Rejoice! Former Guest of CLFC Now A Saint!

Rejoice! Former Guest of CLFC Now A Saint!

000 CLFC

Cebu Lay Formation Center (CLFC) joins the Universal Church in rejoicing for the Canonization of Mother Teresa of Calcutta on September 4, 2016

Mother Teresa, the founder of the Missionaries of Charity, was already known as the “living Saint” even when she was alive.  This is due to her works and words that are summed up in one statement:  total obedience to God’s will by doing what Christ asked each one of us to do.


Mother Teresa’s Visit to CLFC with Star and Missionaries of Charity

When she came to Cebu City to visit her Sisters here, we met her at the airport and straight from there, she visited first our Cebu Lay Formation Center (CLFC) in Talamban.  She is a short woman and looks very fragile and yet her mind is sharp and her heart is centered on Jesus Christ.  Her mission is to love and help the poorest of the poor in every way as Christ loves them.

Fr. Willi was very proud to introduce to Mother Teresa our Institute for Lay Spirituality.  Mother Teresa reacted to that.  She said “what lay spirituality?  There is only one spirituality and that is the Christian Spirituality.  There are many religious congregations claiming the spirituality of their founders.  But there is only one spirituality and that is the spirituality of Jesus Christ!” She was so emphatic when she said that.  That is why what she said stayed in my memory.

00. CLFC-2Then I brought her around the building, which at that time, had a veranda all around it.  Fr. Willi was busy entertaining the other Sisters so I had Mother Teresa all to myself walking around the veranda of the CLFC building.  She asked me if the vacant lot next to our property belongs to us.  I told her that it belongs to a rich Doctor.  She said, we should get it since our property is too small for a retreat house. I told her that it is not for sale and we do not have money to buy it anyway.  Then she whispered to my ear how we can at least use it and pray to Mother Mary that the good owner will donate it to us.  I smiled, half believing it will happen.  Fast forward:  the good Doctor allowed us to use it for parking and for retreatants to walk around.  So I opened a big gate to the property.  Only that we could not develop it for our purpose since it is not ours.

Mother Teresa is a kind, generous and loving person but firm in her beliefs and aggressive in her plans with full trust and faith that God will help her in every way.

She said many things and I wanted to record them but I did not have the gadget for it at that time.  I did not have a00. CLFC-13 camera too. Someone took that one group picture at the airport and I was happy to get a copy of it.

But picture or not, it does not matter.  What matters more is the encounter with someone who speaks the words of Jesus Christ and inspires others to do what Jesus did if only to assure everyone, especially the poor, that God loves each one of them! God loves us so much that we cannot but love others as well.

Mother Teresa did not only preach.  She lived her preaching.  She lived her faith.

Mother Teresa, pray for us, that we find the time and the courage to help the poorest of the poor in our midst!

Estrella (Star) del Mar

CLFC, Talamban, Cebu City, Phil.


The two Saints that I was privileged to meet when they were still here on earth…Saint John Paul II and St. Teresa of Calcutta …         *Star

00. CLFC-14

Saint Teresa of Calcutta…pray for CLFC….and me!




I am writing this on Good Friday.  In the recollection, the priest asked us:  What makes this Friday good? There were some answers from the participants.  One said:  Through His death, He saved us.  Another said: In dying He destroyed our death.  All good answers.

Easter_HOPEWhat I observed that made Good Friday good are the following:

  1. I see more people going to Church.

  2. I see more people going to confession to repent their sins.

  3. I see more people praying individually and in groups.

  4. I see more people participating in recollections.

  5. I see more kindness, generosity and forgiveness in people.

Jesus has died physically two thousand years ago, but we remember that day every year. We recall the sufferings of Jesus.  We hear again the people who welcomed him joyfully on Palm Sunday and shouted “Crucify him!” on Good Friday. We see again the torture of the crucifixion.  We hear Jesus cry out “Father, why have you abandoned me?” and in the end “Into Your hands, I commend my spirit!” Jesus offered his life for us! No one can kill him. He willed it so in total obedience to His Father who loves us so much. It is love!

Christ’s total obedience to the Father completed the covenant between God and man. We are all liberated through Jesus Christ.  Mission accomplished! We are connected again in our journey towards eternity with our loving, merciful, compassionate, generous God!

As Jesus freely offered his life on Good Friday, he also took it back on Easter Sunday, the day of his resurrection!  He lives again! We, too, live if we do not separate from Christ, from God.

