Oct 5, 2013
We always say that we want to influence the world- to be an inspiration, to take action, to make a difference. We strive to find our true purpose, the meaning of life, and the reason why we are here in the first place. And we rarely immediately find the answer. Today, I had the intentions of seeking the answers.
I woke up, smiling and told myself that I am about to do something I always wanted to do. I felt the soft tingling in my stomach, because of extreme excitement (I have bipolar tendencies, mind you)- that finally, finally I am visiting the abandoned elderly beneficiaries at Anawim. Making the lolos and lolas happy would be an incredible experience. “I could change lives”, I said, “If I could just show them compassion and generosity, they would never feel lonely again”.
Instead of changing THEIR lives, it was them who caused the change in me.
When I arrived early at Valle Verde Country Club- the pilgrims’ meeting place, I saw bunch of smiling people from different age range- from teenagers, young adults, to parents and grandparents, all lining up for the registration. It would be my first time to join the pilgrimage and to actually get together with these people outside The Feast (weekly preaching, mass and prayer gathering of the Light of Jesus Family). I knew no one among such large group of people. But everybody seems to be in good spirits- perhaps they too are excited to go to Anawim. I only got to talk to few people such as Tita Lala, Tita Lea and Tita Linda and Tita Aida. I found out that majority of the volunteers are first-timers like me.
As soon as the service vans arrived, we took a 1 1/2 travel to Montalban, Rizal where Anawim is located.
When we arrived at the place, we were oriented and toured around the 5-hectare property of Anawim Foundation. The walk was so refreshing, I felt like we were trekking or nature tripping while listening to the background info about the place- about Tita Neneng and her generosity to dedicate the land for this mission; how almost two decades ago Bro. Bo Sanchez started the foundation and opened it for everyone abandoned, then later on specialized on the homeless elderly; about how the homes transformed from nipa huts to now resort-like dormitories, and how the beneficiaries (lolos and lolas) are being taken care of.
I had several calls from work during the trip and during the tour inside the vicinity; I wished that I turned off my phone so that I could have given my full attention during the earlier parts of the pilgrimage especially when we visited each room of the grannies. I totally missed the heartbreaking part when my fellow pilgrims were talking with the bedridden lolos and lolas.
After I was done with the calls, I noticed that the excitement I earlier saw on my fellow pilgrims were replaced by hurtful smiles and tear-filled eyes. Pain of the elders were piercing through hearts of the pilgrims- that pain of being abandoned, of loneliness, of not having own children and grandchildren to be with them and take care of them at the dusk of their lives.
After the briefing and tour, we went to the open-air pavillion and started the party with our dear lolos and lolas.
The ‘party’ was very solemn, yet joyful. First started by a recorded rosary prayer voiced by Bro. Bo himself. There were special stories, words and messages in between each Our Father, Glory Be, and Hail Mary; and I found myself sobbing endlessly. I just can’t control myself. I was overwhelmed by the intense love and grace I felt during such moment of prayer. For the first time in my life, I appreciated the Rosary and Mama Mary’s presence. I felt God communicating with me during the prayer. After we said the last Amen, my heart is filled with happiness and peace. My eyes were swollen with tears. It was just the opening prayer, but It felt like a whole-day retreat.
Afterwards were the Worship songs and stories (which had me crying again). Then, lunch was served- first for the lolos and lolas, then for the pilgrims. Volunteers were on the watch for needs of the elderly during the lunch.
Once everyone was done with eating, the pianist lolo started playing happy old dance tunes which signaled the grannies and pilgrims to occupy the dance floor. The happenings where temporarily halted when the host asked the first timers to share their insights during the pilgrimage, then asked the birthday celebrants for the month to come forward so that everyone can sing ‘Happy Birthday’ for them. I then realized that I was one one those celebrants 🙂 And I thought, “what a wonderful way to celebrate my birthday; it is not about me, but about them.” I was so happy.
We then proceeded to the singing and grooving of the lolas and lolos. I am pretty sure that most of the pilgrims didn’t know those dance tunes, but we all danced with the elders anyway. I always had this thought that any romantic dance moment would be a nice experience, but dancing with the lolas and lolos- seeing life, energy and happiness on their faces, is actually the best. I felt like I am dancing with Jesus, like He is celebrating the day with me. The euphoria is beyond all words and explanations.
As we bid them goodbye, I thought of the fact that it is they, who despite their age and health conditions, have enlightened our spirits from slumber. Through their stories and words, they have thought us that trials in life will always be surpassed, and that Love is always the solution. Through their hospitality, God has touched our lives.
…Looking at those happy faces, I realized why our experience is called a PILGRIMAGE. The Pilgrimage to Anawim is more than just a physical trip to a certain place deemed holy. It is a spiritual journey that transformed the pain, suffering and confusion into joy, love and faith. The agonies were turned into hope. Dreams were revived and aspirations were restored. The hungry soul and exhausted body were fed, replenished and healed. Indeed, I experienced heaven today.
My problems did not go away though; they are still there, definitely. But I have gained a new perspective in life, which will bring difference to the situations. Through this experience, God has ascertained that He is there and will always be there for me and shares in every joy, pain, victories and failures that I encounter. Today, I lifted my unending questions and found the ultimate answer: Jesus.
What a perfect Saturdate! It is my most unforgettable Birthday bash. 🙂 Thank You po, Lord!
P.S. Believe me, the experience is more than the words I wrote in this blog entry. It would be best for you to go and try for yourself and visit Anawim. Also, you might be interested to donate in cash or in kind to the Anawim Foundation for the benefit of the abandoned elderly.
For more info, visit:
Thanks for reading! 🙂