We just finished the Visita Iglesia of the International Eucharistic Congress 2016. It was late. My companions were all going the opposite direction and I did not know how to get back to the convent. I asked a barangay tanod who said that since many roads were closed, the best option was to take a taxi. He flagged a taxi and told the driver my address (in Cebuano).
Grateful to be on my way home after a full day, I observed the passing scene. Suddenly, the route seemed unfamiliar. The road was getting dark and winding. I started to get worried. It was my fourth day in Cebu and for the first time, I was traveling alone. I silently whispered, “Angel of God, my guardian dear…”
“Manong, parang iba po ang dinadaanan natin. Sa Daughters of St. Paul, Osmeña Blvd. po tayo, malapit sa Harrison Place.”
(Sir, it seems we’re on a different route. We’re supposed to go to the Daughters of St Paul in Osmeña Blvd, near Harrison Place.) I told the driver.
“Ay, Harrison pala. Akala ko sa Radisson,” (Oh, Harrison! I thought it was Radisson), he replied.
“Naku hindi po! Harrison. Ano po ba yung Radisson?” (No, sir, it is Harrison! But what is Radisson?), I asked.
“Malaki at magandang hotel yon – Radisson Blu.” (It’s a big and beautiful Hotel), he replied.
“Naku, Manong, hindi po tumutuloy doon ang madre. Sa kumbento lang po.” (Sir, sisters don’t stay in those hotels but in convents.)
Then we went back to where he picked me up, turned the meter back to zero, and restarted it. I was surprised, to say the least! This will never happen in Manila!
“OK lang po sa inyo? Hindi kayo lugi sa gasolina?” (Is that OK with you, sir? Won’t you be at a deficit?” I asked.
“OK lang ma’am. Mali ako eh. Dapat tinanong din kita.” (That’s OK, ma’am. It was also my fault. I should have asked your address as well.)
My worries flew out of the window, and we chatted through the traffic, as we passed by other groups still in procession. I asked about his family, his work, and the impact of IEC on Cebu and it’s residents. Courteous and simple, he readily opened his heart. He told me his dreams (a better life for his five children) and his disappointments (there were many). He is happy and proud that Cebu was chosen to host the IEC. What a great honor! Yes, there were inconveniences: traffic is worse, the hassle of closed roads and rerouting, etc., but it was OK.
We finally reached the convent. I was opening my purse to pay and give him a good tip, when he stopped me.
“Sister, huwag na po. Tulong ko na po sa misyon ninyo,” (No, Sister, no need to pay me. Keep it as my help for your mission), he said with a smile.
“Naku, Manong, kailangan nyo po ito, ng pamilya nyo,” (But sir, you need this, and your family), I insisted, giving him the money.
“Hindi po ako makakasali sa IEC, at wala naman akong maibibigay na iba. Yan na lang ang contribution ko para sa misyon,” (I cannot join the IEC nor volunteer, and I don’t have anything else to give. That’s the only contribution I can make to the mission), he said, as if pleading. “Sige na po.” (Please!)
I conceded and accepted the gift with a humbled heart. This was something extraordinary! I was moved at the unexpected gesture of solidarity. I promised to pray for him and his family, and told him that all the sisters in my community in Pasay will do the same. (Will you please pray for him, too?)
Thank you, Manong Estrellito! You are one in a million!
Thanks to you and all the valiant volunteers who made IEC 2016 not only a huge success but also an experience of a lifetime. Thank you for showing me what the foreign delegates kept on repeating: “You are an amazing people! Always ready to help, always with a smile. Gracious and welcoming, respectful and dignified. And it’s not for show, either!”
An Irish delegate, Fr. John, observed: “Filipinos have a good heart; something you will not see anywhere else.” A heart that is grateful for having been chosen. A heart ready for any inconvenience or sacrifice in order to serve. A heart open and generous to give – whatever one can – to contribute to the common good. A heart that lives what it believes.
Yes, we heard brilliant theological discourses and touching testimonies about the Eucharist during the Congress. Yes, the Mass, the Adoration, the procession and Statio Orbis were glorious celebrations of the Eucharist. But it was the thousands of volunteers, the organizers and the people of Cebu, like Manong Estrellito, who allowed us to experience with them what being Eucharist truly means: being a people blessed, broken and shared!