Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Go drink and cleanse yourself with the water from the spring.

Lining up inside the building
 “Go drink and cleanse yourself with the water from the spring.” This was the message of Our Lady to Bernadette Soubirous in the apparition at Lourdes in 24 February 1858. It is interpreted as “to redeem salvation, accept and ask for forgiveness and repentance.”

Today, the grotto continues with the symbolic ritual at the actual apparition site resulting in documented miraculous cures and spiritual renewals.

Per Celeste’s influence, I bathed with spring water, one in the morning and the other in the afternoon within the set window time. Temperature range was 19 degrees Celsuis in the morning, slightly warmer in the afternoon.

Gave de Paul River
The long line I expected with mostly physically handicapped Europeans was not there but nevertheless it took me still over an hour from the entrance to the exit. The wait was sufficient to prepare oneself for the cleansing through guided prayers and personal reflections. There were four major phases to the bath: the snake and ladder chairs at the entrance, the line inside the building, the assigned ante room where one strips his clothes and the tub guided by 3 assistants. Instructions were posted in the walls in several languages; French, Italian, English.

While bathing in the cold spring water, one prays and expresses intentions. Key is belief and conviction. Seeing the physically challenged, hearing the repetitive prayer and jolted by the dip in spring water deepen this conviction.

Stations of the Cross at the open field
My first experience was out of curiosity slowly transforming from observing to releasing and accepting. I walked out of the site feeling light, thinking with refreshed clarity. I cooled down walking around the vast open field reflecting on the event. During the bath, I was tense and did not completely dip myself, thus the motivation to return.

For the 2nd bath in the afternoon, I was better prepared with more intentions and a stronger belief. In the line, I was seated beside a young black European who looked serious. I also spotted several physically handicapped both young and old waiting for their turns just like us. We completed the ritual in about an hour.

Just like the 1st experience, after the bath. I wandered around the Grotto complex covering up the Stations of the Cross in the nearby hills feeling fulfilled for going through the healing session.

Train Station
Five hours later, we were to board our train to Paris at the Gare de Lourdes, the train station just 5 minutes away from the grotto by taxi.

Ten hours later, we were at the Gare Paris Austerlisz station transitioning from provincial to urban France.

Less than an hour later via taxi, we were at Val d ‘Europe Serris, France checking in at the Residhome Prestige, an accommodation our colleague Ma. Carmela booked just hours ago in Lourdes.

At the reception, I noticed a young black European who entered the staff area of Residhome, got his cleaning equipment and started doing his chores. The young man quickly stared at me. In my mind I asked, “Have I seen him before?”

Residhome Lobby
Minutes later, in a private conservation at the rest room of the Residhome, it was validated that he was with me in Lourdes.  He did not speak English.  I was interpreting his reply with non verbal communication and key phrases.  I eventually learned that his name was Oscar and has been visiting Lourdes for a personal intention.  What it is was was not clear to me.  What struck me was the incidence of me side by side with a stranger, riding in the same train and going to the same place.

I would have probed further the impact on Oscar. But in the succeeding days, I no longer saw him as other personnel had taken over the shift.

Candle Offerings
This to me was a mystery unmistakably attributed to Our Lady of Lourdes. No longer was this trip merely a physical exercise but a spiritual journey. Slowly after realizing the intentions getting fulfilled, my belief on what intercessions can do has been getting stronger.

Now, whenever I recite in my daily prayers “through the intercession of Our Lady,” I pray it with conviction because in Lourdes, I was blessed with the power of this bridge.



Saturday, May 21, 2011

Dry Ice

I discovered a way of bringing your favorite fruit ice cream for pasalubong when you travel by air abroad. Not from the stalls purchased at the pre-departure area in Manila but packed by yourself.

Buy a styrofoam built cooler from your supermarket ( P220.0), select 2 gallons of premium ice cream (Ave. P330.0). Load it with 3 kgs. of dry ice sourced from a specialty shop (P 150.0 per kg.) Total weight though is about 7 kgs. (Still testing if the current ratio can support the 8 hour transport time.)

