my taste of nirvana

the pope, whom i had the good fortune of welcoming and seeing twice even from a far, is now a saint.

Saint John Paul II
february 21, 1981, i was one of the thousands of bicolanos who patiently waited for Pope John Paul II at the old peñaranda park  in legazpi city to have a glimpse of his eminence or simply hear his  voice.
image source:
Pope John Paul II, arriving at legazpi airport (image source:
an 11-year-old grade five student at that time, i could easily remember my parents and siblings waking up very early to troop to the venue. we brought “pandesal” (salt bread) and water with us to address whatever hunger we would feel during the long wait. joining the multitude of devout catholics in 1981, never did i know that  i would have another beautiful encounter with this saintly man even when he was still alive, 14 years after. 
on january 15, 1995, the culmination of the 10th world youth day in manila, i was part of the SVD (societas verbi divini or society of divine word) delegation from saint jude catholic school. i was already in my fourth year of being a teacher. our school housed different pilgrims from SVD institutions in calapan, mindoro and legazpi city for one week. assigned to be the “guardian angel”  and tour guide of divine word high school (DWHS) representatives from my province, this experience brought a stronger impact on me not only as a christian but as a human being.  
with my colleagues and fellow guardian angels
with my colleagues and fellow guardian angels at sjcs ground floor
with calapan delegates during the morning procession
with students and teachers from calapan during the morning procession
at sta.cruz, manila
a souvenir shot after visiting sta. cruz church
world youth day 1995 008
chosen spot for the vigil
unmindful of the heat of the sun
unmindful of the heat of the sun
new friends from mindoro
new friends from mindoro
the crowded luneta park
the crowded luneta park
with rev. fr. julius glenn m. lopez, dwhs campus minister
with rev. fr. julius glenn m. lopez, dwhs campus minister, who became a good friend and later on officiated my wedding in 1997
the series of religious and social events led me to forging and strengthening relationships not only with people i had just met and had been mingling with but most importantly with God as we all waited for his holiness.  staying awake all throughout the vigil before the holy father’s arrival at luneta park and singing “tell the world of his love”  and ” shine, Jesus, shine” were indelible remembrance of this historical event in the philippines. 
our way of keeping awake - clowning
our way of keeping awake – clowning
with dwhs teachers and fr. julius
with dwhs teachers and fr. julius
new friends to treasure
working as a team for a week
start of the prayer vigil
start of the prayer vigil
the long private chat which counteracted sleepiness...hahaha
the long private chat which counteracted sleepiness…hahaha
and just like the rest who  had their own story to tell upon seeing Pope John Paul II’s face or his popemobile or having a close contact with him as they were embraced and kissed, i had also mine. my partial and hazy view of the pope waving while inside his popemobile as he passed by our area had me engulfed with this inexplicable feeling making me shed uncontrollable tears. it seemed his perfunctory gesture expunged something from me. i quivered a little and then felt light until the tears of joy took over. if it were the same feeling of those who had seen and touched Jesus, i guess i had a taste of heaven that sunday, 19 years ago. 
yesterday, as our well-loved pope was canonized into sainthood together with Pope John XXIII, i personally rejoiced as it coincided with the commemoration of the 14th death anniversary of our beloved father who liked them showed our family that faith in God will always be the most powerful…


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