A Pilgrimage to the Marian and Eucharistic Miracle Shrines of Western Europe


A wake up call was made at around 6:10AM today. It is because we would proceed to Loreto, Italy. Loreto is a hilltown and comune of the Italian province of Ancona, in the Marche. It is most commonly known as the seat of the Basilica della Santa Casa, a popular Catholic pilgrimage site. Loreto is also located 127 meters (417 feet) above sea level on the right bank of the Musone river. It is 22 kilometres (14 miles) by rail south-southeast of Ancona. Like many places in the Marche, it provides good views from the Apenninesto the Adriatic. The city has also a massive line of walls designed by Antonio da Sangallo the Younger, which were erected from 1518 and reinforced in the 17th century. The distance from Florence, Italy is 345 kilometers. And then we proceeded down south from Loreto to San Giovanni Rotondo, the home of St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina The distance from Loreto to San Giovanni Rotondo is 321 kilometers. Then we check in one of the hotels of San Giovanni Rotondo.

How to get to Loreto? Loreto is just off the Autostrada A14 between Pescara (south) and Bologna (north). Paid parking is available beneath the basilica. Loreto is just off the Autostrada A14 between Pescara (south) and Bologna (north). Paid parking is available beneath the basilica.

Another one, for independent travelers if traveling by train it is about two hours from Bologna. You change trains in the ferry port of Ancona and from there it takes about 20 minutes. The station is about one mile from the shrine so taxis might be best.

img_20161015_071849And so we brought our luggage outside of our hotel room here in Florence at 7AM and then had our breakfast. We were not able to live exactly at 8AM as scheduled because our baggage were not brought out from the hotel to the bus by Grand Hotel Mediterraneo porters here in Florence, Italy, unlike the other hotels we previously checked in. and yet we paid the porterage service. The porters brought out the luggage of other clients of the hotel. Is there discrimination even by hotel porters? I’m just expressing my opinion. And so we left the hotel at around 9AM instead of 8AM.

While in the bus, we prayed the morning prayer led by Group 1 (Inday Silva) and Bible bullets were distributed again and I got this one: “All of you should be like-minded sympathetic, loving toward one another, kindly disposed and humble. Do not return evil for evil, or insult for insult. Return a blessing instead,” (1Peter 3:8). I reflected on this Biblical text especially in relation to what the hotel porters did to us. I asked God for forgiveness about the thought that entered into my mind which was hatred. We passed by 28 tunnels from Florence to an autogrill (in Chiaravalle).

Our Philippine tour leader, Monty, announced that Bishop Gutierrez will join us on the 19th back to the Philippines. But the Bishop will take the flight together with Frs. Bonie Ampoyas and Rey Joloro from Nice, France to Rome, Italy; then from Rome to Dubai, UAE; from Dubai to Manila, Philippines.

At 12:25PM (5:25PM Philippine time) we stopped at an autogrill in Chiaravalle while on ourimg_20161015_124246 way to Loreto from Florence for our lunch. The cost of my lunch was 15,20 Euro. We left the autogrill at 1:29PM and continued our travel to Loreto. Again we passed by another 2 tunnels before reaching Loreto. We reached Loreto at around 2:20PM; had a short walk to the Holy House of Loreto from where our tour bus stopped. We had our Mass at 3PM in the crypt presided by me. After the Mass our local tour guide toured us around the Holy House of Loreto.

The Holy House of Loreto is one of the most revered Marian shrines in the world. Since medieval times, the Holy House of Loreto has been believed to be the very home in which the Virgin Mary lived, conceived and raised the young Jesus.

The historical background of Holy House of Loreto was: According to the New Testament, Jesus was raised by Mary and Joseph in a small town called Nazareth, near Jerusalem. Joseph was a carpenter, and their house was humble. This is where Jesus grew up and worked until he left to reveal Himself to mankind. Three centuries after the life of Jesus, the newly-converted Emperor Constantine built a basilica over the humble brick house believed to have sheltered the Holy Family.

And according to Catholic tradition, the Holy House came under threat during the turmoil of the Crusades, so in 1291, angels miraculously translated the house from its original location to a site in modern-day Croatia. An empty space was left in Nazareth and a small house suddenly appeared in a field in Croatia. The bewildered parish priest brought to the scene by shepherds who discovered it, had a vision in which the Virgin Mary revealed it was her former house.

On December 10, 1294, the house was again moved by angels because of the Muslim invasion of Albania. It landed first in Recanti, Italy, but was shortly thereafter moved for a third time to its present location in Loreto.

img_20161015_142440Analysis of literary sources, however, indicates that the transport of the Holy House of Loreto happened by sea and not through the assistance of angels. During the medieval period of Christian history it was common for monks and crusaders to be called ‘angels’ by the common people, this explaining the legend of ‘angels’ flying the house from the Holy Land to Loreto. Archaeological evidence and documents uncovered in 1962 suggest that the house may indeed derive from the region of Nazareth as its limestone and cedar construction materials are not available in the area of Loreto.

The Holy House of Loreto, or Santa Casa di Loreto in Italian, has been venerated by pilgrims great and small, including many popes and saints, and numerous miracles and healings have been reported. Scientists are said to have confirmed the materials to be the same as those found in Nazareth and the house lacks normal foundations.

In 1469, a large basilica was built over the Holy House at Loreto, and still stands today. In 1507, a marble enclosure was constructed around the House inside the basilica, and in 1510, the site was officially approved for pilgrimages. Over the centuries, countless pilgrims have kneeled inside the basilica around the Holy House, wearing a trough in the hard rock.

