Last Christmas, 12 Filipino families opted to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ in the very place where He was born—Israel, the Holy Land. It was by no means an easy decision to make, since it meant added expense and being away from other relatives and friends.
But, taking a deep breath and hoping for the best, they joined Journeys of Faith’s Christmas in the Holy Land pilgrimage, with popular entertainer, Mitch Valdes, also in the large group.
She was invited to perform in a special Christmas show at Bethlehem’s Manger Square, and her fellow Filipino pilgrims, all bundled up against the cold, and enthusiastically cheered her on!
For many of the families, the 10 or so days spent in Lebanon, Israel and Egypt were a special effort to bond with each other, with their faith as the key factor that drew them even closer to one another.
Of course, they had a lot of fun traveling all over the place, but their spiritual activities and visits to religious sites that figured significantly in Jesus’ life were what made the extended journey truly special.
In fact, as some of them insightfully observed, it was a journey inward as much as it was a geographic adventure, since the holy sites they saw enriched and validated the faith they had.
But, how did the unique Christmas pilgrimage enhance family bonding? The family of famous sculptor Ramon Orlina and his wife, Lay-Ann, gave it two thumbs up, because they and their four children were all “present and accounted for,” unlike other trips when one or two weren’t able to go. Israel and Egypt had been on top of their bucket list for the longest time, so they loved it when the trip finally happened—and fulfilled their fervent expectations.
Another family of six that journeyed together was the Ong family, the members of which look forward to their annual trips together, because one child lives in Canada and another in Australia.
The mother was so pleased to see her children touched by the daily Masses, and the father insightfully saw the stores on the Via Dolorosa as signs of the many material distractions in life, and the way up to Golgotha as the loving way of Jesus.
Also numbering six, the Pineda family found the Holy Sepulcher and the Nativity scene as the most touching sites. Before signing up for the pilgrimage, the family decided to declutter their lives by giving away their material possessions, as a preparation for receiving spiritual nourishment and enrichment.
Similarly, numbering six members, the Gomez family traveled with a grandmother in a wheelchair, and her grandsons lovingly assisted her all the time.
Numbering four in all, the Siazon family found the trip special, because it was their first time to go on a pilgrimage—and, they vow, it won’t be the last!
The Venzuelas, numbering four, traveled with their 83-year-old grandmother. The young ones described themselves as “pilgrims by day and tourists by night,” and had a great time interacting with pilgrims in their age group! The four members of the Dimagiba family cited the pilgrimage chaplain, Bishop Raul Martinez, for making a big difference with his heartfelt homilies.
The Christmas pilgrims also included the Obinque, Rosete, Wong and Lardizabal families. The biggest group? None other than the family of Journeys of Faith tour organizers, Willie and Arlina Onglao, whose five kids all helped to make the pilgrimage a big success, while “struggling to bond with one another!”
Call 929-0144, or e-mail [email protected] for Journeys’ next family pilgrimage this Christmas.