Best source of ice cream and styropore is any hypermart operating at extended hours (Shopwise). Source of dry ice is My Way Dry Ice picked up in a Pasay apartment (Tel 551-0377 24 hour operations). Total estimated cost P 1,400.  Pleasure? Immeasurable.

I track flight departures and arrivals from anywhere in the world at

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Places for the 1st Time

There are places I remember. Places I see for the first time I remember even more. Historical and memorable ones leave an impression influenced by what I see and how I interact with the people I meet.

Feel of Pescia and Luca at the Tuscany Valley is remote and provincial. People are warm. It is here where we meet Irishmen, an Irish mother, Italians, courteous young Italian driver, Filipino-Americans, Bicolanos and co-Filipinos.
Lourdes is solemn and sacred, Vatican City revered and venerating. Rome is vibrant and historical, Milan modern and fashionable. Paris is proud and busy.

I have been controlling my pre-judging but the visual images registering in my mind were so imposing I could not resist but write short narratives about these great cities and places, begging to be revisited and to be seen again. View if the pictures register.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Language Survival Kit

The challenge of travelling to non English speaking countries is communicating.
Lonely planet travelers who do not patronize travel tours put themselves at risk by plotting their own routes. Yet, surprisingly they manage. One with an inquisitive mind who is direction oriented can survive with key words.

In Italy, the basics I could not do without are:
“Boungiorno. Mi scusi. Per favore. Dov’e un termini? Dov’e? Grazie. Chiao!”
Bwon∙jor no. mee∙skoo zee. Per fa∙vo∙re. Do ve u termini? Do∙ve? Gra∙tsye.

In France where the citizens have the distinction of a strong pride for their language, I survived with:
“Bonjour . Excusez moi/Pardon. S’il vous plait. Ou est Charles de Gaulle Estoille? Ou est? Merci. Au revoir!”
Bon∙zhoor. Ek skew zay mwa/par∙don. Seei voo play. Oo ay Charles de Gaulle Estoille. Oo ay? air see. O rer vwa.

In Tagalog, the translation is:
Magandang araw po! Makikisuyo. Saan po ba ang MRT station? Salamat po! Saan? Babay.

Caught in a problem I’d say“ Aiuto! in Italian (a yoo to!), Au secours! in French (o skoor!). Saklolo in Tagalog. Then help comes along.

Through these, I am able to see the wonders these 1st world countries brag about. “Chiao. Au revoir. Paalam.”

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Pervasive Coca-Cola

The pervasive Coca-Cola.
You see it in the key cities in the world.
In famous streets and corners.
Not just in the cold vault but in positions which trigger satisfaction of thirst.
Placement in 1st position consistently.
In Rome, Vatican, Milan, Venice, at the Café, in the sidewalk stores, in Panini stands.
In Paris, Lourdes, Pisa in the Tuscany Valley.
Coke is everywhere. When it is in the landmarks of the world, is it in itself part of the world’s symbol?
Dites-moi!  (Tell me!)

Monday, May 09, 2011

Eiffel Tower, grandiose, magnifique.

Equally difficult aside from finding her bearings from the underground railway system is catching her in the evening.

My companion and travel director, Celeste suggested that I view the monument in the evening to appreciate her full splendor.

After the 4 PM open tour in Paris, I still decided to check out the location of the Charles de Gaulle Terminal 1 airport from the Opera Station. My Metro Mobilis unlimited and cross riding ticket allows me to take the bus or train to the international airport within the 24 hour usage. True enough, I was able to reach and check the facilities of the airport in preparation for the departure back to Manila at no extra Euro outlay. It took me less than 2 hours though to complete the drill.

