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Virgin of Guadalupe

Fr. Carmelo O. Diola, SSL

Spaces of Hope


LAST Sept. 5 to 10, I did a pilgrimage to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. This was a humbling culmination of my silver anniversary celebration as an ordained priest with friends and three of my brothers. Two particular events in a totally-unexpected Marian pilgrimage last year led to the said pilgrimage.

“Wait till you go to Guadalupe. It is different,” my friend John told me in Lourdes. This sparked my imagination. And true enough, among other things, when we were in Guadalupe, John pointed out to me the more than one kilometer distance navigated by pilgrims on bended knees from the gate to the top of the Tepeyac Hill. What humble, long-suffering faith!

Another incident was my longing for my departed mother, Elena, and the thought during prayer: “Am I not your mother also?” I only found out last January in Tacloban from a Marian devotee that similar consoling words were uttered to San Juan Diego by the Virgin of Guadalupe  “No estoy yo aqui que soy tu madre?” (“Am I not here, I, who am your mother?”).

My gratitude to God for the pilgrimage knows no bounds!


One is the enjoyment of facts. Hernan Cortes is no longer just a busy street to my parish in Mandaue City. Montezuma is not just a lyric of a marching song. 1521 is no longer just the year Magellan came to our islands but also the year when Cortes vanquished Montezuma. Now I know Mexico has a 40 year head-start of sustained Spanish administration and influence if we take 1565, the arrival of Miguel Lopez de Legazpi in the Philippines as our starting point.

Legazpi had set sail from Mexico upon the orders of the representative of the Spanish king in Mexico. I also learned that it was a priest-secretary of Bishop Zumarraga, who first saw the holy image on the apron-like garment (“tilma”) of Juan Diego, who made a reproduction of it and sent it to the Philippines. Whatever became of it? So many connections between our country and Mexico. I felt at home.

I am awed at how God, through the Blessed Virgin Mary, penetrated and transformed an existing religious culture that encompassed every facet of the lives of the native population. God satisfied their search for truth and divinity – that had unfortunately led them to a very serious blunder regarding human sacrifice – by entrusting a heavenly image of Our Lady to them. It is so amazing how specific symbols spoke to a particular religious longing of the natives, like the roses inside the tilma that symbolize truth. That visual culture mirrors our own contemporary visual culture. There are opportunities for new evangelization here.

The image defies human explanation as to its origin and make, and has remained unscathed and looking fresh despite many years of candle smoke, acidity from a salty lake, accidental acid spillage, and the detonation of a bomb. It is an image made in and preserved by heaven.


The circumstances surrounding the apparition attract me. It is moving how Our Lady appears to a 57-year old man who responds to her terms of endearment with his own term of endearment (“Inday”). Juan Diego’s non-appearance before the Virgin (“nang-indian”) due to his uncle’s deteriorating health is amusing. Mary’s simple message is disarming. They are words of unconditional love:

“Listen and let it penetrate your heart…do not be troubled or weighed down with grief. Do not fear any illness or vexation, anxiety or pain. Am I not here who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not your fountain of life? Are you not in the folds of my mantle? In the crossing of my arms? Is there anything else you need?”

The Virgin Mother’s role as our companion continues. She touched 33 hearts to undertake the pilgrimage even as we promise to read the book entitled, “33 Days to Morning Glory”. Who could forget the testimony of my brother, Raddy, who received the exact amount of money from an unexpected source for the transportation expenses for him and his wife, Carole?

Pilgrimages are planned way ahead in advance. Ours took about three weeks. Initial estimated costs were prohibitive. Providence guided Xenia, a good friend, and my brother Neil to look into the details of the pilgrimage and make it affordable. Even our contact person and guide were handpicked by Our Lady of Guadalupe.


Who could forget the Mass for the birthday of the Blessed Virgin Mary, when Monsignor Diego Monroy, former basilica rector, led us in the Marian consecration that briefly unfroze the regimented air of the basilica to allow the Holy Spirit to give us a most special unction!? And, lest we experience the effects of “spiritual implosion”, I thank the Lord for our sheer humanity. This led to many humorous situations, not to mention being lost for about two hours with three other persons.

Besides my three siblings (Raddy, Carl, and Neil) and their spouses (Carole and Lorna), my closest friend in seminary (Fr. Jim) as well as Joy (whose husband Guido was my best friend from college) and daughter Alexys came along. Joy finally made the Guadalupe pilgrimage on her third attempt and despite weather problems.

What joy to be loved by Our Mother!

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