The Basilica sheltering the Holy House has been rebuilt and repaired periodically since its construction in 1469, leaving it with a Renaissance exterior and a Gothic interior.

Inside the basilica, the Holy House is, of course, the main attraction. It is a small stone building measuring 13 x 31 feet, with traces of medieval murals on the inner walls. On the east wall (not part of the original building) is an altar with the Latin inscription Hic Verbum Caro Factum Est, “Here the Word was made flesh.” A statue of the Virgin stands above the altar.

December 10 is the feast day of Our Lady of Loreto and this sacred site attracts as many as 4 million Catholic pilgrims and visitors each year.

We left Loreto at around 4:30PM bound for San Giovanni Rotondo. From Loreto to San Giovanni Rotondo, we passed by 25 tunnels.

We stopped by in an autogrill for 15 minutes at 7:15PM for toilet break and bought something: a juice (2,50 Euro) here in Torre Fantene Ovest.  We left the autogrill at 7:44PM for San Giovanni Rotondo. We passed by another 2 tunnels from this autogrill before we reached San Giovanni Rotondo.

We checked in a hotel here in San Giovanni Rotondo, Vallerossa Hotel at around 8:40PM. In going here, it is like going up to Baguio City, we passed by a zigzag road.img_20161015_204740-our-hotel-in-san-giovanni-rotondo

San Giovanni Rotondo is the name of a city and comune in the province of Foggia and region of Apulia, in southern Italy. San Giovanni Rotondo was the home of Saint Pio of Pietrelcina from 28 July 1916 until his death on 23 September 1968. The Padre Pio Pilgrimage Church was built in devotion to the saint and dedicated on 1 July 2004. The city is renowned for its hospital and medical-research centre Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza (Home for the Relief of the Suffering) founded by Saint Pio of Pietrelcina.

How to Get from Rome to Padre Pio Shrine? San Giovanni Rotondo is 180 miles east of Rome in the Puglia region of southern Italy. The trip by train from Rome’s Termini Train Station to Foggia takes about 3 hours on a Freccia train or 4 1/2 to 5 on the less expensive IC trains (with no connections required). As of this writing, there are 7 trains a day (weekdays) between 8AM and almost midnight. There are frequent connecting buses from Foggia train station to San Giovanni Rotondo that take about 40 minutes. The smaller San Severo train station is closer to San Giovanni Rotondo and also has connecting buses on weekdays but only one on Sundays (see schedule above). To get to San Severo from Rome, you would still take the train to Foggia, then transfer to a regional train to San Severo.

Then we had our dinner in Vallerossa Hotel; entered my hotel room 416. I occupied the Room of Nathaniel Caballero and his son, since they were not with us. They were left in Nice, France for some medical checkups of his son.

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A Pilgrimage to the Marian and Eucharistic Miracle Shrines of Western Europe

Date: 14OCT (Friday) PADUA – PISA – FLORENCE. (Day 12)

We stayed here in Padova, Italy until this morning at Crowned Plaza Hotel. Crowne Plazaimg_20161013_083635 Hotel is an excellent starting point to visit cultural cities like Venice and Verona not to forget Padova. All 179 spacious hotel bedrooms and suites are fully air conditioned and equipped with high speed internet access and flat screen TV. Campiello restaurant is an outstanding place to dine with a variety of tasty dishes freshly prepared with and, together with Fr. Estong, good wine.

img_20161014_071202We ate our breakfast at 6:47AM here in the hotel and luggage out at the same. We left Padova, Italy at 8:24AM and travelled south to Pisa and to view the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the Cathedral. The distance between Padova (Padua) and Pisa is 222 kilometers. Pisa is a city in Tuscany, Central Italy, straddling the River Arnojust before it empties into the Tyrrhenian Sea. It is the capital city of the Province of Pisa. Although Pisa is known worldwide for its iconic Leaning Tower (the bell tower of the city’s cathedral), the city of over 90,834 residents (around 200,000 with the metropolitan area) contains more than 20 other historic churches, several medieval palaces and various bridges across the River Arno. Much of the city’s architecture was financed from its history as one of the Italian maritime republics.

It was a rainy morning when we left Padova and the temperature was at 8.9ˑC. While on our way to Pisa, we prayed the Morning Prayer lead by Group 3. After Morning Prayer, Bible bullets were distributed and I got this: “You know when I sit and stand. You understand my thoughts from afar,” (Psalm 139:2).

We stopped at an autogrill for our toilet break at 10AM and bought orange juice (2,60 Euro)img_20161014_101859-the-stopover-where-we-a-20mins-toilet-break-and-bought-choc-jui and chocolate (3,99 Euro). Then left this autogrill here in Cantagallo and continued our travel to Pisa at 10:20AM. While on our way from this autogrill, the rain began to pour again. From this place we passed by 29 tunnels, most of them were long tunnels and then we arrived Pisa at around 12:10PM. From where the bus was parked, we rode on a train-liked bus that brought us to the leaning Tower of Pisa for about 5 minutes and then started the tour and had pictures in the Leaning Tower.

