eastwind journals05 Jun 2016 12:26 am

OUR LADY OF POONBATO – a pilgrim center risis

A Pilgrim Center Rises
eastwind journals 184


By Bernie Lopez


Our Lady of Poonbato has its genesis in the community of semi-nomadic Aetas, living since pre-history in the rainforests of the once-angry volcano of Mt. Pinatubo in Zambales, Philippines. Today, the devotion to Ina Poonbato (Our Lady of the Stone Tree) has grown rapidly from an ancient tribal legend into a resilient national pilgrim center, adopted by both Catholics and Aglipays coexisiting in this once-sleepy village of Poonbato. Noted as a healing center, it is now slowly evolving into a global pilgrim center after Saint John Paul II blest a statue of Ina in 1985.


The Miracle of the Helicopter


When Mt. Pinatubo erupted in 1991, Sister Raquel Reodica, RVM (Religious of the Virgin Mary), a Catholic nun noted as the “cancer healer of the Lord”, visited their mission house in Poonbato, Botolan, Zambales, Philippines. As the RVM sisters were helping to rescue the Aetas, they found the five-foot statue of Ina Poonbato buried in lahar up to the shoulders (see photos). They tried to extricate it, digging around the lahar, but it would not budge.


The statue of Ina imbedded in lahar at the bank of Botolan river after the Mt. Pinatubo eruption.


Sister Raquel asked a colonel if his helicopter could possibly extricate the statue. The colonel said it was impossible for the helicopter to lift a heavy cement statue. Sister Raquel insisted, “Just try, colonel. Nothing to lose.” Finally, he gave in, instructing the pilot to abandon the job if it was too heavy. The helicopter extricated the image with ease. The colonel ran up excitedly to Sr. Raquel, “Sister, it’s a miracle. The pilot says the helicopter weighing scale recorded ‘zero weight’.”


The Mustard Seed


“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.” Matthew 13:31.


Like the parable of the mustard seed, symbolic of God’s kingdom, growing into a giant tree (Matthew 13:31), the devotion to Ina Poonbato had humble ethnic beginnings back in the late 17th century, but slowly grew into a national pilgrim center. Sisters Babie Hilario and Joyce Fablos at the Catholic shrine report that in the past few years, pilgrims have soared, coming from as far as Bataan, Ilocos, Metro-Manila, Bulacan, San Pedro in Laguna, Dasmarinas in Cavite, San Isidro in Laguna. Sister Babie estimates that in last feast day on January 23-24, 2016, about 12,000 to 14,000 pilgrims converged in Poonbato, based on an overflowing attendance in 14 masses in a single day.


Last March 4, the Mayor of Gumaca in Quezon led dozens of pilgrims to Poonbato. He vowed that, if his son would pass the board exam, he would return as a pilgrim in gratitude. On March 11, he indeed came back. His son passed the board. He brought many replicas of Ina (mother) to Gumaca, spreading the good news to the town. There are many reports from both Catholics and Aglipays of prayers granted – the sick being healed, the childless having children.

Evening procession at Botolan, Holy Week 2016.


The mustard seed promises to go global. Many Filipino devotees in the US and EU have replicas of Ina. There are devotees today in Filipino communities in the US and EU, having replicas of Ina. Perhaps it is because, back in October 1985, Pope John Paul II blest an image brought to the Vatican by the late Rosellyn Magsaysay, wife of Zambales ex-Gov. Jun Magsaysay. Rosellyn was Ina’s instrument in spreading the devotion towards a Global Marian Pilgrim Center by promoting the devotion to Filipino communities in her many trips to the US and EU.

