by Fr. Phillippe Angelo Garcia
Photos by Angelo Mangahas
Saan ka pupunta? Saan ka galing?
One of the group of parishioners I miss in the parish community is our “manangs” (elder ladies), mga manang ng Simbahan.
Before the pandemic they would stay at the parish compound all day. They were the ones who would volunteer to be guardians of the Perpetual Adoration Chapel.
But they were not just “guardians” of the said area. They were also the most curious ones within the parish compound!
Before the pandemic, we had three masses in the morning, another at noon and an evening mass at 6:00 p.m. They don't miss any of these celebrations! They had perfect attendance as well at celebrations of Funeral Masses, Marriages, and even Baptisms. They were constantly present.
Where have you been?
After being assigned at the San Jose de Navotas Parish and Pitong Gatang Mission Station, I was immediately transferred to San Roque Cathedral Parish. As a new priest of the community, the manangs of the parish were the first ones who touched my heart. Their simple gestures of asking “Saan ka pupunta, Father? Saan ka galing, Father?” (where are you going, Father? where did you come from, Father?) made me feel cared for and loved. That was when I was a new priest of the Cathedral.
But after two years, I have noticed that they have kept asking me the same questions! The feeling of being cared and loved because of their constant question “SAAN KA PUPUNTA, FATHER?, SAAN KA GALING, FATHER?” became a feeling of annoyance.
There was even a time when I confronted one of the Manangs. I told her, “‘Nang, hindi mo naman ako kailangan tanungin palagi kung saan ako pupunta.” (Ma’am, you don’t need to always ask me where I’m off to.”
She replied positively.
The next day, I saw her from far away and I immediately sensed that she would still be asking me the same question “Saan ka pupunta?” but thank God, she asked me a better question “Father, ano pong sasakyan mo? Ikukuha na kita ng tricycle”.
I immediately smiled, thanking God because the person changed. When she came with the tricycle ride she offered me, she suddenly asked me again “FATHER, SAN KA PUPUNTA?” She added, “‘Wag na po kayong mainis, Father, sasabihin ko lang sa driver.” (Don’t be annoyed, Father, I am just going to tell the driver.) So I told her and the driver the same location: “Magmimisa po ako sa J. Ravel’s St.” When I went back to the parish, a different manang asked me, “Father, galing ka pala ng J. Ravel’s. Kumusta po ang misa mo doon?”
I was really annoyed that time to the point that this ANNOYANCE was the object of my prayer. I told the Lord in my prayer, “Lord, naiinis na po ako sa paulit-ulit na tanong. Alam kong di naman required sumagot pero nakakainis lang po talaga.”
The Lord is truly merciful and kind. Even in this annoyance, I learned that their constant question should be a point of reflection in my life. I asked myself, “SAAN NGA BA TALAGA AKO PUPUNTA? SAAN NGA BA TALAGA AKO GALING?
With all the effort, time, treasure I am allotting, where will all these lead me? Are they leading me to God or are they leading me far away from God?
Is my life a journey towards God? If not, why am I leading myself in the wrong way? Why am I fooling myself that the wrong way is the way I should take?”
Perhaps this is one of the profound lessons I’ve learned as a priest assigned in the Cathedral Parish of San Roque. Just like San Roque, I must recognize that life is a journey.
San Roque is referred to as EL PEREGRINO, a pilgrim or a journeyer.
San Roque desired to journey towards Rome because he intended to know more about the Franciscans. He was already a third order Franciscan Brother then but he desired to know them more and to be part of the consecrated life of the Franciscans.
San Roque was really inspired by the life and works of St. Francis of Assisi. This made him realize that his life is towards the Franciscan life.
So he journeyed towards Rome as he searched for the MEANING OF LIFE. As he began his journey, he left everything including the riches of his family and the inheritance to govern the city of Montpellier, France.
What made him realize the MEANING of his life was the epidemic. On his way to Rome, he passed by Acquapendente and the nearby villages where he helped those who were sick with the black plague. He ministered to them faithfully.
San Roque de Kalookan visits the families and areas of the parish. This is an effort of the parish community to make present our patron San Roque, El Peregrino.
In the context of our COVID-19 pandemic, San Roque became a frontliner, serving those who were sick. Written accounts claim that he became an instrument of healing by making the sign of the cross over the sick person. In the villages he passed, healing came forth from his presence.
His journey continued on but he was not spared from this illness. When he became sick, he quarantined himself into the woods where a dog ministered to him as he was sick. It was also when he was sick that he received divine inspiration to return to his hometown, Montpellier, France.
As he returned to his hometown, he did not disclose his identity for the reason that he already left everything as he began his journey.
A parishioner touches The image of San Roque de Kalookan.
As the Lord teaches us in Matthew 16:24, “If anyone desires to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”
He was accused of being a spy. Because of this, he was imprisoned for five years. When he felt that he was about to pass away, he requested for a Catholic Priest to give him the last sacrament. The Catholic Priest recognized him and called the present Governor of the city, the uncle of San Roque, together with the Grandmother of San Roque. They recognized him with the birthmark of the red cross on his breast.
As we celebrate the feast of San Roque, let us also ask ourselves the same questions, “SAAN PO BA TAYO PUPUNTA? SAAN BA TAYO PAPUNTA?”
In the life of San Roque, we saw a JOURNEY towards GOD. Maybe this was a life not according to his plan alone. But this is a life according to the plan of God.
This we can learn from San Roque: IF WE WANT TO KNOW WHERE OUR LIFE SHOULD BE HEADING, LET US CHOOSE WHAT IS DIFFICULT.
LET US CHOOSE WHERE WE CAN EMBRACE THE CROSS OF CHRIST.
Jesus himself chose the CROSS to love God the Father truly. Jesus chose the cross to express His love for us.
The Gospel of John 15:13 teaches us that there is no greater love than this, than to lay down your life for a friend.
Do you find it difficult to make GOOD decisions in life?
Do you find it difficult to know where your life should be heading?
Begin by asking for prayers from San Roque, El Peregrino. Let us pray that we may have a fruitful journey towards God.
San Roque, El Peregrino, pray for us!