For the vast majority of visitors the sole reason is the famous leaning tower which is located in Piazza dei Miracoli (Miracle Square) just to the north of the city center. Piazza dei Miracoli is a pedestrian area, free to access with the main attractions within the square, plus tourist offices, gift shops and exhibitions as well as ticket offices. The Leaning Tower of Pisa or simply the Tower of Pisa (Torre di Pisa) is the campanile, or freestanding bell tower, of the Cathedral of the Italian city of Pisa, known worldwide for its unintended tilt. Already tilting when it was completed in 1372, the 56m white-marble cylinder is the bell tower of the Romanesque, striped-marble cathedral that rises next to it in the Piazza dei Miracoli. Also in the piazza is the Baptistry, whose renowned acoustics are demonstrated by amateur singers daily.

img_20161014_123705The Leaning Tower is situated behind the Cathedral and is the third oldest structure in Pisa’s Cathedral Square (Piazza del Duomo) after the Cathedral and the Pisa Baptistry. The tower’s tilt began during construction, caused by an inadequate foundation on ground too soft on one side to properly support the structure’s weight. The tilt increased in the decades before the structure was completed, and gradually increased until the structure was stabilized and the tilt partially corrected by efforts in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

The height of the tower is 55.86 meters (183.27 feet) from the ground on the low side and 56.67 meters (185.93 feet) on the high side. The width of the walls at the base is 2.44 m (8 ft 0.06 in). Its weight is estimated at 14,500 metric tons (16,000 short tons). The tower has 296 or 294 steps; the seventh floor has two fewer steps on the north-facing staircase. Prior to restoration work performed between 1990 and 2001, the tower leaned at an angle of 5.5 degrees, but the tower now leans at about 3.99 degrees. This means that the top of the tower is displaced horizontally 3.9 meters (12 ft 10 in) from the centre.

After viewing and taking pictures in this Leaning Tower of Pisa, we ate, together with Inday Siva and Nieda Ramos in a Burger King and I bought Maximum barbeque burger worh 8,20 Euro at 1:15PM. After we ate our lunch we went back to where our tour leader from the Philippines, Monty, told us.  We left the Leaning Tower place, rode again on a train-liked bus that brought us to where our tour bus parked. We left Pisa at 2PM and travelled again to Florence. The distance between Pisa and Florence is 83 kilometers.

While we were inside the bus, we prayed the Holy Rosary and it rained again on our way to Florence, Italy.

We reached Florence at around 3:20PM and our Mass would be at 4:45PM and out tour guide waited for us for a walking tour of the Old Town. Visit the Basilica of Sta. Croce, Duomo, and view the Baptistery and Giotto’s bell tower.. Before going to the Church we had a tour around the old city of Florence. Florence represents one of the most charming and important art cities in Italy; visited every year by thousands of tourists from all around the world. Florentia, this is its ancient name, is the town that marked the history of our country and of Europe, it’s no coincidence that Florence became, for a few years, the capital of Italy. Cradle of Italian language and culture, it represents the symbol of Renaissance as well, Florence experienced the greatest  splendor during the fifteenth and the sixteenth century in reason of its political power and of its rich cultural and artistic flowering.

During the Medici Dynasty and in particular during the Lordship of Lorenzo il Magnifico and Cosimo I, the town became one of the most important cultural poles of attraction in Europe. Florence has been inscribed on UNESCO’s prestigious World Heritage List, its historical town center gathers monuments, religious buildings, architectural works and gardens that are unique in the all world, designed by ingenious artists such as  Giotto, Brunelleschi, Michelangelo and many others. The Piazza del Duomo is the ideal starting point for those who wish to visit the cathedral, the magnificent Giotto’s Campanile, the baptistery and the Opera del Duomo museum.

Florence is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany and of the Metropolitan City of Florence. It is the most populous city in Tuscany, with 383,083 inhabitants, expanding to over 1,520,000 in the metropolitan area.

Florence was a centre of medieval European trade and finance and one of the wealthiest cities of the time. It is considered the birthplace of the Renaissance, and has been called “the Athens of the Middle Ages,” A turbulent political history includes periods of rule by the powerful Medici family, and numerous religious and republican revolutions. From 1865 to 1871 the city was the capital of the recently established Kingdom of Italy.

The Historic Center of Florence attracts 13 million tourists each year, and Euromonitor International ranked the city as the world’s 89th most visited in 2012, with 1.8 million visitors. It was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1982. The city is noted for its culture, Renaissance art and architecture and monuments. The city also contains numerous museums and art galleries, such as the Uffizi Gallery and the Palazzo Pitti, and still exerts an influence in the fields of art, culture and politics. Due to Florence’s artistic and architectural heritage, it has been ranked by Forbes as one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

Florence is an important city in Italian fashion, being ranked in the top 51 fashion capitals of the world; furthermore, it is a major national economic centre, as well as a tourist and industrial hub. In 2008, the city had the 17th highest average income in Italy.

We had our tour in the old city of Florence. Florence is known as the “cradle of the Renaissance: (la culla del Rinascimento) for its monuments, churches, and buildings. The best-known site of Florence is the domed cathedral of the city which we visited and had pictures, Santa Maria del Fiore, known as The Duomo, whose dome was built by Filippo Brunelleschi. The nearby Campanile (partly designed by Giotto) and the Baptistery buildings are also highlights. The dome, 600 years after its completion, is still the largest dome built in brick and mortar in the world.

According to our tour guide, many significant episodes in the history of art and political changes were staged here, such as: In 1301, Dante Alighieri was sent into exile from here (commemorated by a plaque on one of the walls of the Uffizi).

Until we reached Sta. Croce for our 4:45PM Mass but we arrived late at 5PM. Reconsideration was asked but the in-charge did not approve our motion for reconsideration and so we went to Grand Hotel Mediterraneo and checked in between 5:50PM and 6:35PM. Room 267 was assigned to me and Fr. Estong and waited for our dinner at around 7PM.

Thanks be to God, a good news was relayed to us that Bishop Gutierrez had already checked out from the hospital in Nice, France. He is staying in a monastery. According to the Bishop, he would meet us in Rome airport on the 19th of November, 2016.

img_20161014_175421-we-stayed-here-overnightAfter our dinner, at 8:30PM, we had our Mass in one of the halls of Grand Hotel Mediterraneo, Florence, Italy. After the Mass we rested for tomorrow’s activity. We were not able to make pasyal-pasyal in Florence due to heavy rain.