I arrived back at the Zone 1 of Paris past 7 PM making me cram at the planned program for the day. The open tour of the 2-decked bus has ended thus making me design several public bus transfers to reach the Eiffel Tower in the evening. With less time, I still have to contend with the last Metro and Train A rides back to the suburbs which based on published data is at 22:57.

Focused on the catching the awesome view and catching the last train ride (I found out there was a 23:27 trip), I was successful. The spectacle was one of the most beautiful sites I’ve seen in my life, Eiffa fitting end and a fulfilling reward to a hard earned travel. I share my sights with you for you to judge.

Eiffel Tower, grandiose, magnifique.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Roads led me to Rome

I can relate to the famous quote by the English Poet John Heywood that  “Rome was not built in one day.” It took decades for me see the city in Italy. Thanks to the beatification rite of Pope John Paul II this 1 May 2011, it was this force that drew me to the city where over 1 million pilgrims were at the St. Peter square at the Vatican. 

Literally I saw “all roads led to Rome.” Influx to the smallest nation of the world started as early as Saturday morning 30 April or perhaps earlier.

Edgar Allan Poe, an American author citing the decline of the city wrote centuries ago, “The glory that was Greece, the grandeur that was Rome.” With what I have seen, to me, it is “the grandeur that is Rome.” It is history made alive.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Spotting the Tower

Looking for this symbol of Paris is like spotting for a mountain peak. Staying at Val D’ Europe, about 30 kilometers from the City and 3 kilometers from Disneyland, it took a while to design a plan on how to view its splendor in this non English speaking country.

1st learn to buy the right ticket to access the Paris transport system via the automated machine. 2nd is familiarizing yourself with how to use it. Lastly and most importantly, navigating the main train, the 7 Metro lines and the bus routes.

As this is all done underground, the excitement of stepping out on the ground the 1st time in Paris is a thrill in itself. It took me 1 main train to the central station Charles de Gaulle Etolle exposing me to the labyrinth leading to several levels of tunnels. The French speaking info desk instructed to me transfer to the Yellow Line 1 headed for La Defense to get off after 2 spots then transfer to the Green Line 6 headed for Nation and ascend to Trocadero sortie (exit).

Like a groundhog that saw the soil of the city, I looked at the piazza with wonder. “Where it the Eiffel? Asking a postcard vendor “Pardon! Ou Eiffel?” The Frenchman said cross the street, turn right and look around.

Following the instruction trustingly, I was awed by the sight of the 1889 wonder saying, finally, decades after birth, 75 minutes and 13.99 Euros and kilometers of walking, I saw the 320.7 meter, 7,000 tons, 1,652 steps symbol of the French revolution. The feeling was as grand as stepping on the mountain peak of difficult climbs.

Vive la France! Merci Boucoup. In my language I said, “Salamat, wagi!”

Temperature range 13 to 23 C

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Ave Maria

Bernadette Soubirous, saint of Lourdes, France stood for the merits of prayer, penance, poverty and church.  The nightly procession at the Basilica of the Immaculate Concepcion in Lourdes, France at 9PM is attended by thousands of devotees praying the rosary for two hours in several European languages.  It is led by the physically challenged assisted by the volunteers of the Order of Malta.  After each mystery, Ave Maria is sung and candles are raised at the mention of “Maria.”  Procession is serious and solemn, a fitting tribute to our Lady.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Prayer for the Beatification of Pope John Paul II

O Blessed Trinity,

we thank You for having graced the Church
with Pope John Paul II and for allowing
the tenderness of Your Fatherly care,
the glory of the cross of Christ,
and the splendor of the Holy Spirit,
to Shine through him.

Trusting fully in Your infinite mercy
and in the maternal intercession of Mary,
he has given us a living image of Jesus
the Good Shepherd, and has shown us that
holiness is the necessary measure of ordinary
Christian life and is the way of achieving
eternal communion with You.

Grant us, by his intercession,
and according to Your will,
the graces we implore ...,
hoping that he will soon be
numbered among Your saints.