Saint John Paul II blesses the statue of Ina brought to the Vatican by Roselynn Magsaysay in 1985.
Oral History
Franklin Narciso, an Aglipay, is a reported direct descendant of the Aeta chieftain Apang (Chieftain) Djadig, who ‘discovered’ the image of Ina back in the 17 century. This is precious oral history of the birth of Ina. Except for small details, Sisters Babie and Flor confirm the story. Franklin is the caretaker of the Aglipay church as of this writing. A small group of local families manage the Aglipay church.
Franklin relates that there was a drought then, and Djadig, a noted hunter, went out to hunt to feed his hungry family. Finding no prey, he rested and slept under a tree with huge rocks (hence Poonbato, meaning ‘tree stone’). He was awakened by the voice of a lady who said, “Do not to be afraid. Go to the side of a mountain. If you catch a deer, come back to me.” (According to a Catholic document, the lady simply said, “Take me home with you.”)
Franklin Narciso, surviving kin of Apang Djadig who discovered the statue of Our Lady in the 17th century, is the source of oral history of Ina.
Ina Poonbato has an extensive wardrobe. Her dress is changed weekly.


Djadig obeyed. When he came back to the tree, there was an elegant wooden statue of the lady, which he brought home, forgetting about the deer in his excitement. His wife was angry because he failed to bring home food. She threw the statue into a fire, and the house was burnt to the ground, but the statue was not damaged. Instantly, the wife had a lingering skin disease, and when she caressed the image of Ina, she was healed. Apang Djadig built a grotto for Ina and announced to his tribe that she had healing powers. True enough, many were healed. They held an annual feast for Ina, their healer.


When the Spanish Augustinian Recoletos arrived in 1736, they took the statue and named it Nuestra Senora de la Paz y Buenviaje, (Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage). The Aetas killed the priests and retrieved the statue. The Recoletos made a replica of cement, reportedly the one Sr. Raquel retrieved from the lahar, and which reportedly stands today in a grotto behind the Catholic church (see photo). Then the story gets blurred how the devotion proliferated through the centuries.
The original statue as it stands today at the Poonbato Catholic Church, rescued from lahar by Sr. Raquel Reodica, RVM.


Interestingly, at the onset, there was no competition between Aglipays and Catholics. They shared the same church and took turns in their rituals. The Catholics later built its own present-day shrine. Today, pilgrims visit both Aglipay and Catholic churches, symbol of Marian ecumenism. Today, Ina is the mother of Aglipays and Catholics, of Aetas and non-Aetas.


The devotion to Ina now revolves around a pilgrim center that promises to be global, reaching out to Filipino communities in the US and EU. Like Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico, Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage is of ethnic origin. eastwindreplyctr@gmail.com



eastwind memoirs21 May 2016 02:33 am

THE ART OF DRIFTING eastwind wings and wanderlust

The Art of Drifting
eastwind memoirs 13
version 2
by Bernie V. Lopez


This is the 13th excerpt from the book Wings and Wanderlust. I discovered the art of drifting back in the 70s. I was lucky to escape New York City, a spiritual desert that left me empty. I embarked on an adventure of a lifetime that I called eastwind, hitchhiking 25,000 kilometers for 3 years, drifting through 18 countries in Europe and North Africa.

It was a mind-boggling heart-rending storm-chasing experience that changed me dramatically, every fiber of my soul. It was a violent hurricane and gentle breeze all at once.

Drifting is addictive. I have met people who have been on the road for 20 years. I did only 36 months and it was so filling and intense, I needed to stop. For me, drifting was only a ‘pro­cess’, a spiritual phase, a preparation for a vocation or a career, a key to self-discovery. But there were a few rare ‘extremists’, the ‘hard core’, the ‘professional drifters’ who made it a way of life.

The art of drifting and self-discovery is based on things which are many times against everything we learned in school. The Brain Matrix below explains. The right brain is the poet in you. The left brain is the engineer in you.

Click photo to blow up.

Cover of the book Wings and Wanderlust,
with critiques from Ateneo philosophy students.

Order the book – email eastwindreplyctr@gmail.com.
when you enter the dark forest
good and bad things lurk
to make and break your soul
take the chance, you will not regret it
darkness and light will encompass you
make the Lord your beacon
gather strength in His grace
and everything will fall into place
right brain
left brain
play piano by ear
pictures, vision, ideas
final goal
no rules
schooled piano
read notes
words, grammar, vocabulary
break up
one at a time
the pendulum swung from structured to unstructured
order to chaos, completeness to vacuum
sequential to random, steps to non-steps
programs to non-programs
right brain to left brain
in all the absurdity there was meaning
in all the meaning there was absurdity
Every­one has a left and right brain. The art of wings and self-discovery belongs to the right brain. It is therefore important to make the right brain dominate your actions and decisions while on the road. Other­wise, you will not attract magical experiences by chance, you will find yourself more elusive, and you may remain in a whirlpool or vicious circle of caution and disci­pline.

