Nowhere else to turn to? No need to travel far for answered prayers.

“Just pray from the heart.”

This was the message, believed to be from the Blessed Virgin Mary, as spoken by a woman named Melanie during Mama Mary’s birthday last September 8, 1999.

The lady said, “If you have any problems, come to me … and, just pray from the heart. I will be the one to intercede for you with my Son.”

Our Rosary Cenacle group composed of four couples together with residents of Park 14 in Marikina Heights had just finished praying the Rosary and were preparing for a simple agape when I noticed Melanie in tears and distressed about what to do.

“I am hearing a woman’s voice and she has a message she wants conveyed to the group,” she stuttered. (Later, she explained that this was the first time she experienced that so she did not know what to do because she was afraid that people might think she was crazy.)

Convinced that she was not faking this, I called the attention of the group who immediately faced her as words continuously flowed from her supposedly from the Blessed Mother who thanked everyone gathered, especially the lady volunteers who clean the Marian Monument and its surroundings everyday.

That was twelve years ago. Today, we hear of many testimonials about how prayers were answered after praying from the heart here at the Marian Consecration Grounds located at Park 15 (Hardin ng Bayan) in Marikina Heights.

Answered prayers

One particular story stands out. My first cousin, Bong Buendia, was diagnosed with cancer by the country’s top oncologist in St. Luke’s Hospital on a Wednesday more than 6 years ago. We accompanied him and his entire family to the “shrine” on Saturday. We prayed the rosary around noon. He prayed from the heart as instructed. Two days after on a Monday, doctors could not believe that there was no trace of cancer. The best oncologist could not have committed a mistake, they thought. Thinking the second test was a fluke, it had to take three more tests before they finally acknowledged on the fifth time that the cancer was totally gone. That was a Saturday – a First Saturday!

Another testimonial comes from my dad, Teodoro. You know how lawyers are when it comes to religion. So, it was unusual coming from him. Especially, since he led a hedonistic lifestyle during his heyday. It was the first anniversary of the “shrine” then (June 2000) and he was pushing the cart where the image was during the procession. Suddenly, he experienced a pain so intense – because of his gout – that he thought of not continuing with the procession and to walk back instead where the Mass was going to be held. However, he was inspired to say internally, “Mama Mary, I will continue with the procession and offer the pain. But please, touch my life.” It was only three weeks after when he realized that he could make do without the maintenance medicines he took for gout and hypertension. My dad’s conversion happened at the age of 69. He is now 81. He has been praying the rosary 4 times a day and attending daily Mass ever since.

Word of mouth

There are times we chance upon strangers praying before the 3-foot image of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Many of them learned about the “shrine” from others whose prayers were answered after visiting the Marian Consecration Grounds.

One lady in particular said she came all the way from Mindoro. I asked her how she came to know about the “shrine” … a sick relative told them back home about how he was healed after visiting this place in Marikina.

It truly warms the heart to see people from all walks of life walking towards the image and expressing their devotion in many different ways. There is a sampaguita vendor who offers a few strands of what she sells and leaves it at the Marian Monument very early in the morning before she starts her daily routine.

There is a couple who bring their own cleaning apparatus all the way from Bgy. Parang, about 2 kilometers away, to wash and wipe the monument, clean the glass, and spruce up the landscaping. We got to know the man who was an ex-convict. You could see that what he was doing came from the heart and that he did it out of love. He passed away two years ago.

All these devotees … through word of mouth alone.

A gift from Fatima, Portugal

The image of the Immaculate Heart of Mary was a gift of Sister Lucia of Fatima, Portugal – the only living visionary of the 1917 apparitions and the miracle of the sun, at that time (June 1999). She sent ten images for installation in the Philippines through Grupo Da Imaculada which was based in Fatima. We were able to have one installed here in Marikina thru the kindness of Monsignor Josefino Ramirez, vicar general of the Archdiocese of Manila.

Grupo Da Imaculada is assisted by His Watchful Servants Foundation, Marian Foundation, and St. Joseph Apostolate Center in this particular shrine.

One of our spiritual directors, Fr. Lester Louis Niez of Alagad ni Maria, advised us to document all testimonials of answered prayers and miracles so it can eventually be submitted to the Bishop of Antipolo and to the Vatican.

It is so easy to get to this Marian sanctuary. It is just right across the C&B Circle Mall and diagonal to the St. Scholastica’s Academy campus in Marikina Heights.

You don’t have to go all the way to Piat, Cagayan or to the Our Lady of Manaoag Shrine in Pangasinan to pray for healing or any other petition. We have a place just right here in Metro Manila where prayers are easily answered … if one prays from the heart.

So why don’t you drop by one of these days?

Marikina City holds breast-feeding contest

 In line with the city government’s thrust of promoting breastfeeding as    practical and effective means of infant feeding, Marikina Mayor Del De  Guzman lauded Barangay Fortune officials for their Search for  Modelong Inang Nagpapasuso which is through their Barangay  Nutrition Council in cooperation with the City Health Office (CHO).