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A Pilgrimage to the Marian and Eucharistic Miracle Shrines of Western Europe

Date: 13OCT (Thursday) PADUA –VENICE ISLAND – PADUA. (Day 11)

No wake up call this morning by the Crowne Plaza Hotel here in Padua, Italy but our breakfast was at 7AM. After breakfast we prepared ourselves for our visit to Venice, Italy.

Venice is a city in northeastern Italy and the capital of the Veneto region. It is situated across a group of 117 small islands that are separated by canals and linked by bridges. These are located in the shallow Venetian Lagoon, an enclosed bay that lies between the mouths of the Po and the Piave Rivers. Parts of Venice are renowned for the beauty of their settings, their architecture, and artwork. The lagoon and a part of the city are listed as a World Heritage Site.

In 2014, 264,579 people resided in Comune di Venezia, of whom around 55,000 live in the historic city of Venice (Centro storico). Together with Padua and Treviso, the city is included in the Padua-Treviso-Venice Metropolitan Area (PATREVE), with a total population of 2.6 million. PATREVE is only a statistical metropolitan area without any degree of autonomy.

The name is derived from the ancient Veneti people who inhabited the region by the 10th century BC. The city was historically the capital of the Republic of Venice. Venice has been known as the “La Dominante,” “Serenissima,” “Queen of the Adriatic,” “City of Water,” “City of Masks,” “City of Bridges,” “The Floating City,” and “City of Canals.”

We left Crowne Plaza Hotel at 8:40AM bound for Venice Mestre Trochetto Pier. We reachedimg_20161013_093818 the pier at 9:25AM; from the sea port, at 9:40AM, we rode on a sailing boat that took us to Venice Island and reached Venice at around 10:08AM. The tour started with Lucia as our local tour guide for a walking tour starting at the Piazza San Marco, world-famous marble square lined with shops, charming cafes, and galleries. She explained the significance that surrounded Venice Island.  We visit the Doge’s Palace; Bridge of Sighs, and the magnificent Basilica of St. Mark with the mixtures of Byzantine, Romanesque, Gothic styles which reflects the history of Venice and ended at 12:05PM. The Basilica was built to honor the body of St. Mark brought from Alexandria in Egypt.

Then we went to a glass factory and were able to see how a glass was being made manually. And the rest of the afternoon before we went back to Padua was a leisure time. We had our lunch (the cost of my lunch was at 8,50 Euro in Café Lavena, San Marco, Venezia), and bought something T-shirts, key chains and others. And then at 2:40PM took the ferry back to Venice Mestre Trochetto Pier and return to Padua. We reached the pier at 3:05PM.

But this morning, when we proceeded to Venice Mestre Trochetto Pier from Crowne Plaza Hotel, we prayed our Morning Prayer and then Bible bullets were distributed and I got this one: “Happy are you when people insult you and persecute you and tell all kinds of evil against you because you are my followers,” (Matthew 5:11).


Sign at the door of the Basilica of Santa Giustina

We left the pier for Padua at 3:30PM; arrived in Padua at 4:10PM and started the tour at 4:40PM. We visited first the Basilica of Santa Giustina, which was built in the 6th century. Its present shape derives from construction in the 17th century. This basilica houses the remains of St.Justina of Padua (d. 7 October 304), the patron saint of Padua, and of other Christian martyrs of the city. The building, with its lavish decorations, was described in 565 in a Life of St. Martin written by Venantius Fortunatus. By the 10th century, the presence of a monastic community which served the many pilgrims who came to the basilica to pray to the saints whose relics were contained there is seen in the decision of the Bishop of Padua in 971 to place the community under the Rule of St. Benedict. It was here Christianity in Padua started.

The basilica complex was devastated in 1117 by a massive earthquake which wreaked havoc throughout northern Italy and Germany. After the basilica was rebuilt, excavations resumed and in 1174 the remains as that of Saint Luke the Evangelist was identified in 1177.

The huge Basilica of Santa Giustina dominates to the south of the Prato della Valle. The imposing brick church was built in its present form in the 17th century and is dedicated to Saint Giustina, the patron saint of Padua. Giustina was executed in the 4th century in Padua at the age of 16 and has her grave in the Basilica di Santa Giustina along with several other martyrs and Luke the Evangelist. As with most of the other major churches in Padua, the exterior façade is unfortunately not finished, but that only slightly diminishes the visual effect of the gigantic building with its eight domes.

Right of the main altar you can reach the Chapel of St. Massimo, from where you can enter corridor of the masses. From there, a small door branches off to the right into the chapel of St. Luke. Here lies Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Piscopia, the world’s first woman with a PhD. The old choir, which is adjacent to the major corridor, can be visited only with special permission.


Minor Basilica of St. Anthony of Padova, Italy

After visiting the huge Basilica of Santa Giustina, we walked all through to the the Pontifical Basilica of Saint Anthony of Padua (Italian: Basilica Pontificia di Sant’Antonio di Padova), a minor basilica in Padua, northern Italy. Although the Basilica is visited as a place of pilgrimage by people from all over the world, it is not the titular cathedral of the city, a title belonging to the Cathedral-Basilica of St. Mary of Padua. The basilica is known locally as “il Santo”. It is one of the eight international shrines recognized by the Holy See.

