Homerun Nievera, Executive Chronicles | It’s the height of summer and in Southeast Asia, especially in the Philippines where I do business, it is the travel season. A business associate of mine who holds office in India, once told me that on a trip to Lisbon, via the luxurious Air India, he was enamored by the story of Catholic pilgrims going to Fatima. He said that he went here himself and the so called positive energy in that holy place cleared his mind and revived his tired soul.
I was intrigued by this story, being a Catholic myself. I have been raring to go on a pilgrimage myself for a few years now but my busy schedule could not make this journey possible — until recently.
So after some long preparations, I finally made a go at this trip, feeling excited like a kid. My wife was actually happier because it’s been some time since we had a respite from city life.
We finally got to Lisbon on a Friday. The first thing we did was to immediately jump on a city tour, went to the centuries-old Saint Dominic Cathedral, and sampled the local coffee and delicacies. After a sumptuous dinner of Bacalao, we went to bed by 10 pm as we had to rise early for the trip to Santarem (on the way to Fatima).
Upon reaching Santarem, a local church worker told us there were eleven churches in the city of cobbled-stone streets. We first went to the church where the miraculous Liquified Eucharist (host) was housed. As no photos were allowed, we were just content with what we saw with our own eyes and our prayers. We also visited the nearby Misericordia church where centuries-old artifacts, religious articles and garments were displayed in a museum. Both sites were free of charge.
It was late in the afternoon when we reached Fatima. We checked in at the Hotel Fatima which was literally a 3 to 5-minute walk to the place of the Marian Apparition and the Cathedral. The weather was cooler than in Lisbon and Santarem, probably about 7 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s summer where I came from with an average heat index in the 40’s so one can imagine the transition.
Nevertheless, the place had a completely peaceful vibe. In fact, it was so peaceful that we have not been able to see a single policeman. The atmosphere was solemn and prayerful. Since we joined a small group of Filipino pilgrims, it was even made intimate with the joining of a Catholic Priest, Father Ian Gabinete, who was the group’s chaplain.
I was assigned to be a lector at mass twice and was privileged to join the evening procession. We prayed almost the whole day, for two days, lest it was time to eat. Towards the end of our two-day trip to Fatima, we did some shopping for things to bring back home.
Maybe the experience would have been magical to many but for me and my wife, it was glorious. We would have experienced the same things my business associate had. But really, the feelings were more spiritual, personal and intimate.
Was it the end of our trip? Actually, it was the beginning of our journey.