This morning, Roy and Emil came with us to the 9 o'clock English mass at Sts. Cosmos and Damain Chapel. After the mass, I got to talk to a Filipina nurse who was rendering volunteer work in Lourdes. It was her seventh time to date, she said. She also informed me that Cardinal Rosales was there. He con-celebrated the mass this morning, but that he was travelling incognito and didn't like to be recognized. I actually did not know Cardinal Rosales from John or Joe. I was not really apt to knowing the Philippine Catholic Hierarchy. The only Cardinal I ever knew and seen was Cardinal Sin. But I was extremely curious. Imagine to be at the same time and same place, in this small chapel with his eminence!
"Where? Where? Where is he?" I inquired.
"The one with the white hair." I did not even know that he was a Filipino because of the white hair. That's how poor I was with facial association or recognition.
"Can I talk to him?" I asked.
"Of course you can. But he doesn't like to be recognized, so just call him father." The lady quipped. She kind of persuaded me somehow to approach him. "Just call him father."
So I went near the cardinal but he was talking to two young Filipinos. I waited for them to finish. I waited for awhile because the cardinal was aloof to my approach. ( But if you really know me, I can be persistent sometimes. ). Given the slightest chance, I butted in. I said. "Good morning Father, we are from Cotabato City." and I indicated my family with me.
He then warmed up and said. "Are you going to Rome after this?" To which I gave a blank questionable stare. "To the canonization of Blessed Calungsod." He added.
"No Father, Lourdes lang kami."
"I am retiring and I am doing volunteer work here." He said.
" I see." Then I requested if we could have a picture with him.
"Actually they also requested the same thing." The Cardinal smiled and pointed towards the two guys.
Taking it as a yes, I quickly asked Lucas or Roy to take our picture. The two Filipino guys also took pictures with him. To be honest, I mostly shy away from taking pictures with celebrity. I did not know why I was suddenly brazen enough to ask the incognito cardinal for a photo shot. He could have turned down my request, you know, but everything was a miracle in Lourdes!
That morning, my children were set on exploring the Lourdes Tower - an old castle or fortress which was also one of its famous landmarks. We went to another side of the town, paid our entrance fee to see the ruins, climbed the stairs, went in through the draw bridge, up to the recesses and viewed the beautiful panoramic scenery. There were also show rooms in display on how the owners of the tower lived before. Inside the old tower, you could find a well kept beautiful garden with miniatures castles, fortresses and/or dioramas. Along the path were several herbal plants such as thyme, rosemary etc. It was a beautiful bright and sunny day and the air was wonderfully cool. The castle keeper however kept on with us because the tower would be closing at one pm and to be re-opened again in the afternoon - a siesta tradition perhaps for Lourdes was actually very near Spain.
We got off from the tower and had lunch in an interesting outdoor cafe near the town square - so very French - a different kind of local dining experience. Everybody loved it. Roy and Lucas got to draw and sketch. The food was good. Wallah!, I had the best cheeseburger of my life.
Around three o'clock in the afternoon, we decided to go back to the basilica and explore more places. This time we went up the hill, following the long path of "the way of the cross". We did not prepare to do the way, instead we recited the rosary as we ascended the hill. There were a number of people in groups doing the way of the cross in their own languages. (If you have ever done the way of the cross, you'll know that doing it with groups is usually long). So we quietly skipped and overtook them, well finishing our rosary on the third station. Yet we continued to climb and observe each station as we passed by. The path was long but the hill was easy to climb. Sometimes Lucas and I would be out of breath but we would rest along the way. As we neared the top most of the mountain, Marion pointed out that we had climbed even higher than the Tower of Lourdes. Yes, we could very well see the Tower at a distance. Indeed we had climbed higher. Nobody could ever imagine that Lucas and I climbed the two peaks in one day.
In the evening, surprisingly it was Roy who wanted us to finish our supper early to be able to follow the whole procession and recite the rosary from the very start. We arrived the assembly early with our 3 day old spent candles. When I saw some religious figures clad in capes with their flag and attendants going through the crowd, I quickly told my children that we should follow them. We inched through the crowd and arrived not far from where the carried statue of Mary was to begin the procession.The crowd this evening was more dense. I was scared of getting lost, so I held unto Emil's arm tightly, and told Martha and Marion together with Roy and Lucas to go two by two and held on to each other arms too. I pulled on Emil's arm and tried to catch up the lead of the procession, by then I began to lose my other companions. Emil and I got separated from the rest of my group. But our mission that night, to fully follow the Marian procession and the rosary in different languages was a mission accomplished. When the rosary was done, I happily greeted everybody near me a good evening. When I turned around, Lucas and the rest were not far behind us after all. The rest of the small stud of our candles, we offered them at the center statue of our blessed mother with the crown.
For three days, we had been going back and forth to the well, to drink and/or get some water to bring to the hotel for cleansing and washing. We bought small containers only and filled them up just for our own use. I told my children that we would use the well water everyday as long as we were there. We did not think of bringing it back home because our luggage were heavy enough. However I bought a few small souvenir bottles to bring some home to maybe a few sick friends. I was afraid the water will spill all over my clothes. That night in Lourdes, the well area was surrounded by people filling up gallons and gallons of containers. Without the lady at my back who begged for us to fill our small bottles first, we would have waited forever. Thanks, I got an extra drinking bottle to use for the night.
Since this was to be our last night in Lourdes, we did not readily get back to the hotel. We took some snacks at a cafe and went around even late at night. Many of the stores had closed but the atmosphere was still gay and peaceful. Liked us there were people still walking about............. My third day in Lourdes.
(to be continued)