Construction of the Basilica probably began around 1232, just one year after the death of St. Anthony. It was completed in 1310 although several structural modifications (including the falling of the ambulatory and the construction of a new choir screen) took place between the end of the 14th and the mid 15th century. The Saint, according to his will, had been buried in the small church of Santa Maria Mater Domini, probably dating from the late 12th century and near which a convent was founded by him in 1229. This church was incorporated into the present basilica as the Cappella della Madonna Mora (Chapel of the Dark Madonna).

Near the main altar of the minor basilica, lies the tomb of Saint Anthony. Associated with many miracles, St. Anthony was so renowned for his preaching that in the Basilica are his preserved tongue and vocal cords that were discovered incorrupt, although the rest of his body had decayed after death.

Saint Anthony of Padua (ca. 1195 – June 13, 1231) also venerated as Saint Anthony of Lisbon, is a Catholic theologian, preacher, and one of the church’s most popular saints. He was born in Lisbon, Portugal as Fernando Martins de Bulhões to a wealthy family, and died in Padua, Italy.

Anthony’s life-long desire was to bring conversions of Muslims to Christianity. At about the age of 25, he set sail to begin his ministry, but fell ill shortly after arriving in Morocco and was forced to return home to heal. However, his ship was blown off course and Anthony landed in Sicily, where he discovered that he was also a brilliant preacher. Combining his skills with the gift of miracles, Anthony was recognized as one of the greatest foes of the heresies of his time. He converted many of these heretics, rich and poor, common and noble, to the faith, and was given the title “Hammer of the Heretics.”

Today, Saint Anthony of Padua is venerated today as one of the greatest Franciscan saints. Canonized in 1232, his Feast Day is June 13, and he is considered by the Catholic Church to be the patron saint of barren women, lost articles, the poor, and travelers.

After our visit to the minor basilica, we went back to the bus at 6:42PM; drove back to our hotel, Crowne Plaza, and arrived there at 7:42PM; fixed something, had our dinner and drank some wine because we didn’t have our Mass due to the non-availability of a room in the hotel. But it rained during our visit to the two basilicas in Padova, Italy.

The distance from Padua/Padova to Venice is 39 kilometers.

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A Pilgrimage to the Marian and Eucharistic Miracle Shrines of Western Europe

Date: 12OCT (Wednesday). NICE – PADUA. (Day 10)

A wake up call was made at 7AM; breakfast and luggage were at 7:30AM. The temperatureimg_20161012_084129 during this morning was at 2*C and the window of our hotel room was moistened.

After breakfast we went to the Basilica of the Assumption for our 9:30AM Mass which I presided. The Basilica is near to our hotel and just a few minute walk. After the Mass, together with Fr. Joemer Candido, we went to Misako and bought a bag worth 21,99 Euro.

We left Mercure Hotel, Nice, France at around 10:30AM bound for Padova (Padua), Italy the oldest city in northern Italy. While on our way to Padova, we prayed the Morning Prayer. After praying the Morning Prayer, Bible bullets were distributed and I got this one: “My child, hold on to your wisdom and insight. Never let them get away from you,” (Psalm 3:21). The bus stopped in a gasoline station (Total Access – Nice, France) and then left at 11:11AM. The distance between Nice, France and Padova, Italy is 544.2 kilometers (or more or less 5 hours and 40 minutes of driving).

From Nice, France to Padova, Italy we passed by Monaco. Monaco is a sovereign city-state and microstate, located on the French Riviera in Western Europe. France borders the country on three sides while the other side borders the Mediterranean Sea. Monaco has an area of 2.02 km2 (0.78 sq mi) and a population of about 37,800; it is the second smallest and the most densely populated country in the world. Monaco has a land border of 4.4 km (2.7 mi), a coastline of 4.1 km (2.5 mi), and a width that varies between 1,700 and 349 m (1,859 and 382 yd). The highest point in the country is a narrow pathway named Chemin des Révoires on the slopes of Mont Agel, in the Les Révoires Ward, which is 161 meters (528 feet) above sea level. Monaco’s most populous Quartier is Monte Carlo and the most populous Ward is Larvotto/Bas Moulins. Through land reclamation, Monaco’s land mass has expanded by twenty percent. Monaco is known as a playground for the rich and famous, due to its tax laws. In 2014, it was noted about 30% of the population was made up of millionaires, similar to Zürich or Geneva. But sad to note, Monaco was not included in our itinerary.

img_20161012_130216-thosbis-my-lunch-here-sy-autogrill-spa-ceriale-sud-before-paduWhile on our way to Padova, we passed by 13 tunnels up to Monaco; 6 tunnels up to the Italian boundary at 11:56AM. Another 57 tunnels before our stopover in an autogrill in Ceriale Sud at 1:54PM. From this Ceriale Restaurant we passed another 70 tunnels. The longest tunnel that we passed by was at around 2 kilometers. While on our way to Padova from this place, Monty, our tour leader shared broken marriage for 6 years. I admired of what he said: “Pag on fire yong isa, fire extinguisher naman yong isa.”

I noticed that only cargo trucks drivers were alone while traveling. There were no other assistants. Vacant lands were planted with trees. What a beautiful place.

We had another stopover in a place called Scaba SNC, Gredi Est at 4:53PM for our toilet break in a certain restaurant. And then we left this restaurant at 5:39PM bound for Padova/Padua, Italy.

After our stopover, several minutes after, we encountered traffic jam on the super highway because there were some road repairs made by the government. I remembered Manila because of this traffic jam. The traffic jam started at 6PM and ended at 7:52PM.

We are still on our road to Padova, Italy at 8:10PM. Our tour bus from Portugal had an aircon and at the same time a heater as well. The superhighway had lights. Every Italian word I encountered along the highway, I looked its meaning from the Italian dictionary in my cellular phone.

