How can I ever thank God for His goodness planted in me? Intimate joy in contemplation was mine as early as the age of three when sitting alone on our veranda I was caught up with the glory of the sunset! Flocks of birds were homing, singing in flight; the graceful flapping of their wings made the rainbow colored clouds seem alive – as if dancing! It was the first anniversary of my mother’s death. Only the embrace of my saintly grandmother brought me back to reality from my bliss. She taught me how to pray always and that Mary, our Blessed Mother was my true mother. My loving and dtting father further provided for my happy and free childhood.
At the age of four I had a near-death experience in which I was transported to a place of light and played with little children, Jesus and St. Therese. I saw my family crying because I had died while the doctor and my father were calling me back. I told my little friends that I had to go. At first, the boy was hesitant but finally he agreed and took me by the hand and led me back. My uncle took me in his arms and cried: “She is alive, she is alive!” I was trying to tell them I was alright, I wanted to go back to my playmates but nobody seemed to listen. This, I realized, I must keep to myself.
At the age of six, inspired by a German SVD priest, I decided in my heart and soul that I would be pure and give myself totally to Jesus. As far as I can remember, I never wavered from this desire. From there on that was my single goal in life.
My world, full of love, freedom and the beauty of nature unique to the Philippines changed forever when I was eleven. Our happy and comfortable life was reduced to nothing by the invasion of the Japanese. I lost my sister and cousin and witnessed the torture and death of my uncle crucifixion style. My prayers, penances and fastings increased. Deep compassion for human fragility, loss of dignity, and injustice was born within me. Yet my faith, hope, love and trust in God who knows everything and is good, was strengthened all the more.
During the occupation, I took care of all the babies and young children of parents who were trying to make ends meet and scavenge for food. I taught the children games and hymns and folk dances. They often entertained for the village folks on weekends. I was greatly involved in the social and religious events in the village.
After the war, I went to high school in Angeles, Pampanga (Central Luzon). After graduation I went to Manila for college. I wanted to be a nurse but my father was greatly opposed. He felt that if I went to the Catholic nursing school which accepted me, I would surely become a sister. So, instead, I prepared for teaching. I was offered a teaching job at the University upon graduation. I taught two years and did a bit of social work to serve people in need. In the meantime, I kept praying for a spiritual director. I was definite in my desire for a contemplative order. In social work I could only help a few. But with contemplative prayer there is no limit. I could reach and embrace every single soul and all the ends of the earth.
Sometimes God Just takes things in His own hands. My aunt, a dean at the Teachers College, spoke at faculty event where she met an American couple who are looking for a cook. I listened, memorized the address and interviewed for the job which, although a menial one, offered five times my teaching salary and a wonderful opportunity to travel to Thailand. I had majored in Home Economics. I wanted so much to help my father who had lost so much during the war: two homes, rice, sugar, pineapple plantations and more. My aunts were not pleased but I was excited.
On my first day in Bangkok I was taken to the Rdemptorist Holy Redeemer Church where Fr. Roger Gotbout, C.Ss.R., took me under his wing. It was there that I learned about the Redemptoristine Nuns from Fr. Ernest Miller, C.Ss.R. Another Redemptorist, Fr. Richard Thiele, became my spiritual director.
My time in Bangkok was productive and very interesting but the time came to join the Redemptoristines. My father cried. “Ammo,” I said, “it was all your fault? Your love practically threw me into the lap of God.” He gathered all my aunts and uncles telling them that I was not listening to him anymore, hoping that they would advise me not to go to Canada to enter the monastery. But my Oldest Uncle said that I should go and that the family would take care of my father. Fr. Andrew Gayger, rector of the Redemptorist Fathers in Baclaran also reassured me and took care of all the necessities for my travel.
This is only the tip of the iceberg, bird’s eye view of the wonderful things God has done for me and still continues to do. I am certain that His grace is never wanting and I pray that I will, through his Holy Spirit, continue to receive his generous fidelity and never stop thanking Him, giving back to Him all that He has given me through service to His beloved bride, the Church!
I REMEMBER , I CELEBRATE and I BELIEVE!!.
In truth we are swimming in grace!