But there must be balance, like Yin and Yang, like light and darkness. You cannot survive the whirl­wind if you are totally right-brained. Complete abandon to the whirlwind is not practical. There are limits to ‘un-planning’.

The right brain mysteriously senses danger but when it is there, the left brain must plan a course of action to avoid that danger. Left and right brains complement each other. We know the meaning of dark­ness only because we know the meaning of light and dark­ness is the absence of light. Light and darkness are bound together and is manifested in the lights and shadows on a face. We do not see anything if it is white on white or black on black. We see everything if it is white on black or black on white.

to be idle is not evil
you must be empty so you can be filled
nothingness complements fullness
they are cosmic partners like yin and yang
like light and darkness yielding shadows and figures
when no thoughts enter your mind
that is the time you discern your being
you become aware of your fullness
be the undisturbed water in a pool
as smooth as a mirror
that you may see yourself clearly
Finally, wings and self-discovery are a form of education beyond one’s wildest dream. I compare it to a doctorate but only much more. A doctorate degree can be an arm chair affair, vicari­ous, book-bound. Its wisdom is theoretical and of the mind. Drifting is sensual. Its wisdom is experiential and of the heart. I can still smell the fried fish in Tetouan, Morocco. I can hear the distant peal of sheep bells in the Portuguese countryside near Fatima. I can still feel the sting of fine grain of Sahara sand on my face.

Scattered excerpts

Fellow drifters from Mauritius at Pisa, Italy. Note the author’s eastwind sweater.


all is darkness, all is silence
suddenly, a nova blinds the eyes
thunder rapes the ears
all is darkness, all is silence once again
My general plan was to head south for winter where it was warmer. I was on a general direction towards southern Spain, that was all. Nothing speci­fic. My right brain was functioning. That was good. But my left brain kept bobbing up. It was a product of my programmer’s time frame, quick, short and with no orienta­tion to linger, overly conscious of efficiency. I was still a green­horn as an adventurer. Order was pullng me down. I needed chaos. As soon as I saw a place, I moved.

Drifting does not hurry. It lingers so one can absorb people and places more deeply. Drifting is precisely defying the regularity of nine to five schedule and programmed city life. Tourists who have no time have to hurry and cover a lot of ground in a short time. Time frame is a product of lifestyle. But you can change your time frame by changing your lifestyle.

I was starting to avoid the big cities because they posed more effort to get in, seek complex tourist informa­tion, then get out. It was more complex, more maps and streets to study, more for the left brain. The people in the cities were also more busy and colder. The thing was to simplify. The countryside and villages of Europe were more edible to me. The people were also more warm and had more time to talk. Quiet, no hustle and bustle, the Old World in its rural splen­dour was nice, more for the right brain.
From Faro, I headed  for Vila  Franca de Xira  to see  the bulls.  They gave me a good tip. This time, I had to make it on a specific date. It was a time to be prompt. I couldn’t miss it. My left brain took over. I made sure I made it on time even though I was hitch­ing. I arrived at Xira after noon, just in time for the bulls. In the evening, the right brain was in charge. All the houses offered grilled sardinas frescas and agua pe (cheap red wine ) to passers-by.  I was drunk with joy. Alone, I slept in the woods, thanking the Lord for the gift of serendipity.

