Would the Lord allow me to call Him the Master Thief? Every now and then, when I am not looking, He snatches away comfortable posts in my life to make me return to the terrain He has set out for me.
I had no idea what journey He had set for me, after one day in 1992 when I asked to be closer to Him.
I had just resigned from the Philippine Daily Inquirer as a senior desk editor and human resource manager. I had married a coeditor a couple of years earlier, and we then believed it was time for just one Paurom to stay with the company. Half jokingly, I had told my husband, “You take Inquirer. I take the world.”
Just before leaving the newspaper almost 20 years ago, my confidence was at a personal high, or so I believed. I had thought it was going to be a breeze to find my next corporate job. But it was not to be. Months passed agonizingly. And then I began to fret over not having a regular paycheck.
I was getting edgy, insecure. I knew there were millions of people who barely had anything to eat and yet, I wept and felt miserable even while I had a supportive, fully employed husband, my kids were still in school, and there was a roof over our heads. I didn’t know what to do with the time I had.
I started hearing Holy Masses daily. We lived near the Shrine of St. Joseph on Aurora boulevard in Quezon City. I began to wake up early for the 6 a.m. masses. Then, like a pupil relearning what the nuns taught me in grade school, I went for a grand confession, a humbling outpouring of every sin.
As the fervor for the Holy Mass grew, a career direction toward public relations began to unfold. I began taking on projects, starting with a national tourism campaign.
I started making an hour’s visit to the Blessed Sacrament after reading a posted invitation at St. Joseph’s which said: “Why not spend one hour with Me?”
I must have returned to the Blessed Sacrament for about two weeks, when the unexpected happened.
Closing my eyes in meditation, I saw in my mind something that looked liked wings outstretched. Then I heard myself tell the figure: “Take me where you came from.”
I realized it was indeed a bird as I saw its wings gently flap. With its every motion, I felt that I was taken higher and higher, until I realized I was in a sphere of pure love—a love so thick, so lifting, so present, it filled every space.
Still in meditation, I noticed pure, bright, white light shining.
I then heard myself say to the white light, “I want to return home now.”
The white light responded: “You will return, but there are things you still have to do.”
Then I saw the image of my parents floating in that space of experience. They were still alive back then. I heard the white light say: “You came from them. But you are not theirs, you are mine.”
At this point, I heard an intrusive voice in my left ear. The voice taunted me, asking why I wanted to return to the sphere of the white light when I have so many children.
The white light said, “It is possible to part from your children. They are not yours, they are mine.”
Then the experience ended.
I emerged from it with a knowledge of the immensity of God’s love for each and every one. I also emerged with a profound realization of my nothingness—yet He loves me so. I left the adoration chapel like I was walking on a cloud. I carried this love home. It was so overwhelming, consuming, yet peaceful.
But as days passed, fear began to set in. I worried how I could continue to pray and be still in adoration when I had motherly duties and business projects to accomplish. Yet I continued to hanker for that enveloping love.
One afternoon, on the verge of despair, I sought out a high point at the Ateneo campus in Quezon City. I parked my car and stood beside a gorge. I looked up to the blue sky, knelt and wept. I cried out to the Lord, asking why He allowed me to experience such a place and made me go back to my state. Even as I loved my family, the bliss was so much more. I asked again, why didn’t He just take me?
I drove to the St. Joseph Church and entered the Blessed Sacrament chapel. I was alone and with my knees trembling, I quietly took a spot before the Holy Monstrance and bowed my head. I asked Him, “Lord, return me to my old self.”
At that instant, I recognized my old way of breathing. I recognized my familiar self. At that moment, too, I understood His gift of free will. I understood that one can will to be with the Holy Spirit or not. He honors our choice.
Since then, my journey became a slow, steady, upward spiral, but nonetheless joyous and correspondingly sacrifice-laden.
Six months without pay took their toll on me. Staying alert and pleasantly disposed on the job were becoming difficult. To cope, I went on a retreat.
The live-in retreat included a Healing Mass, the first that I attended. We were asked to meditate. Then, lo and behold, with my eyes closed, again, I saw a tiny dot, which grew bigger and bigger before it became an image of an eye. The eye that I saw was very consoling. It left me with the message that God sees what I go through and that I was not alone.
Back to the grind, I followed up my pay and was told to go speak to government legal officers. Before appointment day, I tossed and turned in bed, until, again with eyes closed, I saw a funnel-shaped image. The funnel spun and spun, and as it did, I felt warmer. When it stopped spinning, I realized I was filled with much love.