Fifty minutes after the traffic jam, another two tunnels we passed by.

img_20161012_212042-crowne-plaza-hotel-padua-italyWe arrived in Padova, Italy, in our hotel, at around 9:03PM. The name of the hotel was Crowne Plaza Hotel; checked in and have our dinner at 9:30PM with bola-bola and puree (potato), etc. But we were not able to have leisure time because we were tired. Just imagine ten hours of travel, minus the two hours of traffic and 1 and a half hour of lunch and merienda time.

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A Pilgrimage to the Marian and Eucharistic Miracle Shrines of Western Europe

Date: 11OCT (Tue). LOURDES – NIMES – NICE (Day 9)

Wake up call was made by Hotel La Solitude here in Lourdes, France at 5AM for our 6AM


Fr. Bonie Ampoyas presided the Mass

Mass. Our Mass was in Salle Sanctuaire of Hotel La Solitude and presided by Fr. Bonie Ampoyas. The Mass ended at 6:35AM and then we went back to our hotel room and put our luggage outside our room. Breakfast was at 7AM. Then we were at the hotel lobby at 7:50AM and left the hotel bound for Nice, France at around 8:20AM, enroute Nimes, France one of the most attractive towns in Mediterranean France. We drove along the harbor of the French Riviera to the city of Nice, often called as the “Queen of Riviera.”

Nice is the fifth most populous city in France and the capital of the Alpes-Maritimes département. The urban area of Nice extends beyond the administrative city limits, with a population of about 1 million on an area of 721 km2 (278 sq mi). Located in the French Riviera, on the south east coast of France on the Mediterranean Sea, at the foot of the Alps. Nice is the second largest French city on the Mediterranean coast and the second largest city in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azurregion after Marseille. Nice is about 13 kilometers (8 miles) from the principality of Monaco, and its airport is a gateway to the principality as well. The distance from Lourdes, France to Nice, France is 726 kilometers.

The area of today’s Nice contains Terra Amata, an archaeological site which displays evidence of a very early use of fire. Around 350 BC, Greeks of Marseille founded a permanent settlement and called it Nikaia, after Nike, the goddess of victory. Through the ages, the town has changed hands many times. Its strategic location and port significantly contributed to its maritime strength. For centuries it was a dominion of Savoy, and was then part of France between 1792 and 1815, when it was returned to Piedmont-Sardinia until its re-annexation by France in 1860.

The city’s main seaside promenade, the Promenade des Anglais (“Walkway of the English’) owes its name to visitors to the resort. For decades now, the picturesque Nicean surroundings have attracted not only those in search of relaxation, but also those seeking inspiration. The clear air and soft light have particularly appealed to some of Western culture’s most outstanding painters, such as Marc Chagall, Henri Matisse, Niki de Saint Phalle and Arman. Nice has the second largest hotel capacity in the country and it is one of its most visited cities, receiving 4 million tourists every year. It also has the third busiest airport in France, after the two main Parisian ones. It is the historical capital city of the County of Nice.

While on our way to Nice, Morning Prayer was prayed and was led by Group 3 of Fr. Estong. After the Morning Prayer, Bible bullets were distributed and I got this one: “Teach us how short life is, so that we may become wise,” (Psalm 90:12). A movie about the Lourdes’ apparition was shown while the bus was running. The title was: “My Name is Bernadette.” The line that was said by the journalist from Parish in the movie that touched me was this: “A miracle cannot be explained. It can be experienced.”

img_20161011_103932At 10:32AM the bus stopped in a restaurant in E. Leclerc for 15-minute toilet break and then at 11AM we left this restaurant bound for Nice, France. And then at 12:20PM we had a stopover in Total/Briochee Doree for our one hour lunch break. We left the restaurant at 1:35PM and continued our way to Nice, France.

While on our way to Nice, we passed by several places but we didn’t stop like: Toulouse, Beziers, Montpellier, Nimes, Marseille, Cannes, and then Nice, France. Supposed to be we have to have a stopover in Nimes but we were not able to do it because of time constraint. But we passed by Nimes at around 3PM. Again we had our 45-minute toilet break in Total Mka/Bufallo Grill at 4:42PM. And then left the place at a 5:30PM.

We arrived in Nice, france at around 7:30PM; checked in at La Mercure Hotel and room was Room 516. We went to La Ligure Restaurant for our dinner and went back to the hotel and rest at 9:15PM.

It was in Nice, France Bishop Dinualdo D. Gutierrez DD admitted in a hospital.


Mercure Hotel here in Nice, France

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A Pilgrimage to the Marian and Eucharistic Miracle Shrines of Western Europe

Date: 10OCT (Monday). LOURDES (Day 8)

This morning, the temperature was at 5ˑC. And then at 7AM (France time) was our


Mass at the apparition site here in Lourdes, France

breakfast time in Hotel La Solitude here in Lourdes, France. The breakfast was in a buffet style. And then at 8:10AM we walked to the apparition site, the Grotto of Massabielle (‘old mass’), the spot where the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to St. Bernadette Sobirous, a 14-year-old peasant girl of no significant educational experience, who was later canonized, and identified herself as, “I am the Immaculate Conception” for our 8:30AM Mass. Our Lady of Lourdes is a Roman Catholic title of the Blessed Virgin Mary venerated in honor of the Marian apparitions. But only to find out that another group of priests from Canada had the same schedule with us and one of them was the main celebrant. I and Frs. Estong and Bonie concelebrated the Mass. The Mass main celebrant was also the homilist. I read the concelebrant 1 part of the Mass. Frs. Bonie and Estong helped in the distribution of Holy Communion. Mass ended at around 9:10AM. I was blessed in concelebrating Mass especially that it was held at the apparition site (in the cave) where Mother Mary appeared to St. Bernadette Soubirous. I felt something which I could not explain. Is it the presence of the Lord God Jesus and His Mother, Mary?