Robert Frost wrote –
the woods are lovely dark and deep
but I have promises to keep
and miles to go before I sleep
eastwind writes
the woods are lovely dark and deep
and i have promises to skip
and on the roadside until dawn i sleep
The best medicine for loneliness or boredom on the road was the road itself, I was starting to learn. Pain and loneli­ness vanished instantly when the excitement of the road emerged, when I looked towards the horizon. This would happen many times, Madrid, Canary Islands, Zurich. Whenever I felt lonely, I ran away from it by achieving the speed of light. Motion was the best friend of the drifter. That was the advan­tage of wings. You can run anytime and to anywhere. You can run away from pain, at least for now, not forever.
I lived in a seashore cave for a month in Lanzarote, Canary Islands. No electricity. I gathered a ton of discarded  candle drips from the garbage, re-melted it in 25 sardine cans. At night, one could see my cave glow from the outside. Every other night, I invited 8 other backpackers living in tents and other caves to my ‘party’. I served gofio, crude hot chocolate. My cave was the biggest and the brightest and the center of the Universe.


hitchhiking requires both left and right brains
left brain for the physical
right brain for the spiritual
miss one and you miss the other
it’s all or nothing


By the time I reached Barcelona from Andorra, I was completely trans­formed from my New York self. I was ready for the world, ready for Spain which colonized my country for three hundred years. Now, I was bold and daring. I was begin­ning to realize the importance of not planning and of walking aimlessly as the best form of drift. My nascent right brain was swell­ing and constricting my programmer’s left brain.

Getting lost in crowded cities became a habit… Athens, Rotterdam, Copenhagen. Once you got the hang of it, it was great, a powerful tool to absorb new places and new people. I drifted aimlessly, not knowing where to go but having the gut feel where to go. Discovering new places this way was better than a planned cerebral organized map-based or book-based tour. You have no expectations. You are not looking for a place a book mentions. Your left brain is recedes. Your right brain swells. You are thus surprised at seeing things. Later on, after another six months, I would expand unplanned city travel to unplanned country travel. I would hitch without knowing where to go. The essence of drift is the right brain. And I discovered that – better than discovering magical places is discovering magical people.
for the new adventurer danger is its own end
for danger is a deeply moving experience
but danger is a double-edged sword
one blade is the razor’s edge of excitement
the other blade is the razor’s edge of disaster
one has to make a choice
whether to take the tight-rope walk
whether to take the one giant leap
into the abyss leading to nowhere and everywhere
The economics of drifting is your left brain function­ing. No money no honey. It is a good complement to your right brain which takes care of beautiful sunsets, exhilarating roller coaster rides and the magic of the road.
20 long years after eastwind, I wrote from sheer memory the book Wings and Wanderlust (The Art of Discovering Your Inner Self). It took me two weeks of frenzied ‘stream of consciousness’ to finish the book, sleeping an average of 2 hours every night. I feared that if I stopped, I would lose momentum. It took me one year to refine and edit it. The book is a mix of adventure anecdotes mixed with philosophical verses.

ORDER THE BOOK – email eastwindreplyctr@gmail.com


08 – FILIPINOS AS GLOBAL MUSICIANS Leidseplein, Amsterdam
07 – A SWEDISH DAMSEL CALLED OLGA Canary Islands, North Africa
06 – THE 25,000-KM 3-YEAR TREK eastwind overview
04 – THE BEDOUIN GIRL Tetouan, Morocco
03 – PILGRIMAGE TO FATIMA the 7-day 80-km hike, Portugal
02 – BRAWL IN A PORTUGUESE BAR Vila Franca de Santo Antonio, Portugal

Click photos to blow up


eastwind journals30 Apr 2016 12:04 am

TOXIC MAYNILAD WATER urgent consumer advisory

Maynilad admits ‘high manganese level’ in its Laguna Lake raw water supply
eastwind journals 182
By Bernie V. Lopez


Consumers in the southern concession area of Maynilad (Alabang and vicinity) are advised –
not to drink tap water or use it to wash rice or cook soup or brew coffee
because of “high manganese level in the raw water supply” from Maynilad’s Laguna Lake source, as admitted by a Maynilad letter to consumers (see their letter below). Maynilad advised the use of cloth filter, implying that their state-of-the-art water treatment plant at Putatan indeed failed to filter manganese.