I jumped out of bed, got into bright-colored clothes, and beamed love to the legal officers. I spoke of how much I loved what I was doing and what I believed were the benefits of the work I did for them. Shortly after, they released the pay.
Not a week had passed since the check was cleared by the bank, when my father suffered a heart attack and had to undergo a triple bypass. The bill was just about the same amount I got paid. I was able to help my family with the ready cash. My father lived 17 more years after that operation.
I wanted to continue to be closer to God. I prayed hard for guidance and to be given a sign of white flowers if the Blessed Mother wanted me to follow the Church’s call for natural family planning. We already had three sons at that time.
I visited a client and in the office elevator, I asked myself how I could recognize the sign of white flowers in an office that was usually filled with bouquets and flower arrangements.
I was still deep in thought when the elevator opened. What did I see in front of me? A wooden cart, filled with white flowers. The secretary told me the lady chief wanted to have only white flowers displayed that week. Affirmed, I threw away all the artificial contraceptives I had. In the next seven years, we had four more sons. We now have seven sons.
In the coming pregnancies, I encountered close friends who asked why an educated woman like me would continue to have so many children in this modern world. I often responded with a smile, as the opportunity to speak up and recount my journey of faith did not immediately present itself. I just kept on with the hope that with the fruits of my life, the reason would be made known. And it was simply, faith.
My faith has affirmed me so many times, like when I was pressed for a decision on an offer to live part of the year abroad so that I could work on an information campaign for the country.
The five children I had at that time were all still aged 10 and younger. The prospect of traveling, earning in dollars and working on a campaign for the country was very enticing, but the thought of leaving them behind tore me to pieces.
Still undecided, I faced my client, who was waiting for my decision. Luckily, my client had an unexpected caller, and thus, I had time to pause and pray hard for guidance. I said one Hail Mary silently and slowly.
When I got to the phrase, “Holy Mary, Mother of God,” the word “Mother” suddenly echoed thrice in my heard. Affirmed that my prayer was answered, I firmly told the client, “No, I cannot take up the offer. I am a mother first.”
Eight years fast forward, we needed to decide whether to make our eldest son come home from the US where he was studying. The cost of studying there was becoming very steep. Close to decision day, I prayed the three mysteries of the Holy Rosary fervently while I lay in bed.
At the close of the prayer, I saw with my eyes open a portion of the bedroom blend with this vision: a domed structure, that looked like the White House, which was covered with a blue mantle by a lady with long hair, and wearing white.
Then I saw the same structure, but this time, smaller than the first. It was covered again with a blue mantle by the same lady, who was similarly smaller in size. Then the same vision, even smaller. I heard a voice say a date that I remember to be in February.
When that day came, nothing unusual happened, except for an e-mail I received from my brother in the US. He informed me that a school was offering my son a grant. My eldest, Leon Ioseve, has now graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Bio-behavioral Health from PennState.
My second son, Dan Mikhail, earns his degree in journalism from Kalayaan College next year. Both he and Leon graduated from the University of the Philippines Integrated School. Third son Neil Johann is an incoming junior at the Ateneo taking up BS Management Honors, fourth son Paolo Xavier just graduated from Ateneo High School, and fifth son Rafael Enrico is in junior high at Ateneo. Sixth and seventh sons Olin Benjamin and Tito Vincent are incoming Grade 7 and Grade 6 students, also at Ateneo, and are members of the school’s champion soccer and basketball teams.
How do we manage raising a big family? Only by the sheer grace of our Lord.
I could go on and on with the daily miracles that happen in our lives, and all because my husband, Nilo, and I have joined together in our quest to let go of control and allow the Lord’s Holy Will to manifest in our family.
In the mid-’90s, our Cenacle prayer group bonded to help develop and promote pilgrimage tours in the Philippines. One night, in my sleep, I saw an image of a lady with golden rays emanating from her head. I had a sense it was the Blessed Mother, but what Marian image it was, I did not know.
Two weeks later, our group traveled to Silang, Cavite, to visit the Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette. There, I saw for the first time the image of Our Lady of La Salette and recognized her as the image I saw earlier in a dream.
The pilgrimage promotions project got me involved in the building of the Luminous Cross of Grace Sanctuary in Agdangan, Quezon, with the Servants of the Luminous Cross of Grace. The Luminous Cross messages revolve around the role of the Blessed Mother as Co-Redemptrix, Mediatrix of All Graces, and Advocate.
It seemed to me that the theme of preparation for the end times is persistently present in these undertakings. Even the telling of these experiences, by way of this article, is prompted by an inner stirring to share. I can only rest when I know in my heart that I have obeyed.