We, too, have our own Good Fridays.  We have our own sufferings caused by ourselves and/or by others.  It can be sickness, disabilities, financial difficulties, family problems, broken relationships, addictions and others. Sometimes we dwell on the problems as if reaching a dead-end.  But SUNDAY IS COMING!  There is HOPE!  There is GOD! God ought to be our first recourse, not the last one.  Nevertheless, God waits to be called upon.  God waits for our cry for HELP!  Our merciful God would say “Bear with me, be patient, soon it shall pass.”  We shall overcome because God leads us to freedom from all these.  This is HOPE!

It does not mean though that we will not suffer anymore.  As long as we are in the world and sin is tempting, suffering will always be there.  But Sunday comes!  Easter comes!  EASTER OFFERS HOPE! There is a way out with God’s guidance and help.



By Estrella (Star) del Mar

CLFC, Talamban, Cebu City

Easter 2




Sinulog 2016a

It’s Fiesta Senyor in Cebu once again!

It always moves me to tears to see the millions of crowds at the Basilica del Sto. Niño when they wave their arms that look like the sulog or the waves of the river flowing, as the chorus of the gozos is sung!

Sto. Niño reminds us that God chose to be born in the normal process of childbirth, growing up as a child to adulthood.  God wants to show to human beings how special we are that He chose to be one like us to save us.

The gospel this year reminds us of the Child Jesus being lost in the crowd while Joseph and Mary were looking for him.  “Did you not know that I have to be in my Father’s house?”

Sinulog 2016bJesus was born with a mission from the Father to be fulfilled on earth.  So it is with every one of us and every child born day by day.  Each one has a mission from the Father.  It is the responsibility of the parents to nurture the child to be able to fulfill this mission in his/her life.  The child needs to be guided to his/her life direction, meaning and fulfillment.  Sad to say that many of our kids have gone astray.

Looking at the child image of Jesus in Sto. Niño, reminds me to celebrate “original innocence”.  The innocence of a child that is threatened and affected by the presence of evil in the world.  The child who needs the protection from parents and adults around him so as not to be drawn to a life of idolatry, crimes and destruction.

Pit Senyor! Let us celebrate childhood and all the joys that are unique only to children.  Let us protect our children from laziness and all kinds of addiction that destroy them.  Let us provide every opportunity to the child to develop into a mature and responsible adult to lead the future of the world!

Sinulog is a life dance.  We dance through life from the womb to the tomb.  We dance to the beats of the joys and pains in life.  We try to move on no matter how tired we become and move back once in a while to see where we need to learn more from the past. Sinulog is a dance of moving forward more steps and moving backward a few steps to go with the rhythm of life. The rhythm continues – of falling and rising and moving on with new hopes and greater faith.

Senior Sto. Niño, pray for us and protect us always!

Star del Mar

Sinulog 2016

Are We Ready for Easter?


By: Estrella (Star) del Mar

0000000starIf Christ has not risen, our faith is meaningless.

I remember my trip to Bombay some years ago where I met a good Doctor who specialized in treating leprosy.  I went with him to a far barangay where he served several lepers in a small clinic as a volunteer Doctor for these poor lepers.  The Doctor has a good heart for service and for the poor.  However, he was bitter with the social situation.  I told him that he was their hope for healing and a fairly normal life in the future.  I told him that he was like Jesus Christ for them.  And he retorted with anger in his voice.  “Jesus Christ?  He was the hope of his people to free them but he died!”  So I told him to continue reading the gospel story when Jesus rose from the dead and lived as He promised.  No one could take Jesus’ life from him.  He freely laid it down.  And he resurrected and continued to be present with us and among us.  Jesus was and is present in this good Doctor.  I knew later that the Doctor was a Hindu and not a Christian!

I realized that the good Doctor ended with the death of Jesus.  No wonder that he stayed bitter with the situation.  He has not experienced Easter.  The resurrection gives us hope.  It is a victory over death!

What about us? Do we stay in our bitterness, our hurts, our disappointments, frustrations and hopelessness?  Then we are not ready for Easter!

The Apostles’ daily company with Jesus seems not to be enough. Their listening to Jesus’ teachings; witnessing Jesus’ healings and even bringing the dead Lazarus and the young man back to life – all these seem not enough for the apostles to understand Jesus’ mission.

Easter is to make a difference in our lives!

We also need to resurrect from our own death to new life!

