Pilgrimage to Fatima, Lourdes and other Places

Pilgrimage to Fatima, Lourdes and Santiago de Compostela. Another check on my bucket list.

It didn’t start off too well as we were delayed leaving San Francisco by three hours. We were already on the plane about to take off and something happened. The pilot said there was a problem with the steering. We waited on the tarmac for three hours while the mechanics repaired what needed to be fixed. It’s a good thing we had asked the travel agent to give us more time in Frankfurt to connect to the flight to Bilbao; otherwise, we would have missed the connection. So after 14 hours (11 hours flying time and 3 hours waiting), we arrived in Frankfurt with an hour and a half to spare to go through immigration and security, and walk to the departure gate for Bilbao.

From Bilbao we rode the tour bus, enjoying the lush mountains of Cantabria, Spain before arriving in the hamlet of Garabandal. With population of 50 it is like a ghost town in winter; but the number spikes up to 300 for the rest of the year.

  Our group at the start of the pilgrimage in Garabandal.  Left to right, front row: Suzette Veluz, Lu Yujuico, Fely Moore, Vicky Manzo, Bella Yuchengco, Gean Dee, Tess and Les Lamug. Back Row: Celine Young, Teddy and Jeanine De Rivera, Vivian Yuchengco, Tina Yap, Puchi Di Ricco, Joysie Rufino, Lyra Maceda, Fr. Al Nambatac, and Quico, our tour guide.

Our group at the start of the pilgrimage in Garabandal. Left to right, front row: Suzette Veluz, Lu Yujuico, Fely Moore, Vicky Manzo, Bella Yuchengco, Gean Dee, Tess and Les Lamug. Back Row: Celine Young, Teddy and Jeanine De Rivera, Vivian Yuchengco, Tina Yap, Puchi Di Ricco, Joysie Rufino, Lyra Maceda, Fr. Al Nambatac, and Quico, our tour guide.

The Rosary is prayed at 7:00 p.m. every day at the church in Garabandal, a tradition for the past 500 years. Garabandal is the town where four children had a number of apparitions of the Blessed Virgin from July 2, 1961 to November 13, 1965. The children were told that a future miracle would happen at the grove of pine trees on a bluff overlooking the village of Garabandal. To get to the pine trees, we had to climb the steep and craggy hill, crossing and jumping over rocks and boulders, and at the same time praying the Stations of the Cross. This challenging path was a constant reminder of what Jesus went through before he was crucified.

  Station of the Cross, IV. Jesus Meets His Mother, Garabandal.

Station of the Cross, IV. Jesus Meets His Mother, Garabandal.

  The pine trees where the future miracle will happen in Garabandal.

The pine trees where the future miracle will happen in Garabandal.

  The view of Garabandal from the bluff.

The view of Garabandal from the bluff.

Nearby is the Santo Toribio de Liebana Monastery, founded before the 6th Century. The monastery safeguards what is believed to be the biggest surviving piece of the Cross upon which Jesus Christ was crucified, known as Lignum Crucis or Wood of the True Cross, brought from the Church of the Holy Sepulcher by Saint Turibius of Astorga.

  Sacred Cross:  After Mass, Fr. Al Nambatac, our spiritual tour director, holds the golden Cross where a piece of the wood of Jesus’ Cross is embedded, for each one of us to venerate and kiss.

Sacred Cross: After Mass, Fr. Al Nambatac, our spiritual tour director, holds the golden Cross where a piece of the wood of Jesus’ Cross is embedded, for each one of us to venerate and kiss.

Next stop is the famous Camino de Santiago, or The Way of Saint James. St. James’ remains were carried by boat from Jerusalem where he had been beheaded, and were buried in Santiago de Compostela. There are dozens of pilgrim routes to Compostela, and depending on which route you take, it could be months or years to finish. The most popular route starts in Biarritz, France to Santiago, Spain and encompasses 500 miles. It would take about 30 to 35 days, assuming you walk between 23 to 27 kilometers a day. People walking the Camino do so for their spiritual growth. Of course, there are also hiking and biking enthusiasts, as well as tour groups like ours, who traverse the path. Today, on Day 5, we are going through the forest for only a three-mile hike. Thank God!

  The group getting ready to start the three-mile walk on Camino de Santiago.

The group getting ready to start the three-mile walk on Camino de Santiago.

  Hiking through one of the forests of Camino de Santiago.

Hiking through one of the forests of Camino de Santiago.

Day 6 brings us to Lisbon, the capital of Portugal. Lisbon has a population of about three million and is situated along the Atlantic coast. It is the oldest city in Western Europe. The city borrowed something from San Francisco –- the Golden Gate Bridge –- or the 25th of April Bridge as it is known in Lisbon. It is the oldest bridge across the Tagus River of Lisbon.