Lourdes is a small market town in southwestern France, in the foothills of the Pyrenees mountains. It’s known worldwide for the Sanctuaires Notre-Dame de Lourdes, or the Domain, a major Catholic pilgrimage site. Every year, from all corners of the world, more than six millions visit the Grotto of Massabielle where, in the evening of February 11, 1858, the Virgin Mary, who was indescribably beautiful, appeared to a local woman named Bernadette who went to fetch some firewood with her sister and another companion, on a total of eighteen occasions. Although the Lady did not tell Bernadette her name when asked at first, she told her to return to the grotto. On subsequent visits, the Lady revealed herself to be the ‘Immaculate Conception’ (Que soy era Immaculada Concepciou) and asking that a chapel be built there. At first ridiculed, questioned, and belittled by Church officials and other contemporaries, Soubirous insisted on her vision.

This was a reference to the dogma of the Immaculate Conception which had been defined only four years earlier in 1854 by Pope Pius IX, stating that the Virgin Mary herself had been conceived without sin. Bernadette, having only a rudimentary knowledge of the Catholic faith, did not understand what this meant but she reported it to her parish priest, Father Peyremale. He, though initially very skeptical of Bernadette’s claims, became convinced when he heard this because he knew the young girl had no knowledge of the doctrine. The Lady also told Bernadette to dig in the ground at a certain spot and to drink from the small spring of water that began to bubble up. Almost immediately cures were reported from drinking the water. And yet the water has been shown through repeated testing to not have any special curative properties. Today thousands of gallons of water gush from the source of the spring, and pilgrims are able to bathe in it. Countless miracle cures have been documented there, from the healing of nervous disorders and cancers to cases of paralysis and even of blindness. “The estimate that about 4000 cures have been obtained at Lourdes within the first fifty years of the pilgrimage is undoubtedly considerably less than the actual number.” But the Roman Catholic Church has officially recognized 69 healings considered miraculous. During the Apparitions, Bernadette Soubirous prayed the Rosary. Soubirous tried to make the sign of the Cross but she could not, because her hands were trembling. The lady smiled, and invited Soubirous to pray the rosary with her. Soubirous tried to keep this a secret, but Toinette, her sister, told her mother. After parental cross-examination, she and her sister received corporal punishment for their story. Pope John Paul II wrote: “The Rosary of the Virgin Mary is a prayer with great significance, destined to bring fruits of holiness.”

Prior to the mid-19th century, the town was best known for the Château fort de Lourdes, a fortified castle that rises up from a rocky escarpment at its center. This constant stream of pilgrims and tourists transformed quiet Lourdes into the second most important center of tourism in France, second only to Paris, and the third most important site of international Catholic pilgrimage after Rome and the Holy Land.

Today Lourdes has a population of around 15,000 (2015), but it is able to take in some 5,000,000 pilgrims and tourists every season. With about 270 hotels, Lourdes has the second greatest number of hotels per square kilometer in France after Paris. Some of the deluxe hotels like Grand Hotel Moderne, Hotel Grand de la Grotte, Hotel St. Etienne, Hotel Majestic and Hotel Roissy are located here.

Pilgrims can drink or bathe in water flowing from a spring in the grotto.

Bishop Gutierrez decided not to attend today’s activity here in Lourdes, France because of what happened yesterday in Covadonga, Asturias, Spain. For me it was a good decision because the temperature was at 5ˑC.

After the Mass, our French tour guide, Cristiana, toured us around the area of apparition and explained to us many things. What surprised me was the fact that the uncorruptible body of St. Bernadette Soubirous was not in Lourdes but in Nevers, France, in a monastery chapel where she once a nun after the apparition. The tour guide told us also where to drink water and wash our face; the bathe site and then went to St. Bernadette Church. We then proceeded to the underground church, the Basilica of St. Pius X that could accommodate 25,000 people. The Basilica of Saint Pius X, informally known as the Underground Basilica, is a large Roman Catholic Church and minor basilica, located in the town of Lourdes, France. It is part of the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes. Lourdes is a major Catholic pilgrimage site and the Catholic Church. The Basilica of St. Pius X is the largest and most controversial of the Domain’s churches. It was completed in 1958 in anticipation of the enormous crowds expected in Lourdes for the centenary of the Apparitions. A modern, concrete building, it is almost entirely underground (part of the building lies beneath the Boulevard Père Rémi Sempé above


Inside the house of St. Bernadette Soubirous

After our visit to the underground church, we went to the house of St. Bernadette, her former house where she was born up to she was 10 years old at the time the girl saw visions of the Virgin Mary. The house is located at 2 Rue Bernadette Soubirous, the house of Bernadette’s parents includes a mill, kitchen, Bernadette’s bedroom, various objects, photographs, and the like. I was moved when I visited the house where Saint Bernadette was born and lived ten years in her childhood. The exhibition of the living condition of the happy family inside the house is well preserved: the wood mill of her father, the small kitchen, table, and chair. This is a place much worth of a visit. When their business went bankrupt, they transferred to a very small house. Bernadette was the eldest.

After our visit to the house of St. Bernadette, together with Fr. Bonie Ampoyas, Nathaniel and Darrel Caballero, we had our lunch at Hotel La Solitude restaurant and we ordered black rice faella and I also ordered Coca-cola.

After lunch, at 1:40PM, we went back to the apparition site for our taking a bath session. The place of bath opened at 2PM. We waited for several minutes. I prayed for my own healing, parents, families, and others whom I know.