The Peter before the resurrection was a different Peter after the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  The apostles went away afraid during the passion of Jesus Christ.  After the resurrection, they became courageous and zealous in their daily witness to the Lord.  The apostles before the resurrection were very different persons after the resurrection as we can read in the Acts of the Apostles.  There was a dramatic transformation of these people.  Faith, for them, became a profound belief that was tested in their daily witnessing to the Lord’s words and deeds.

Are we ready for our own Easter?

Have we died to our selfishness, self-centeredness, self-righteousness, our own hurts, our own wants, disappointments and failures?  Can we forgive from our hearts those who had hurt us deeply? Can we humble ourselves and accept our own limitations, mistakes and sins of omission? And most of all, can we love as Jesus loved?

Am I ready for a new life in Christ? This is God’s gift to us.  It is my choice and my decision to accept it and do likewise.

May our Mother Mary, whom Jesus gave to us, help us and guide us to be like her as a true disciple of Jesus.










Sto. NinoThe image of the Santo Niño is the oldest religious image in the Philippines. The wooden image, made by Flemish artisans, was brought to the island by Ferdinand Magellan in 1521, just like the Magellan cross. Magellan gave the image Santo  Niño to Queen Juana as a baptismal gift.

The discovery of the 7100 island archipelago in the Philippines has been linked to Spain’s glorious chain of conquests. On September 20, 1519, a fleet of five galleons commanded by Portuguese Navigator Ferdinand Magellan at the service of the king and queen of Spain set sailed from San Lucar de Barrameda to search for the Spice Islands. They did not find the spice island, instead they landed in Limasawa, a small island south of Leyte in the central part of the Philippines. Magellan took possession of the islands and named it after King Philip of Spain. Magellan’s expedition headed for Cebu and found the island very hospitable. He made Cebu the base of his exploration, Christianization and conquests. King Humabon and Queen Juana of Cebu gave him a warm reception and embraced Christianity as well. As gratitude to his hospitality, Magellan agreed to fight with king Humabon who was at war with the neigboring tribe in Mactan island. Magellan was killed in the battle. His men returned to Spain, and that same expedition has also set the record as the first to circumnavigate the earth. Spain sent another expedition to the Far East Region. An Augustinian priest, named Andres Urdaneta, a world-known cosmographer who lived inside the monastic walls of the Augustinian monastery in Mexico was summoned to lead the expedition. On November 21, a memorable expedition left Mexico for the Philippines and arrived in Cebu on April 27, 1565.

DISCOVERY OF THE IMAGE OF THE SANTO NINO Because of Cebuanos suspicion that the Spaniards return has bringing retribution to Magellan’s death, another battle broke out. But heavy artilleries and huge cannons forced the natives to flee to the mountain leaving behind their villages burnt to the ground. As Spanish soldiers surveyed the debris of the village, a soldier found an image of the Child Jesus under the pile of ashes unscathed inside a wooden box.

Sto. Nino2As earlier authenticated entry in the Journal of Pigafetta, clerk in the Magellan expedition, explained the origin of Santo Nino: “On the day Queen Juana was baptized by Father Pedro Valderama, chaplain of that expedition, Pigaffeta himself presented her with the Image.” The same Image now lies in the Basilica del Santo Nino and become a favorite destination for millions of pilgrims each year. For four and half centuries now, the Image of Santo Nino continues to make wonders in the lives of many Filipinos. On the third Sunday of each year, in Cebu, millions will flock to the streets in Cebu for a colorful festivity, honoring the Santo Nino and placing the Island and the entire Philippines under His Patronage. During the last World War, a bomb fell inside the Church but the Image was recovered unscathed. It was one of the numerous miracles and powers attributed to the Holy Image.  In 1965 the historic Santo Nino Church was renovated for the observance of the Fourth Centenary of the Christianization of the Philippines held in Cebu City. It was during the centennial celebration that the Sacred Congregation of Rites elevated the Santo Nino Church to the rank of Basilica Minore with all the rights and privileges accruing to such title.

The miraculous image has been the patron saint of the Cebuanos.  At present the miraculous image is kept in the Parish convent and only a replica enshrined in glass is exposed for the people to venerate.

The Magellan Cross

Sto Nino3Cebu’s most famous historical religious landmark is the first wooden religious cross planted by Fernao Magellan on April 14, 1521. Fernao Magellan was the Portuguese explorer, who was sailing for Spain ‘ in the name of the King of Spain’. The cross symbolizes the beginning of the baptizing of the people of the Philippines. The original cross (or remnants of it), it is said, has been preserved. The original cross is now encased in a newer, bigger wooden cross and since 1834 placed on a concrete pedestal inside a small building named “the kiosk”.  It is unclear since when the present cross replaced the original one, but it is believed since 1565.