MAYNILAD LETTER TO CONSUMERS click photo to blow up and read


Manganese poisoning involves –
This urgent advisory is being sent to consumers because Maynilad’s advisory is insufficient. They simply tell consumers to put a cloth filter on their tap, and/or let tap water stand for a few hours to let allow manganese sediments to settle at the bottom. They did not say if they can fully filter manganese dissolved in water. These are naïve solutions from a prestigious utility which promises safe clean water.
Maynilad has not given vital data, like current levels of toxicity, DOH allowable limits for humans, effects and symptoms of manganese poisoning, and if the Maynilad treatment plant can really fully filter out heavy metals like manganese dissolved in water. They said their water supply is “still within the parameters set by the Philippine Standards for Drinking Water” without giving quantitative figures.

The Maynilad letter blames the current drought and El Nino “causing more sediments such as manganese … to enter our water treatment facility”. Putatan supplies 100 million liters a day of water to less than half a million consumers.

There are hundreds of factories (circa 350 in the 90s) which throw toxic wastes in Laguna Lake, but get away with it by simply paying an “environmental fee” to the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLDA), amounting to millions per year. It is not known if LLDA uses the money for environment clean up. Water sampling conducted about twenty years ago revealed the presence of about 30 toxic heavy metals in Laguna Lake, which is the largest but shallowest lake nationwide. The accumulation of heavy metals in 20-odd years in a lake supplying water to homes is alarming. Perhaps it was a wrong strategy from the onset to tap Laguna Lake water. Should operations of lake firms be suspended until a study is done on their wastes? Should LLDA’s ‘environment fee’ be abolished as it induces more pollution, legalized by ‘fees’, rather than solve it?
Once manganese enters the soil through garden watering, it may seep into the underground water table system, which is irreversible. Its residue may be found at the bottom of home water tanks. It is not known if boiling neutralizes manganese. We are not even sure if drinking water sourced from Maynilad, purified by reverse osmosis, can remove manganese. At “high levels”, as Maynilad puts it, will it be safe to even wash dishes with tap water? Manganese is the tip of the ice berg. There are more deadly heavy metals such as mercury.


The law requires water utility firms to supply clean safe water to consumers. Should Maynilad be held responsible for inability to foresee long term problems in the use of the Laguna Lake source in spite of its sophisticated treatment facility costing billions of pesos? Is this a mismanagement issue?


Should Maynilad be compelled to stop supplying toxic water if they cannot treat it, and look for alternative sources, which may be non-existent, or may take years to fulfill? Will a water crisis force Alabang and neighboring areas to revert back to getting untreated water delivered weekly by trucks, which is inefficient and unhealthy, and may cost as much as ten times more? WE HOPE THIS THIS ARTICLE CAN REACH MAYNILAD TO GIVE THEM A CHANCE TO ANSWER ALL THESE QUESTIONS. Bernie V. Lopez, contributing columnist INQUIRER, eastwindreplyctr@gmail.com
An American reply to China’s-recent-missile-test
This guy is trying to say – let the Filipinos do the dirty work and die for us.
“The US should just lend their HIMARS (U.S. light multiple rocket launcher mounted on an army truck frame, 300 km range) to Pinoy soldiers and let the latter test-fire those mobile missiles as often as they like, directed towards the Spratleys islands or where there are Chinese ships roaming around. The Pinoys can claim that they are just practicing with their new toys and the US can disclaim responsibility.”
5 eastwind Meditation Posters
INSERT poster 26b 31a 32a 38 39


eastwind journals22 Apr 2016 08:14 am

beyond human intervention – climate change / refugee crisis

American reply to China’s-recent-missile-test
Let the Filipinos do the dirty work and die for us.
“The US should just lend their HIMARS (U.S. light multiple rocket launcher mounted on an army truck frame, 300 km range) to Pinoy soldiers and let the latter test-fire those mobile missiles as often as they like, directed towards the Spratleys islands or where there are Chinese ships roaming around. The Pinoys can claim that they are just practising with their new toys and the US can disclaim responsibility.”
Climate Change – EU Refugee Crisis
eastwind journals 181
By Bernie V. Lopez