After taking a bath, I went back to the hotel to get some Euro because I wanted to buy


Exposition and benediction in St. Pius X underground Basilica

some souvenirs of the place. I met Nathaniel Caballero when I was about to enter the hotel entrance. He wanted to attend the Eucharistic procession and exposition. And I told him to wait for me because I would like also to join. After which, I went down from my hotel room to the lobby and I and Nathaniel proceeded to attend the Eucharistic procession and exposition at the St. Pius X Basilica. The Eucharistic procession and exposition was presided by a bishop. Many were attended. And at 5:45PM it was finished and went out from the Church and went back to the apparition site because Nathaniel wanted to get some water; then went back to the hotel.

While on our way to the hotel, we looked for some souvenirs again and I bought a rosary bed with mother pearl worth 32,00 and then went back to the hotel and have some rest while waiting for our 7PM dinner.

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A Pilgrimage to the Marian and Eucharistic Miracle Shrines of Western Europe


This morning our breakfast was at 7AM and at the same time luggage out from our Room 214 of Gran Hotel Pelayo because we would proceed to San Sebastian leaving Covadonga. San Sebastian is a coastal city and municipality located in the Basque Autonomous Community, Spain. It lies on the coast of the Bay of Biscay, 20 km (12 miles) from the French border. The capital city of Gipuzkoa, the municipality’s population is 186,409 (2012), with its metropolitan area reaching 436,500 (2010). Locals call themselves donostiarra (singular), both in Spanish and Basque. The main economic activities are commerce and tourism, and it is one of the most famous tourist destinations in Spain.[6] Despite the city’s small size, events such as the San Sebastián International Film Festival have given it an international dimension. San Sebastián, along with Warsaw, Poland, is the European Capital of Culture in 2016. The distance between Covadonga and San Sebastian is 319.9 kilometers or at least 3 hours and 35 minutes of travel.

At 8:15AM we were at a cave. This cavern is closed to the sanctuary and is called the Our lady


Entrance of the Cave of the Our Lady of Covadonga

of Covadonga. At a spot close-by and protected by the Virgin Mary, the Christian troops opposed the Arabs. Providence favored the small, ill-equipped Christians in that battle of 722 and the victory gave inspiration and impetus to what came to be called the reconquest, although many centuries were to pass before Arabic rule was removed entirely from the peninsula. From this beautiful mountainous zone, follow a lovely route along the Cantabrian coast towards San Sebastian.

We prayed in this cavern the Morning Prayer as well as the Holy Rosary and then took pictures. Morning prayer and Rosary were led by Group 2, my group.


Covadonga de Santuario

After the Cave, we proceeded, to the Sanctuary of Covadonga for our Mass at 9:30AM. We started the Mass at 9:40AM and presided by Fr. Rey Joloro. Frs. Joemer and Bonie concelebrated. The homilist was Bishop Gutierrez who at that time experienced hypo-thermia or chilling because the temperature at that day was more or less 3 degrees Celsius. After the Mass, we went back to the hotel and waited for the bus; left the hotel bound for San Sebastian at 11:16AM.

While the bus was running, bible bullets were distributed and I got this one: “Cast your burdens on the Lord, and he shall sustain you,” (Psalm 55:22). Thank you Lord, for these your words and I cast my worry of Bishop Gutierrez’ situation to you.

What impressed me so much about Spain and Portugal were their road signs. For me, these road signs remind drivers on what to do and what to expect. Their roads are superb. After all, what Spain and Portugal were after was the safety of all. Even pedestrian lanes, drivers stop if there are pedestrians about to pass.


we were having our lunch here

We stopped in a restaurant (Capetore, S.A.U.) for our lunch at 12:35PM. Then left the restaurant at 1:45PM bound for Lourdes, France. According to Executive resources tour guide that we would arrive Lourdes, France between 7Pm and 8PM. But we didn’t pass by San Sebastian and stayed there for several minutes because according to the driver, if we passed by, we would arrive Lourdes, France at around 9PM or 10PM.

In going to San Sebastian and Lourdes, France, we passed by different tunnels or highways under mountains. We passed by Bilbao, Basque country and stopped at a gasoline station (CEPSA) and had our toilet break at 4PM. Then we left this place at 4:27PM bound for Lourdes, France.

We entered the border between Spain and France at around 5:06 PM. The police went up the bus and inspected our passports/visas. And then we left the border for Lourdes, France at around 5:11PM.

The France–Spain border was formally defined in 1659. It separates the two countries from Hendaye and Irun in the west, running through the Pyrenees to Cerberus and Portbou on the Mediterranean The Franco-Spanish border runs for 656.3 kilometers between southwestern France and northeastern Spain. It begins in the west on the Bay of Biscay at the French city of Hendaye and the Spanish city of Irun. The border continues eastward along the Pyrenees to Andorra. At this point, the small country interrupts the border between Spain and France for 63.7 km on the Spanish side and 56 km on the French side. Then it continues eastward to the Mediterranean Sea atCerbère in France and Portbou in Spain.

We stopped at a convenient store for 30 minutes at 6:30PM because according to the driver, we have to. We left the store at around 7:03PM bound for Lourdes, France. We arrived at Lourdes, France in our hotel (Hotel La Solitude) at more than 8:30PM. The distance between Covadonga and Lourdes, France is 526.4 kilometers (5 hours and 37 minutes); between Covadonga and San Sebastian is 319.9 kilometers (3 hours and 35 minutes); San Sebastian and Lourdes, France is 209.3 kilometers (or 2 hours and 16 minutes.

Some of us attended the Rosary and Candlelight Ceremonies of Lourdes, France at 9:30PM.

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