  The 25  th   of April Bridge in Lisbon.

The 25th of April Bridge in Lisbon.

  Fellow pilgrims from Manila:  Celine (left) and Joysie (right) welcome sisters Lisa Bengson (second from left) and Gina Lim (beside her) to our group in Lisbon.

Fellow pilgrims from Manila: Celine (left) and Joysie (right) welcome sisters Lisa Bengson (second from left) and Gina Lim (beside her) to our group in Lisbon.

It is in Portugal where Fatima is located, the parish where three shepherd children witnessed several apparitions of the Blessed Virgin in 1917, making this year, 2017, its 100th anniversary. The children were Lucia de Jesus, aged 10, and her cousins, Francisco, 9, and Jacinta, 7. Our Lady’s message at that time was to pray for world peace.

On the 13th of May 1917 as the brochure relates: About midday, after praying the rosary, as was their custom, they were amusing themselves building a little wall of stones scattered around the place where the Basilica now stands. Suddenly, they saw a brilliant light, and thinking it to be lightning, they decided to go home. But as they went down the slope, another flash lit up the place, and they saw on the top of a holmoak (where the Chapel of the Apparitions now stand), “a Lady more brilliant than the sun,” from whose hands hung a rosary. The Lady told the three little shepherds that it was necessary to pray much, and She invited them to return to Cova da Iria during five consecutive months, on the 13th day at that hour.

  Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta, 1917.

Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta, 1917.

The whole area where the apparitions first occurred has been transformed into a sacred city with the Church of the Apparitions, the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary, where the tombs of Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta are housed, other chapels, a bookshop and a museum. The plaza can hold thousands of people.

Lucia became a nun and died on February 13, 2005. She is buried at the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary, next to Jacinta and Francisco, who both died at around the age of 11 from an illness,.

  The group posing at the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary.

The group posing at the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary.

  A giant cross stands in the plaza.

A giant cross stands in the plaza.

  A giant rosary in the plaza reminds pilgrims to pray daily.

A giant rosary in the plaza reminds pilgrims to pray daily.

  An emotional evening in Fatima.  We participated in praying the Rosary where a decade was recited in Tagalog (an acknowledgement to the thousands of Filipino pilgrims who come every year). And then the candlelight procession started with the statue of the Blessed Virgin, sitting on a bed of white flowers, touring the plaza so everyone could get a chance to see her. The procession is repeated during the day as well.

An emotional evening in Fatima. We participated in praying the Rosary where a decade was recited in Tagalog (an acknowledgement to the thousands of Filipino pilgrims who come every year). And then the candlelight procession started with the statue of the Blessed Virgin, sitting on a bed of white flowers, touring the plaza so everyone could get a chance to see her. The procession is repeated during the day as well.

  Getting ready.  Myrna Galiza, right, gets ready to carry the Philippine flag in the procession. She has been living in Lisbon for 28 years and has been joining the procession for many years. With her is her friend, Belen.

Getting ready. Myrna Galiza, right, gets ready to carry the Philippine flag in the procession. She has been living in Lisbon for 28 years and has been joining the procession for many years. With her is her friend, Belen.

 Lunch at one of the hotels in downtown Fatima allows us to meet other Filipinos in different tour groups. Noel Descalzo has been living in Christchurch, New Zealand for the past 20 years. He is from General Santos City and has a daughter.

Lunch at one of the hotels in downtown Fatima allows us to meet other Filipinos in different tour groups. Noel Descalzo has been living in Christchurch, New Zealand for the past 20 years. He is from General Santos City and has a daughter.

 Members of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) Foundation. Left to right: Eunice Jose, ex-secretary, Catherine Violago, benefactor, and Jonathan Luciano, head of the national section in the Philippines. The foundation’s head office is in Germany and its mission is to help persecuted Christians all over the world. It was their first time to Fatima.

Members of Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) Foundation. Left to right: Eunice Jose, ex-secretary, Catherine Violago, benefactor, and Jonathan Luciano, head of the national section in the Philippines. The foundation’s head office is in Germany and its mission is to help persecuted Christians all over the world. It was their first time to Fatima.

 Day 11 brings us to the village of Alba de Tormes, home to the Carmelite Monastery that Saint Teresa founded in 1571. It is here where St. Theresa’s “incorrupt” heart and left arm is preserved in the caged shrine.

Day 11 brings us to the village of Alba de Tormes, home to the Carmelite Monastery that Saint Teresa founded in 1571. It is here where St. Theresa’s “incorrupt” heart and left arm is preserved in the caged shrine.

