I debated with myself about writing this, as in this “trending” age, many skeptical comments will make their way to Facebook or Twitter. But ultimately, I decided that what people thought of me wasn’t important.
This week the Church celebrates what it believes to be the birthday of Mama Mary, and what better gift can I give her than to share the story of my conversion?
Since the news of my illness came out, a number of people who had come to visit me kept asking why I had become such a passionate Marian devotee.
I have kept silent about this for almost 20 years, as I felt that there was so much more to say about the messages and history of Marian apparitions, and that what happened to me wasn’t important.
But everything happens for a reason, and as Our Lady said, “What good is it if I keep coming to visit you and give you messages if you only hide these away in a drawer?”
My illness made me realize that we must make use of whatever time we have left to continue to serve.
My conversion started in Medjugorje, and continues to this day.
It was the year of the canonization of St. Lorenzo Ruiz. My son Diego was to perform for the Pope with the troupe of (Fr. James) Reuter babies, and I accompanied him to Rome.
It was my first time in Europe and I was so excited. I planned to continue on to Geneva to visit my friend Cibbie.
Among the pilgrims in Rome were Ching Escaler and Aurora Aquino. All the Pinoys were talking about going to this little village in Yugoslavia where Mama Mary was said to appear.
Tita Aurora even urged me to change my plans and go with them. But I would have none of that! My first time in Europe would not be wasted in some poor village.
On the train to Geneva, Diego and I were in a compartment seated in front of an elderly couple, and the lady was reading a newspaper with “Medjugorje” and a photo of a Marian image on the front page. I was intrigued and struck up a conversation with them just so I could borrow the paper.
The couple was from Costa Rica, and was thrilled to discover that we were Filipinos! “Oh you have given hope to the world! Because of your People Power you have shown us that we do not have to go up in flames!” Of course, I got to borrow the paper, which was in Spanish.
Upon my return from Europe, I decided that the first docu I would produce with my new professional video equipment would be for God, and the second for country.
That afternoon after school, Diego ran in excitedly, holding a book he had borrowed from his teacher for me. It was Fr. Rene Laurentin’s “Is the Blesssed Virgin Mary Really Appearing in Medjugorje?”
I took it up and put down the book I was reading to show my appreciation.
I found it, my first docu.
The spinning sun
I brought a crew to Medjugorje. I was skeptical at first, as there were so many stalls in the plaza fronting the church. Then I met the visionary, Fr. Slavko; cried when Fr. Jozo laid hands on me; saw the spinning sun; watched my rosary turn from silver to gold; and had the seed of love and longing planted in my heart.
When I got back to Manila, I turned over all the materials to my scriptwriter, but two weeks later she came and said that she couldn’t do it, and that perhaps I should write it myself.
I had never written a script! Talk, I could, and how! But write? What an agony.
We had turned our living room into an editing area, and I would write from late night to early morning, eking out one painful scene at a time.
Ryan Cayabyab had given me his Tagalog composition, “Hail Holy Queen,” to use in the docu, and I loved to sing along with it. One morning around 3 a.m., I was sitting on a chair and singing the refrain, “Ipakita mo sa amin ang iyong anak na si Jesus,” over and over again, when all of a sudden I felt like someone had thrown a shawl over me.
I froze. The hair on my arms stood on end, and I felt that there was someone behind me. But how could it be when I had my back to the wall? I could feel the presence, but wasn’t scared as it was warm and enveloping.
Then I felt a hand take my face and turn it toward the glass door on the right, and I heard a voice say, “If you could see him with my eyes, then you would love him as I do.”
And there, behind the glass door, at the corner of the patio was Jesus! He was dressed in a long robe that softly glowed, and he was bent over, lovingly stroking the head of a sheep.
I was stunned. My chair hit the floor with a thud, and I was filled with overwhelming emotion and uncontrollable tears. I was later to learn that this is often referred to as “the waterfall of love.”
I don’t remember what happened after that, but when I regained my composure, I knew that I couldn’t tell my husband about it, because he would think I was crazy and order me to stop working on the docu. So I decided to go to the Claret Church. It was after 4 a. m., and I was the only one there.
I didn’t know what to pray. I had forgotten the mysteries of the rosary, so I just sat there apologizing to God when all of a sudden, there at the altar, as if in a stage play, the mysteries of the rosary began to play out and Jesus, Mary, Joseph, were real—flesh and blood.
Two mysteries were burned unforgettably in my mind and heart: The Loss and Finding in the Temple, and The Agony in the Garden.
In the first, I saw the boy Jesus seated on a rock, and going down the steps to meet Joseph. Mary was some distance behind. I couldn’t hear the actual words, but knew that he was being scolded for what he had done. I saw Mary flinch interiorly when he turned to say that she, of all people, should have known where he was. She bowed her head and was silent.
He realized that he had hurt her, and followed his parents quietly, and I heard in my heart, “and he turned and went up with them in obedience.”
The agony in the garden was a Jesus I had never seen or expected. The photos of Jesus kneeling at a rock, looking so holy, were the images I had of that mystery, but this was not what I saw.
Intense interior pain
I saw a man in intense interior pain, not able to sit or stand for long. He would get up and walk to the back, and gaze with disappointment at the men who were asleep, then he would go back to the rock and cry and groan, then stand and pace back and forth.
I told Lydia Sison what I saw, and how surprised I was at the scene that unfolded before me.
Years later, Lydia excitedly told me that a book had been published on the visions of Maria Valtorta, and that the vision I had was exactly what was in the book.
Many years later, when Mel Gibson’s film on the Passion was released, I felt as if I was impaled in the cinema chair, as I watched again what I had seen transpire at the altar of Claret Church in 1987.
I have had other experiences. I was hit by a bolt of light from an open tabernacle in the Adoration Room. I felt as if I had shot up like a rocket then. I saw angels on the roof outside my bedroom; I saw an aged Mediatrix standing at the corner of a room in Carmel; and my 5-year-old daughter saw Mama Mary on the hill of Medjugorje and told me that she was wearing a blue “shawl” and said she couldn’t stay for long as her Son was waiting for her—and “where my son is, there I must be also.” This, from a 5-year-old child.
I share all this in the hope that you may believe. We are given many gifts, and allowed the free will to make our choices.
Mama Mary has said she has come to tell us that God really does exist. However, she warns us that evil is also trying to destroy our faith and our families, so she is unceasing in her efforts to lead us to her Son.