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Our cruise is done; it’s back to the old grind

It’s great to be back after our 20-day family vacation in the Mediterranean, where we took our first ever cruises on board the Royal Princess. Before we disembarked from the ship, they had a special program to entice those who took the cruise to pay only $100 as down payment for a future cruise which is fully refundable. Looking at all their destination listing, I was saddened that among the so many tourism destinations that the Princess Cruise Company visits all over the world, in Southeast Asia, there was only one time that they would visit Manila.

Here we are so proud of the fact that in the Royal Princess, at least 50 percent of the ship’s crew from chefs, engineers, stewards and hotel staff are Filipino. The Filipino influence is so strong that during dinner it is normal to see adobo or chicken tinola being served among the so many dishes served to the passengers on the ship. Even our Thai chief waiter spoke many Filipino words. But whenever we speak to most of the Pinoy crew and introduce ourselves as Filipino, they would always ask… from where in the US do we come from? It is a fact that most Filipinos who take the Royal Princess do come from the US. Perhaps we were the only homegrown Pinoys on board.

How unfortunate for Philippine tourism that boasts one of the Best Beaches in the world and many other world famous dive sites, yet we are not listed as a destination port by the cruise ship industry. Of course that’s because we do not have the proper port facilities that could take on a cruise ship. One major reasons why they avoid Manila is that Manila Bay is a huge sewage area, where those pristine white cruise ships would get dirty by just entering Manila Bay. We need to clean up, not just Manila Bay but our act!

When we got into Rome, our vacation shifted into a pilgrimage the next day. We hired a van (with a Filipino driver named Mario) to take us through the 381-kilometer four-hour drive to San Giovanni Rotondo to visit the incorrupted remains of San Padre Pio of Pietrelcina. What we did not expect was a great blessing for this pilgrimage happened just two days before the Feast of Padre Pio who died on Sept. 23. Because of the huge preparation for his Feast Day, there were very few tourists that came to San Giovanni Rotondo and we had a great time to view the remains of a great saint in our modern times.

San Giovanni Rotondo is a very long drive from Rome, but seeing Padre Pio’s incorrupt remains was very well worth the trip. He is one Saint that I pray always when I ask him for the healing of my sick friends. We only stayed in San Giovanni Rotondo for two hours at the most, as we had to drive back to Rome. Incidentally, on our way to San Giovanni, we saw a sign on the Autostrada that read, “Lanciano.” So my sister and I asked ourselves whether this was the Lanciano, the site of the first Eucharistic Miracle.

So on our way back to Rome, we asked our driver to take the Lanciano exit and conveniently, the town was only six kilometers from the freeway. Since we didn’t have any Internet on the van, we had no way of finding out whether the Church of the Eucharistic Miracle was opened or not, especially we arrived nearly 7 p.m. already. Indeed, the Holy Spirit guided us to Lanciano, which was not part of our pre-planned trip. Thus you may say that our coming to San Giovanni gave us a minor miracle in Lanciano.

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We arrived in the small church at 6:45 p.m., and the church hours were only up to 7 p.m. Thus we entered the church with only five tourists left, so we literally had the place to ourselves… for at least 15 minutes for prayers, and photographs. Our driver Mario never even knew about this pilgrimage site or about Eucharistic Miracles, so we educated him about this piece of Catholic history.

Lanciano according to the history that I read was the home of the Centurion Longinus who pierced the side of our Lord Jesus Christ with a lance where blood and water gushed from his side causing the Centurion to declare, “Truly this man is the Son of God!” Longinus returned to Italy and settled in what is now called Lanciano, which means Lance in obvious reference to the Centurion who pierced the side of Jesus.

We had enough time to examine the monstrance holding the sacred host that still has bloodstains and the lower portion of the monstrance has a vessel containing coagulated blood, which was examined to be of Myocardial origin with type AB blood. As the story goes, the Blessed Sacrament turned bloody because the priest who consecrated the host had doubts about the real presence of our Lord in the Eucharist. Hence the Lord gave this first Eucharistic Miracle in the place where Longinus lived. There is so much for our Tourism Department to learn from the mature tourism industry in Europe, which has port facilities for cruise ships, tour buses with hop-on, hop-off buses. We have a great tourism potential, but a sorry lack of infrastructure!

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Email: vsbobita@mozcom.com or vsbobita@gmail.com


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