 Eleventh century walls surround the city of Avila. Avila was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985. The enclosed area is 31 hectares and considered the “largest fully illuminated monument in the world.” This is where St. Teresa was born.

Eleventh century walls surround the city of Avila. Avila was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985. The enclosed area is 31 hectares and considered the “largest fully illuminated monument in the world.” This is where St. Teresa was born.

 The group posing with the statue of St. Theresa of Avila. In her last three years, St. Theresa founded a total of 17 convents. In 1622, she was canonized.

The group posing with the statue of St. Theresa of Avila. In her last three years, St. Theresa founded a total of 17 convents. In 1622, she was canonized.

 Also visiting Avila: Nelly Okamoto, has lived in Maryland since 1968. She is a medical technologist.

Also visiting Avila: Nelly Okamoto, has lived in Maryland since 1968. She is a medical technologist.

  Loyola on Day 12.  The castle where St. Ignatius de Loyola was born.

Loyola on Day 12. The castle where St. Ignatius de Loyola was born.

  A statue of St. Ignatius de Loyola.  He was beatified in 1609 and then canonized on March 12, 1622. He is considered the patron saint of soldiers. As a young man, he loved military exercises and joined the army at 17. He was gravely injured at the Battle of Pamplona in 1521, and he would limp for the rest of his life. It was during his hospital stay that he experienced a spiritual conversion. He founded the Jesuit Order.

A statue of St. Ignatius de Loyola. He was beatified in 1609 and then canonized on March 12, 1622. He is considered the patron saint of soldiers. As a young man, he loved military exercises and joined the army at 17. He was gravely injured at the Battle of Pamplona in 1521, and he would limp for the rest of his life. It was during his hospital stay that he experienced a spiritual conversion. He founded the Jesuit Order.

  Bumping into more pilgrims from the Philippines in Loyola.  Left to right: Jordan Peralta from Catholic Travel, Bing Cruz, Henrietta Kiamzon, Vivian Gamboa, Luchie Andres (retired auditor of Department of Transportation in New York City) and Amy Cabal, retired SGV partner.

Bumping into more pilgrims from the Philippines in Loyola. Left to right: Jordan Peralta from Catholic Travel, Bing Cruz, Henrietta Kiamzon, Vivian Gamboa, Luchie Andres (retired auditor of Department of Transportation in New York City) and Amy Cabal, retired SGV partner.

  Bernadette’s photo in the museum.  The town of Lourdes is nestled within the Pyrenees Mountains, and it is where Our Lady appeared to Bernadette Soubirous in 1858 near the grotto of Massabielle. She was the eldest of nine children; sickly as a child and she contracted tuberculosis of the bone in her right knee in later life. Despite initial skepticism from the Catholic Church, Bernadette was canonized on December 8, 1933.

Bernadette’s photo in the museum. The town of Lourdes is nestled within the Pyrenees Mountains, and it is where Our Lady appeared to Bernadette Soubirous in 1858 near the grotto of Massabielle. She was the eldest of nine children; sickly as a child and she contracted tuberculosis of the bone in her right knee in later life. Despite initial skepticism from the Catholic Church, Bernadette was canonized on December 8, 1933.

 The sanctuary Basilica of Lourdes is built directly above the site of the apparitions. The area includes the Grotto, nearby taps which dispense the Lourdes water, the Lourdes Medical Bureau and several churches and basilicas.

The sanctuary Basilica of Lourdes is built directly above the site of the apparitions. The area includes the Grotto, nearby taps which dispense the Lourdes water, the Lourdes Medical Bureau and several churches and basilicas.

  The entrance to the baths.  There are 17 baths in total, 11 for women and 6 for men, with each section containing a small bath for children. The water at the baths is a constant 12 degrees centigrade. Lourdes water draws many devotees, many of whom have claimed to have been cured by drinking or bathing in it. The baths and water are free of charge to anyone.

The entrance to the baths. There are 17 baths in total, 11 for women and 6 for men, with each section containing a small bath for children. The water at the baths is a constant 12 degrees centigrade. Lourdes water draws many devotees, many of whom have claimed to have been cured by drinking or bathing in it. The baths and water are free of charge to anyone.

  A familiar face from the San Francisco Bay Area in Lourdes:  Fr. Art Albano (right), leading another pilgrimage group with two of his members, Ed and Vicky Palomares, a Kaiser Permanente RN.

A familiar face from the San Francisco Bay Area in Lourdes: Fr. Art Albano (right), leading another pilgrimage group with two of his members, Ed and Vicky Palomares, a Kaiser Permanente RN.