Sto Nino4Every year, the Sto. Niño fiesta is celebrated on the 3rd Sunday of the month of January.  The novena masses start 10days earlier.  The Cebu City and Provincial Government join the Church in the celebration with several programs and activities.  The Church activities are centered on the Church liturgies and procession which are participated by millions of people.

The Sinulog dance contests and Street Dancing contests are sponsored and organized by the city government.  There are also singing contests, group dance contests, choral contests, songwriting contests and Miss Cebu Beauty Pageant.  The people can choose which activity or program to watch day by day and in different places.  All the activities are spectacular.


A novena mass at the Basilica del  Sto. Niño that is always filled up with people up to the main streets in spite of the fact that the masses are celebrated every one and a half hour interval.

A novena mass at the Basilica del Sto. Niño that is always filled up with people up to the main streets in spite of the fact that the masses are celebrated every one and a half hour interval.

The Sto. Niño fiesta celebration January 8-18, 2015 is the 450th anniversary of the Agustinian presence in the Philippines and the 50th anniversary of the Basilica del Sto. Niño as a minor Basilica.

The Sto. Niño fiesta celebration January 8-18, 2015 is the 450th anniversary of the Agustinian presence in the Philippines and the 50th anniversary of the Basilica del Sto. Niño as a minor Basilica.

The SVD priests concelebrating in one of the novena masses at the Basilica.

The SVD priests concelebrating in one of the novena masses at the Basilica.

The people waving their hands in the singing of the gozos in the novena prayer for Sto. Niño.

The people waving their hands in the singing of the gozos in the novena prayer for Sto. Niño.

Part of the people on the second floor singing the gozos of Sto. Niño hymn.

Part of the people on the second floor singing the gozos of Sto. Niño hymn.

I always cry watching and singing with the people the gozos of Sr. Sto. Niño.  See the waves of the hands and the singing from the heart for Sto. Niño to listen to their prayers.

I always cry watching and singing with the people the gozos of Sr. Sto. Niño. See the waves of the hands and the singing from the heart for Sto. Niño to listen to their prayers.





Lenten JourneyThe Lunar New Year had been celebrated all over the world.  It was notable here in the Philippines among our Filipino Chinese.  There were so many things that they place in the house, or wore or ate or gave in whatever way.  All these were for luck, for success, for every good thing for the New Year.

We need to look beyond the things and what they stand for.  We know that we cannot depend on luck alone.  Success requires some intelligence, hard work, perseverance, determination, good interpersonal relationship and perhaps the right connections.  Most of all, it requires lots of faith that in spite and despite of possible happenings, in the end, you will be blessed!

We often see the Sto. Nino image in stores.  I do not know exactly why the store owners place the image there.  Is it show that the owner is a Catholic and a devotee of Sto. Nino?  Or is it for Sto. Nino to protect the store or perhaps bring luck by inviting more customers?  I don’t know.

Jesus-on-Cross-1024x1024GlorifiedLet us look beyond the image and see what the Sto. Nino is showing to us.  Let’s understand the Father’s way of allowing His Son to be like us – the Word that became man in the natural way as an infant and a child like anyone of us!  And yet this Child grew up too to fulfil the mission that His Father gave Him.

He took upon Himself the weight of the world, to complete the covenant between God and man, to suffer and die for us because of our sinfulness.  However, in his short life in the ministry, He did it all – teaching, preaching, healing, celebrating, praying, witnessing to the Father and being an example to His apostles and disciples. “After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and returned to the table, he said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord – and you are right, for that is what I am.  So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.  For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.  Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them.  If you knew these things, you are blessed if you do them.” (John 13:12-17)

What is LentDuring this season of Lent, we remember and reflect the meaning of Lent in our lives today.  “Do this in memory of Me!” This is what He said when he took a cup and after giving thanks he said “Take this and divide it among yourselves; then He took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” (Luke 22:17-20)

We hear these words spoken in the Eucharistic Prayer at mass.  Do we remember each time?  Do we remember the torture to this “Body” that we receive and the “Blood” poured out due to human violence? Do we remember how we have contributed to the violence in various ways that we do day by day? Can we appreciate enough how God saved us?  Can we rejoice enough that the gates of Heaven is opened for us again – if only we cooperate fully with God?

