I was invited by Bobby Soriano, the coordinator of the National Annual Filipino Pilgrimage for Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage (Our Lady of Antipolo), to be a lector at the pilgrimage mass on June 26, 2010. It is held annually at The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC. I was very excited, yet humbled, to be partaking in such a spiritual celebration honoring a revered saint whose historical shrine is located in our neighboring town of Antipolo City.
Bob and I, together with Shirley, travelled to the east coast, landed in Virginia, where we visited historic Williamsburg, Jamestown, then on to Washington, DC. We arrived at DC, where we met Bobby and Erna Soriano and the rest of the Morong/Maryland and Michigan connections, along with fellow Filipinos from different parts of the U.S., many of whom attend the pilgrimage every year.
As I watched the comings and goings of everyone at the pilgrimage, I grasped the spiritual meaning of this journey with a sincere and loving devotion. People were so colorful in their Filipino attire but I also felt their joy to be a part of the festivity. Children sat in the altar participating in the prayers, while the adults were very much betrothed to join the procession.
I saw the happy faces of Erna and Bobby. For them, every pilgrimage is a different experience of spiritual rejuvenation and fidelity to Our Lady of Antipolo. Erna had a checklist of things to do even though she has done it for the past twelve years! She even recruited Shirley to be one of the greeters at the door of the Basilica to welcome and distribute programs to the guests.
I looked around and felt the serenity of the place, welcoming us to journey with Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage. His Excellency Most Rev. Honesto F. Ongtioco, D.D., of the Diocese of Cubao, travelled from the Philippines to celebrate the Mass of the Holy Eucharist. As I read the scriptures from the Book of Genesis, it brought me to a moment of reverence that seemed so transitory; I wanted it to last eternally, as the beautiful music filled the magnificent cathedral.
My family and I feel very blessed to have been a part of this joyful occasion. A Facebook friend of mine, J.c., put a video together with clips taken by twelve-year old Nemo Sto. Domingo, that briefly depicts its significance; we hope you will enjoy it and feel the spiritual essence of this enormous moment. As we journey in life, this encounter will always guide us; the imagery of the saints who stood side by side with us is engraved in our hearts; the people who made this happen and who participated are living examples of devotion – to them, I am forever grateful for opening their arms to embrace me, Bob and Shirley. We are perpetually blessed.
Normita Fenn studied journalism at University of Massachusetts-Amherst. She earned her MBA in Marketing from Golden Gate University-San Francisco. She resides in San Ramon, California. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on