Mission accomplished

FUNFARE - Ricky Lo - The Philippine Star
Mission accomplished

The sprawling altar of the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe on Tepeyac Hill in Mexico City.

Three years ago when I was in New York to interview Vin Diesel for his movie The Last Witch Hunter, beautician Gloria Cabrera treated me and STAR Big Apple correspondent Edmund Silvestre (now retired in Manila since last year after years as News Editor of The Filipino Reporter) to a dinner at an Italian restaurant. We noticed that the waiter assigned to our table had a tattoo of Our Lady of Guadalupe on his right arm. It was so graphically done that Our Lady seemed to come alive. You guessed it: The waiter is from Mexico where the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe is.          

“Our Lady of Guadalupe is venerated not only in Mexico and other Latin countries but around the world,” the waiter told us. Edmund and I took a photo of Our Lady on the waiter’s tattoed arm and I published it with my story about our dinner.

The new Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Six months later, my friend Raoul Tidalgo and I had a merienda with celebrity lawyer Ferdie Topacio at the Annabel’s restaurant on Tomas Morato Avenue (Quezon City). As soon as I sat at a table at a cozy private area, I looked at the wall in front of me and guess what I saw: A framed image of Our Lady of Guadalupe among the paintings for sale. Anyway, I recalled my experience about the tattoed waiter. Ferdie bought the framed picture as a belated birthday to me.                              

Don’t look now but a few weeks later while on my way to Makati, I saw an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe on a wall and that made me think -— was Our Lady of Guadalupe giving me some kind of a sign? That made me plan to visit the Basilica in Mexico as soon as I got the chance. Turned out that my LA-based friends also had the same long-held plan in mind.

The old Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Sorry but I beat them to it.

Last January, Netflix invited me to cover the shoot of Narcos (fourth season, with Mexican actors Diego Luna and Michael Peña) in, where else, Mexico City! (Due to the embargo, I can’t elaborate on that story as of now. Airing of the series starts toward end of this year.) Yes, I grabbed the rare chance. Hola, Mejico!

After I checked in at Sheraton Hotel, I hailed a cab and proceeded to the Basilica on Tepeyac Hill. It was a Sunday late afternoon and a Mass was in progress. Every so often, there was a procession of pilgrims praying quietly, holding aloft an image of The Virgin, one group after another. The solemnity of the occasion was so overwhelming that I felt as if The Virgin was in our midst.

There’s no statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe, only the original cloak on which her image appeared in 1531.

Then, with the kind elderly cab driver Alex Rodriguez, I took a quick tour inside the Basilica, stopping before an image of The Virgin high on one wall. I asked Alex where The Virgin’s statue was.

“There is none,” he said in passable English. “There is just the cloth where her image appeared. The one on the wall is the original and it dates back to 1531.”

Had I made an early research, this is what I would have found:

Official Catholic accounts state that the Virgin Mary appeared four times before Juan Diego and one more before Juan Diego’s uncle. According to these accounts, the first apparition occurred on the morning of Dec. 9, 1531, when a native Mexican peasant named Juan Diego saw a vision of a maiden at a place called the Hill of Tepeyac, which would become part of Villa de Guadalupe, a suburb of Mexico City. Speaking to Juan Diego in his native Nahuatl language (the language of the Aztec empire), the maiden identified herself as the Virgin Mary, “mother of the very true deity” and asked for a church to be built at that site in her honor.

An image of The Virgin tattoed on the arm of a Mexican waiter at a New York restaurant(left). Your Funfare at a souvenir store(right).

Based on her words, Juan Diego then sought out the archbishop of Mexico City, Fray Juan de Zumárraga, to tell him what had happened. As the bishop did not believe Diego, on the same day, Juan Diego saw the Virgin Mary for a second time (the second apparition); she asked him to keep insisting.

On Sunday, Dec. 10, Juan Diego talked to the archbishop for a second time. The latter instructed him to return to Tepeyac Hill, and ask the lady for a miraculous sign to prove her identity. That same day, the third apparition occurred when Diego returned to Tepeyac and, encountering the Virgin Mary, reported the bishop’s request for a sign; she consented to provide one on the following day (Dec. 11).

By Monday, Dec. 11, however, Juan Diego’s uncle Juan Bernardino had fallen sick and Juan Diego was obliged to attend to him. In the very early hours of Tuesday, Dec. 12, Juan Bernardino’s condition having deteriorated overnight, Juan Diego set out to Tlatelolco to fetch a priest to hear Juan Bernardino’s confession and minister to him on his death-bed.

In order to avoid being delayed by the Virgin and ashamed at having failed to meet her on the Monday as agreed, Juan Diego chose another route around the hill, but the Virgin intercepted him and asked where he was going (fourth apparition); Juan Diego explained what had happened and the Virgin gently chided him for not having had recourse to her. In the words which have become the most famous phrase of the Guadalupe event and are inscribed over the main entrance to the Basilica of Guadalupe, she asked, “¿No estoy yo aquí que soy tu madre?” (Am I not here, I who am your mother?). She assured him that Juan Bernardino had now recovered and she told him to gather flowers from the top of Tepeyac Hill, which was normally barren, especially in December. Juan followed her instructions and he found Castilian roses, not native to Mexico, blooming there. The Virgin arranged the flowers in Juan’s tilma, or cloak, and when Juan Diego opened his cloak before archbishop Zumárraga on Dec. 12, the flowers fell to the floor, and on the fabric was the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe.

As they would say, the rest is history.

Before I left Mexico (for Manila with connecting flight in L.A.), I prayed again at the Basilica and then bought souvenirs (rosaries, bracelets, etc.) at the shops that lined the basement parking.

I took a lingering look at The Virgin’s image on the wall and bade her farewell.

Mission accomplished!

What’s up?

• From my friend Maribi Garcia, a message (inspired by Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet) sent to me years ago when I lost two brothers: When you part from a loved one, “Grieve...but not for long,” for that which you love most in him may be clear in his absence as the mountain to the climber is clearer from the plain.

• Holy Week, more than any other time of the year, is a great time to nourish one’s Spiritual needs and reconnect with God. Kuh Ledesma’s Hacienda Isabella is a gateway to a time of solitude, communion with God, as well as bond with family and friends. Hacienda Isabella’s verdant gardens and rustic nooks create an environment where one can simply enjoy lounging while connecting with nature. Read the Bible or your favorite book in surroundings that inspire beauty and contemplation.

You can even choose to swim in the Olympic-size pool before proceeding to enjoy a hearty meal of signature Hacienda Isabella salads and appetizing dishes. So go ahead and try Hacienda Isabella this Holy Week. A place that perfectly blends recreation and relaxation. Your body will feel at ease, mind relieved, and spirit at peace.

To add to the experience, you’ll find Kuh and daughter Isabella (photo) and Pastor/Counselor Bennie Lagos sharing Bible stories and life lessons. (For booking inquiries, call 0917- 8139065 or 0947-8905368.)

Sir Knight Jorge Allan Rodriguez Tengco (photo) is the over-all chairman of the Baliuag (Bulacan) Holy Week festivities that include a procession of more than a hundred carosas carrying images of saints at the town plaza. Baliuag Monsignor Rdo Andres Valera and RDO Edgardo Torribio assist Allan during the traditional event in the town. Allan is the son of Lito and Amy Tengco of Baliuag Transit Corporation.

(E-mail reactions at [email protected]. For more updates, photos and videos, visit www.philstar.com/funfare. or follow me on Instagram @therealrickylo.)

vuukle comment







  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

Get Updated:

Signup for the News Round now

or sign in with