When the Lord calls you to a specific vocation, you have but one choice -- obey. This is what happened when a friend, sister Zelfa Fabregas, decided to enter the religious life as a Carmelite nun in Lipa Carmel. She entered the Carmelite Monastery as an observer for 3 months. I don’t know if she personally chose the date when she entered, but if she did, she chose the perfect date -- May 31, 2009. In the old liturgical calendar, May 31 is the feast of Our Lady of Mediatrix of All Graces. As we all know, the Carmelite Monastery in Lipa is also the place where the Blessed Mother is believed to have appeared to a young local girl who was newly admitted in that monastery.
The Fabregas family together with Bro. Marwil Llasos on their way to Lipa
And so that day, the Fabregas Family together with Bro. Marwil Llasos, a close friend who also happens to be the spiritual director of the praesidium in the Legion of Mary where sis Zelfa belongs to, headed to Lipa to accompany sister Zelfa in her admission to the Monastery. Bro. Mars asked me if I could join them and I readily agreed. At first, I thought it was just another pilgrimage to a Marian site that their praesidium is making but when bro. Mars told me that sister Zelfa is entering the monastery that day, I became even more excited to come. I went to Lipa as quickly as I could. I arrived there shortly after the Fabregas family, just in time for lunch. We were delighted over the sumptuous meal that the monastery staff prepared. Bro. Mars asked me if I brought my camera --- Oooops! I forgot. Hmmm, I had a funny feeling that bro. Mars already sensed that we will be needing a camera for a very important event that was yet to unfold before all of us. Good thing bro. Joel brought his’.
Sister Zelfa and family having lunch at the monastery's refectory
After lunch, we hurried to the Church to attend Mass. It was celebrated by Fr. Melvin Castro, a prominent figure in the Pro-life Advocacy movements and one of the leading proponents of the Apparition in Lipa. After the Mass, I and bro. Mars approached Fr. Melvin for a souvenir picture taking. Fr. Melvin whispered to Bro. Mars that the visionary of the Lipa apparitions is present that day. We were surprised to know that the Visionary, Sr. Teresing Castillo, was the little charming lady behind us! Our eyes opened wide and we were speechless the moment we knew of her presence. She was right there behind us! It felt like the heavens opened and the angels started to blow their trumpets in a heavenly harmony!
Me, Fr. Melvin Castro, Sr. Teresing Castillo, and Bro. Mars
So that’s what the camera is for. We took some pictures with her, said a little prayer, then waved goodbye to her. That was really wonderful! I told Bro. Mars that it was like seeing the seers of OL of Fatima or St. Bernadette in person! He joyfully nodded in agreement.
The time came for sister Zelfa to enter the Monastery. We anticipated it to be a dramatic event so I and Bro. Mars decided to give the family a little privacy by staying outside. To our surprise, Sister Zelfa requested us to be present in the event. We went inside to witness that painful but fulfilling episode of her life. We were happy to know that the whole family, by then, was ready to give their blessing to Zelfa. The Mother Prioress opened the door to the convent to receive their new observer. It was a double jackpot for us because as we were rejoicing for sister Zelfa’s entry to the monastery, we were also lucky to have the chance to view once more the apparition site. The last time we went to carmel, we were also given the chance to see the garden where the Blessed Virgin appeared but only from afar.
Sister Zelfa when she was being admitted by the Mother Prioress of the Monastery. Notice the garden at the background. It is the place where the Blessed Virgin appeared to Sr. Teresing.
We quickly took a picture of it, although the mother prioress was a little bit uneasy with the idea. The picture was too dark that the garden was merely visible. This time, the view was much clearer and the grills were opened. Bro. Joel prepared to take a picture of sister Zelfa’s reception to the convent with the apparition site as the background but suddenly --- toot toot toot, battery empty. Of all the shots, why in this one did the battery go empty?? Bro. Joel tried again but to no avail. Maybe it’s the Blessed Virgin’s way of telling us that she prefers everything about the apparitions to be private to the nuns until the church finally approves of it. And I think that's not very far from now. We said our goodbyes to sis Zelfa then we left Carmel, Lipa.
On our way home, we decided to drop by at a Capuchin-run retreat center also in Lipa.
It is also where a capuchin seminary is located. You can see there its distinctly Franciscan touch because of the emphasis in nature. The garden there is a paradise on earth! Unfortunately, it was raining hard so we weren’t able to stroll around the park. We visited the chapel instead.
The Mama's boys
We prayed there for a while, took picture, then we went back home. It is really wonderful to experience Lipa.