  Filipino doctor-volunteers at Lourdes.  Left to right: Drs. Amelia and Rudy Aguillera from Nueva Vizcaya reside in Pennsylvania. Drs. Dick and Aida Larumbe from Cebu live in Florida. They have been volunteering for the past 7 to 18 years.

Filipino doctor-volunteers at Lourdes. Left to right: Drs. Amelia and Rudy Aguillera from Nueva Vizcaya reside in Pennsylvania. Drs. Dick and Aida Larumbe from Cebu live in Florida. They have been volunteering for the past 7 to 18 years.

 More Filipino volunteers from Bedford, Pennsylvania at Lourdes: Dr. Boni Aguirre (left) hails from Mandaluyong and Dr. Ruben Torres from Batangas.

More Filipino volunteers from Bedford, Pennsylvania at Lourdes: Dr. Boni Aguirre (left) hails from Mandaluyong and Dr. Ruben Torres from Batangas.

 After having no rice for several days, a pleasant surprise greets Asian travelers to Lourdes.

After having no rice for several days, a pleasant surprise greets Asian travelers to Lourdes.

 Gina Lat Rousset, owner and chef of Asian Delices, has been living in Lourdes for the past 10 years. She set up the restaurant six years ago. She met her husband in Hong Kong. She says that there are eight other Filipinos in Lourdes either working as chefs or in the hotels.

Gina Lat Rousset, owner and chef of Asian Delices, has been living in Lourdes for the past 10 years. She set up the restaurant six years ago. She met her husband in Hong Kong. She says that there are eight other Filipinos in Lourdes either working as chefs or in the hotels.

  Happy diners.  Left to right: Roberto Abutin with his wife, Angie, hails from Cavite. They have lived in Southern California for the past 15 years. He is a retired engineer. Cory Cusimano, also from Cavite and a resident of Orange County, is a retired clinical coordinator for Kaiser.

Happy diners. Left to right: Roberto Abutin with his wife, Angie, hails from Cavite. They have lived in Southern California for the past 15 years. He is a retired engineer. Cory Cusimano, also from Cavite and a resident of Orange County, is a retired clinical coordinator for Kaiser.

  Pilgrims from Australia.  Left to right: Aurelia Batica Brunt, originally from Davao, has lived in Melbourne, Australia for the past 22 years. She is a retired farm owner. Nelyn Tabaranza, also from Davao is a process worker for Lockwood security products. Delia Goden McAllister hails from Leyte and has lived in Australia for 20 years. Aida Magat Salon is a retired Australian Post mail officer and has lived in Australia for 36 years. Lita Jambara Salon, in Australia for 28 years, also worked for Australian Post.

Pilgrims from Australia. Left to right: Aurelia Batica Brunt, originally from Davao, has lived in Melbourne, Australia for the past 22 years. She is a retired farm owner. Nelyn Tabaranza, also from Davao is a process worker for Lockwood security products. Delia Goden McAllister hails from Leyte and has lived in Australia for 20 years. Aida Magat Salon is a retired Australian Post mail officer and has lived in Australia for 36 years. Lita Jambara Salon, in Australia for 28 years, also worked for Australian Post.

 Fr. Rolyn Vicks, a Vincentian priest, led the group from Australia. He is originally from Pagadian.

Fr. Rolyn Vicks, a Vincentian priest, led the group from Australia. He is originally from Pagadian.

  Friends in spirit.   Myrna Lynne Willkom Chai (left) from Los Angeles is a retired nurse, originally from Cagayan de Oro. Lucila More-Hohl , from Makati, lives in Westfallen, Germany with her husband and child. Both volunteer at the information booth at Lourdes and welcome pilgrims in wheelchairs. Both met in Lourdes while Lucila was there because of an illness. Myrna has been volunteering for the past 15 years, Lucila for 7 years.

Friends in spirit. Myrna Lynne Willkom Chai (left) from Los Angeles is a retired nurse, originally from Cagayan de Oro. Lucila More-Hohl , from Makati, lives in Westfallen, Germany with her husband and child. Both volunteer at the information booth at Lourdes and welcome pilgrims in wheelchairs. Both met in Lourdes while Lucila was there because of an illness. Myrna has been volunteering for the past 15 years, Lucila for 7 years.

After two weeks, this spiritual journey has ended. Our group of 18 pilgrims is on their way home, 2 to Manila and 16 to San Francisco. One of the pilgrims describes the experience as creating a spiritual community where members can share their religious and spiritual thoughts, feelings and experiences with one another and at the same time meet new friends. “The bond is so much deeper,” she says.