Holy MassIn every Eucharistic Celebration, God reminds us our history and how God continually saved us through His love, mercy and compassion – if only we fully accept this redemption and bring out the goodness, the beauty and purity of our spirit that God the Father intended for us from the start.

But since we continually fail and sin again, we realize that our weakness prevails when we do not hold on to the strength of God and depend on His help all the time!  At mass, the priest leads the prayers for ourselves and for every one’s needs.  We also thank the good Lord for everything that He has blessed us.  All that we have, all that we enjoy, all that are around us –are all God’s gifts to us.  And we can only say “THANKS”!




Happy Fiesta Senior Sto. Niño!



Happy Fiesta Senior Sto. Niño!  Every third week of January is the week-long celebration of the Feast of the Child Jesus in Cebu.  The fiesta falls on the 3rd Sunday of January.  It’s a religious as well as a cultural celebration. It commemorates the birth of Christianity in the Philippines.  The Christianity that was brought to us by the Spaniards with their Cross and their Swords. The religiosity of the people developed from these beginnings. We are now in our 449th year.  How have we grown all these years as a Christian nation and a Christian people?

Mass goers receiving communion amidst the rain.

Mass goers receiving communion amidst the rain.

The Center of the Fiesta Celebration is the Basilica del Sto. Niño.  The Eucharistic Celebrations at the Basilica del Sto. Niño are celebrated every hour and a half difference from 4:00am until 8:00pm.  Every mass is packed with people inside and outside the Church areas.  It cannot be a real fiesta without people.  Thousands of people from dawn to evening come for the Eucharistic Celebrations.

“Kanamo, malooy ka unta nga kanimo nanggilaba!”

“Kanamo, malooy ka unta nga kanimo nanggilaba!”



Thousands also go to the cultural shows at Fuente Osmeña and other places.  Prayers, music and dances are the daily expressions of the big feast, rain or shine although at this time, it was often rain! All these are offered to the baby Jesus for thanksgiving and prayer petitions.

I was so touched watching the multitude of people, listening to their prayers said and sang aloud, watching the awkward dance steps with or without the beat, lighting candles, sacrificing the long line to kiss the image of Sto. Niño, and standing in the rain with or without umbrella for the whole duration of the Eucharistic Celebration. These are God’s people asking for God’s compassion and mercy.  I am sure that God listens to them.  God listens to us.

Photos taken during the 5:30 AM mass on Jan. 17, 2014.  It was raining at that time.

Photos taken during the 5:30 AM mass on Jan. 17, 2014. It was raining at that time.

And yet, this God is also waiting to be listened to.  HE is also asking for our compassion and mercy for Mother Nature, for our country, for our families, and for other people who are in most need.  God is asking for our cooperation to take care of our Mother Earth starting at our own vicinities.  It hurts me to see so much garbage just left in the places where people are.  The service umbrellas were nicely placed in large wooden boxes.  People get them for their use during the masses and they are supposed to return them where they got them before they leave the Church. But many just left them in the places where they were seated, together with their trash.

The people were closed to each other due to the large number packed in a limited space.  Pickpockets took advantage of the situation and robbed some people of their belongings.

Foreigners and tourists were among the crowd at mass.  They could have shown some respect of the sacredness of the place and the celebration but they came with their shorty shorts as if they were going to the beach or mountain climbing. Respect is universal – whatever religion, race or culture one belongs.

Respect for elders seemingly have become taboo now.  Young people do not give up the seats to the elderly who may not be able to stand for long for the duration of the mass.

Each one came for a personal reason.  God hears that.

Sinulog Festival 2014 -6Our God wants to be heard too! Let’s listen to Him!  Let’s be conscious of the signs of the times.  Let us understand God’s message for us.  So much need to be done.  Everyone needs to cooperate and do something to improve our situation: environment, politics, religion, culture, and education.  Let us practice the Gospel values. We hear the Word of God and we do not put them into practice. We ask pardon and forgiveness but we do not change our ways. We receive the Lord but we do not honor His presence in our day to day living. The Joy of the Gospel is living it!

Senior Sto. Niño – Hope of our People!  Hope is what we cling on to make our lives better and improve our situations.  We have only one earth and one life.  Let us take care of things for the betterment of both!

May the good Lord bless us all! Pit Senior!


Star del Mar

Cebu Lay Formation Center




Ang sinulog ni last year… natumba ang basilica prop nila… morag nalinog pod.
Karon guba na ang belfry.

Sinulog 2013b