man must begin to understand
how tiny he is in a vast universe
at times he is nature’s master
at times he is nature’s slave
at times he harnesses the storm
at times he chases the wind
he can harness and fashion nature
but he can also cower in helplessness
when nature seeks vengeance
against his greed and lust
wisdom is chasing the wind – ecclesiastes
vanity of vanities, all things are vanity
rivers go to the sea yet the sea is never full
words are eloquent yet empty of meaning
what is crooked cannot be straightened
what is missing cannot be supplied
the greatest wisdom i have learned
is that all wisdom is chasing the wind
in much wisdom there is much sorrow
he who strives for wisdom strives for grief
ecclesiastes 1:1-8, 14-18 
The Climate Conference in Paris was an exercise in futility. The agreement of 175 nations to optionally make their own targets on reduction of greenhouse-gas emissions has no teeth. 82% of these gases are human-catalyzed carbon dioxide. Is climate change irreversible and beyond human intervention?


To reverse the situation before it is too late, we have to abolish cars, industries, stop energy generation or simply reduce population by 80%, in other words, commit global suicide. US, China, and India are the three largest greenhouse-gas culprits. With their faltering economies, survival is first national before it is global. The US did not sign the Montreal Protocol under pressure from big business, which is stifled as a result. Greed is viewed by environmentalist as the foremost catalyst to a climate-change global crisis. In the next few years, trillions of dollars will be spent to address climate change, and the dent may be very small.
They were in frenzy in Paris, celebrating a seemingly monumental achievement, the planet standing united against climate change. True, there are and will be creative innovative solutions. But most may be very expensive for an ailing global economy. And their overall impact may not make a real dent. Many say we can do something about it even on the backyard level. But will that ‘something’ matter or do we just want to feel good that we are not giving up without a fight?


An increase in global temperature of just two degrees Celsius means unimaginable global disasters, that the sea level could rise a few meters in a few decades, drowning tthousands of cities and millions of people. Extreme climate change is already happening – floods, droughts, famines, forest fires. These are not predictions but a reality.


Scientists pose that, on the macro level, with hundreds of variables, climate change is so complex that it is still essentially a mystery today. It defies a central solution. They say it is, like El Nino and earthquakes, partly caused by inter-planetary alignments of the Earth with the sun and other planets. Man, even if he had deep scientific knowledge, has no control over these cosmic forces. They talk of a cycle of tens of thousands of years of ice ages that have come and gone. They say our brand of climate change had been determined as far back as the last ice age. It is useless to point fingers. Whether it is Man or cosmic forces or both that cause all this, the situation may be irreversible, beyond understanding and intervention.


There is one school of thought that says we can do it, we can fight, and we feel good we have a sense of achievement. But are we really achieving or is it an illusion? There is another school of thought that says climate change is inevitable and beyond human intervention, that we are trapped and are helpless. Yet it does not mean we just sit in the dark. Somewhere in between perhaps lies an answer if there is truly one.


NATO’s vast resources is not enough to contain the flood of refugees. NATO cannot police the entire Mediterranean. No EU-Turkey deal can stop the refugees. They can build walls, set up barb wires, but they cannot contain the refugees, who would rather die than go home.


Already the refugee crisis has polarized brother against brother in the host nations. They are fighting each other in the streets for or against the refugees, who stand at the roadside watching in awe and silence. A new type of deadlier war is evolving, not nation against nation but nation against itself. Will EU nations implode soon? Is the EU Refugee Crisis beyond human intervention?
Despair is the catalyst to a flood of unstoppable suicidal humans, an irresistible force and there is no immovable object yet. It is the law of equilibrium. Heat seeks cold. Poverty seeks wealth. Despair seeks hope. War-torn people seek peaceful places. Chaos seeks harmony.
Even if there are really no terrorists among refugees, the earlier benign migrants who have been in Paris for 15 years are suddenly fired up by western drones killing women and children. Ordinary waiters are radicalized and become instant jihadists. Terror technology transfer is rapid and easy through the Internet. The cry for the caliphate spreads across the globe like wildfire. Terror technology grows more sophisticated by the minute.
Is this one of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse? Is this the era of tribulation that precedes the thousand-year peace prophesied in the Book of Revelation. If the refugee crisis is beyond human intervention, is this God’s way of showing His wrath for our greed and corruption and indifference and cruelty? Or is it simply Mans self-destruct nature? eastwindreplyctr@gmail.com



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