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Reflections: A personal spiritual journey
Over a Cup of Tea
Heidi M. Pascual
Publisher & Editor
2006 Journalist of the year
for the State of Wisconsin

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As a Lagunense, I am very proud and honored to be part of the larger faith community that hosts the recently
designated National Shrine (Pambansang Dambana) of San Antonio de Padua in the town of Pila, province of
Laguna. This town and its Roman Catholic Church have so much history that just a first look at them would bring
one back to the Filipino Spanish ancestry.

Ferdinand Magellan, the Portuguese navigator who worked for the Spanish crown when he “discovered” my
country in March 16, 1521 and named it “Philippines” after King Philip of Spain, brought with him friars who quickly
converted the natives to Christianity. And the rest was history. The Philippines became the only Christian nation in
Southeast Asia.

According to historical records, the first missionaries in Pila were Augustinians, but later replaced by Franciscans
who established “Villa de Pila” and built a church made of cane and dedicated it to St. Anthony of Padua
as early as
rending pleas to the Lord, Mama Mary, and St. Anthony…and then the miracle happened. Marcus’ doctors were in awe; he recovered, as if Marcus
went to sleep for almost two weeks and woke up hungry for real food! Today, Marcus is back to his “old” self competing with other scholars at the
Philippine Science High School!

Then last September, one of my daughters-in-law, Diana Diaz, was diagnosed with thyroid cancer after doctors examined her neck lumps via
biopsy and blood tests. Surgery was scheduled, and our family immediately raised funds to cover her medical expenses. While all these things
1578. The Franciscans also established the second printing press in the country which published Vocabulario de la Lengua Tagala, a dictionary
that facilitated the evangelization of the Tagalog region. Thus, the role played by the Franciscan fathers of that period was strategic and significant
in converting our ancestors in Laguna and neighboring provinces into Christians.

To this day, the town of Pila still boasts of a number of homes built during the Spanish time, repaired and restored to their original architectural
I live in Santa Cruz, the capital town next to Pila, and we also have our own church
dedicated to Mother Mary and her Immaculate Conception. In my youth, I was this church’
s organist and choir soloist. After retiring and going back to my province, I started going to
my town’s church. It hasn’t changed that much since high school in terms of structure
although a bit wider, but of course, the people in it, have. And perhaps, including myself.

Then one incident happened.

It was very early Monday, around 3 a.m., and my youngest son Dennis, who, together with
his two sons, spent the weekend in my home, was about to start his car to go back to
Quezon City in Metro Manila, because it was his kids’ school day, when the metal part of
his car key suddenly disappeared from its holder. We combed the area surrounding his
car, the inside of the car, the porch where his bags were placed, the garden and its grass
and plants around the parking place, even inside the house, but we didn’t find what we
were looking for. After more than five long hours of futile searching, and with my son
obviously tired and angry because his sons would miss their classes, I remembered
what my late mother taught me: “Anything lost can be found by praying sincerely to San
Antonio de Padua.” So I prayed hard, and in so doing, I made a promise. I will be a
devotee of Saint Anthony and start going to “his” church, which is in Pila, Laguna.

The miracle then happened. My teary eyes saw a shining metal under the porch seat
which I had previously swept clean!

This incident was only one of the many other miracles in my life that soon followed after I
have regularly attended the special Tuesday masses dedicated to Saint Anthony of
Padua in Pila.

Last July, my grandson Marcus was confined in the ICU of St. Luke’s Medical Center for
more than a week because of a deadly Dengue strain. His blood platelet went down to 8,
was hallucinating, and his doctors were almost speechless, knowing fully well that
Marcus’ survival wasn’t certain, despite 13 bags of red blood, plasma and platelets
injected into his system. Prayers were our only weapon against the deadly illness that
has struck and claimed the lives of many Filipino kids during the period. I was there the
whole time my grandson was fighting for his life. It took me
days and nights of heart-
Top Left: Frontal shot of the National Shrine of St. Anthony of
Padua; Above: A Memorial Marker declaring the Parish
Church as a National Shrine
There are many other
miracles – big and small --
that have been happening
not only to me and my
family but also to my
friends and relatives. From
the gifts of good health,
good friends, successes
in all undertakings,
personal safety, and happy
occasions to ability to
hurdle various challenges
in life, I realize I have been
so blessed.

At this point in my life, I am
focusing not on earthly
matters anymore, but on
strengthening my faith. My
spiritual journey has
begun. I have been
apologizing to the Lord for
being inactive in this area
for so long, but I know He
understands. Now that my
kids are all grown up and I
am alone, it’s high time to
focus on a spiritual journey
that will highlight my love
for my Creator and His
intentions for creating this
soul. In so doing, I also
aim to be a strong
advocate and devotee of
the Virgin Mary and St.
Anthony of Padua, my
powerful intercessors up
there in heaven.
were going on, I did a nine-Tuesday novena to St. Anthony, for Diana’s successful operation and healing,
pleading for her life because her two children are too young to lose a mother. The fear of losing someone
so significant and important in the family was so real I had sleepness nights because of doubts that  my
prayers were not worthy enough to be heard. But my strong faith and persistence worked wonders. After
Diana’s surgery in November, her doctors biopsied the lumps taken from her neck. The result was
amazing: Zero Cancer! This miracle is truly a gift to our family this Christmas.
Top right: The altar of the church
Middle: Image of St. Anthony of
Right: Old bells of the original