Aimed at creating awareness on the importance and benefits of  breastfeeding, the project will be held on August 31 at Brgy. Fortune    Covered Court in Champaca I, Brgy. Fortune, Marikina City .

Breastfeeding is recognized worldwide for its many benefits such as infant’s protection from illnesses, allergies, and obesity; improvement of child’s intelligence; and decrease in the mother’s susceptibility to stress, post partum depression, and certain types of cancer.

To qualify for the competition, interested parties must be a lactating mother with a six-month old infant, a legitimate resident of Barangay Fortune, and have signed up at the barangay health center, the Pugad Lawin Health Center , for breastfeeding-related activity monitoring.

De Guzman is inviting all qualified mothers of Brgy. Fortune to join in the competition.

“By joining in this competition, you are not only espousing your advocacy for breastfeeding; you also encourage other mothers in your community to do the same,” said De Guzman.

The winning mother will bag the title “Barangay Fortune Modelong Inang Nagpapasuso” and will receive certificate, cash prizes and special gifts.

Meanwhile, a breastfeeding summit where at least 100 lactating mothers from the said barangay shall also be held. The activity will feature simultaneous breastfeeding and lectures on the importance of breastfeeding.

Marikina offers free training to OFWs

The city government of Marikina through the Center for Excellence (Centex) is offering free computer training for Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) or their dependents or beneficiaries.

This program is in line with Mayor Del De Guzman’s Scholarship Program, “Tekbok sa Marikina ” in partnership with Informatics Computer Institute.

Courses available are Computer Hardware Servicing (64 hours), Computer Programming (78 hours), and Web Designing (75 hours).

The trainings shall be held at the Centex Training Room, 2/F Marikina City Hall, Brgy. Sta. Elena, Marikina City .

The opportunity is open to all OFWs or their dependents/beneficiaries that have the following qualifications: beneficiary of married OFWs such as the spouse or a child 20 years old and below, single, at least high school graduate; dependent/beneficiary of unmarried OFW such as sibling who is 20 years old and below, single, and at least high school graduate. The OFW must also be an active member of Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) to be make him or his dependent/beneficiary qualify.

Centex advised interested parties to submit the following requirements: For OFWS – 2pcs 2×2 ID photo, passport, and OWWA receipt of latest contribution;  for sibling of an OFW – Certificate of No Marriage Record (CENOMAR) of the OFW, 2pcs 2×2 ID photo, original and photocopy of diploma or transcript of records, and National Statistics Office (NSO) birth certificate; for spouse of an OFW – NSO copy of marriage certificate, 2pcs 2×2 ID photo, and original and photocopy of diploma or transcript of records; and for child of an OFW –  2pcs 2×2 ID photo, original and photocopy of diploma or transcript of records, and NSO birth certificate.

Interested parties may call telephone numbers 682-9280.

30-year-old bridge in Marikina undergoes repair

To prevent flooding in the nearby areas and to prevent it from creating further damage, reconstruction work on Lilac Bridge in Brgy. Concepcion Dos in Marikina City commenced this week.

The PhP14 M project which is being funded by the Office of Congressman Miro Quimbo entails demolition, dredging, and reconstruction which will be completed in December 2011.

Quimbo said reconstruction of the said bridge is necessary to prevent road accidents and flooding in the nearby areas.

“Based on the assessment made by the City Engineering Office, this 30-year old bridge is susceptible to collapse when too heavy trucks pass on it,” said Quimbo.

It was also discovered that a huge pile of mud and trash have accumulated below the bridge clogging Balanti Creek and impeding its natural flow.

Quimbo disclosed that there is a plan to elevate the reconstructed bridge to increase its carrying capacity for a smoother flow.There is also a plan to put a pump unit below the bridge in case of flooding in the area so water can be easily discharged elsewhere. Concrete barriers shall also be erected at both sides of the bridge for the safety of pedestrians.

Along with this, Quimbo appeals to all residents to avoid throwing garbage in the waterways.

“Instead of dumping garbage in the creek, the residents must help the government clean our waterways and clear it of obstructions,” Quimbo added.

The target date for the re-opening of the bridge is December 22, 2011

National Family Planning Month in Marikina

As part of the National Family Planning Month celebration this August, the city government of Marikina through the City Health Office (CHO) will offer various family planning services to the residents of Marikina.

The CHO will offer aforementioned free services on a one-day celebration on August 19, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the 5th Floor of the Healthy City Center, Shoe Ave., in Brgy. Sto. Niño.

Services that will be provided are surgery and post-operation medication for bilateral tubal ligation for women, and non-scalpel vasectomy for men. Aside from the aforementioned, the CHO will also offer free intra-uterine device insertion service for residents who choose such type of contraceptive method.

Also on the said occasion, a free cervical cancer screening service will be offered for sexually-active female residents.

According to City Health Officer Dr. Alberto Herrera, it is important for the couples to decide whether they will be using the artificial or the natural method in family planning.

“Whatever decision they’ve decided on, the CHO offers free consultation and services for both methods. It is also important that the couples know each method’s positive and negative results,” Herrera said.

For queries on family planning services, interested individuals may inquire at telephone numbers 942-2359.