizing society, you'll find it very hard to be another Christ. But then, reading books and contemplating on them can certainly help you achieve a better way of life, one patterned after Jesus. as long as you open yourself and your ideals to God's divine will and mercy, nothing's impossible.

Monday, February 15, 2016

(In memory of Ivan Rolfe A. Banaag, 2000-2013)

It took me three years to post the story of  Ivan's death here on my blog. Perhaps, it's more of me either not yet moving on with how Ivan died, or with my general busyness with teacher things. But I have to admit that until now, his story - and memory - remains in the hearts of those who believed in him, his family, friends and colleagues.

I personally believe that his story does not end with his death. It continues on, as long as people are continued to be inspired by his story. Thus, I re-post here my personal account on how Ivan died three years ago, on February 18, 2013. It served as a pivoting point in my life, and in the lives of many others. The story of my encounter would give a glimpse on it. Likewise, I added some information in italics, so that the story could be as whole and updated as possible.

This picture is the last I took of Ivan while he was still alive: this is the story of his hand holding mine on the final battle he faced.

The tight grip he gave would always remind me of the boy who never gave up.
That hold would be cherished all the days of my life.
His hands serve as a reminder for me to trust in God's loving will for me.
THE HANDS (The Last Days of Ivan)
An anecdote on Ivan's final hours, from the AM Moderator, Bro. Weldann Lester Panganiban
(Reposted from the AM Online Necrological Service - February 22, 2013.)

Since we began the advocacy of prayers for Ivan's recovery, a lot of people are asking us regarding his sickness. The same question came in when we made the official announcement of his death last Monday.

We tried our best to keep it hidden, with respect to Ivan and the Banaag Family, but eventually some individuals shared in the comments the reason of his demise. With this, I prayerfully decided to make a little account of Ivan's parting hours, particularly when I visited him the night before his death.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

VIA CRUCIS SA AVE Year 5: Lolo Uweng

It's been over a year since I last visited Lolo Uweng at Landayan. This year, due to my proximity to the place (thank you, NCR Palaro!), I was able to venerate the Santo Entierro once again. I attended the Ash Wednesday Mass there, and took photos of the stations there. I was also able to meet Christian, a FB friend who is serving there. He helped me with shooting some videos for the intro vid of VCSA. 

Of course, there were some bloopers during the shoot.

But in the end, with Lolo Uweng's help, we were able to come up with a simple yet informative video on Lolo Uweng and the Diocesan Shrine. This served as a kickstart for this year's edition of Via Crucis sa Ave. 

More videos will be done during this Lenten Season, as we continue this custom of journeying with Jesus on the Way of the Cross.