A sharing of retired Chief Justice ARTEMIO V. PANGANIBAN requested by Fr. Jose Quilongquilong posted in the Facebook Page of the Mirador Jesuit Villa on September 20, 2020
To my wife Leni and me, Mirador Hill evokes the power and love of our Lord Jesus Christ over our marriage and our lives. One day in May 1986, yes, almost 35 years ago, a couple-friend – who knew of our mid-life marital problems – invited us to join them in a “weekend of rest and relaxation” at the famed Mirador Villa romantically perched at the second highest peak in the City of Pines.
Less than an hour after we left our old home in Quezon City, our car had a flat tire. After we replaced it with the spare, another tire blew and stranded us in Tarlac for over an hour scouting for a new tire. We arrived in Baguio still puffing and huffing, and at the same time apologizing to our hosts, only to be told not to be too embarrassed because the evil one usually visits couples going to Mirador with similar problems to discourage them from going farther. Instead of faulting us, they congratulated us for gamely conquering our first obstacle.
Together with about 15 other couples, we were welcomed to “Marriage Encounter Class 26” with energetic singing by the “Praise Ministry” of the Bukas Loob sa Diyos (BLD) Charismatic Community as we were ushered to our small room with common bath and toilet for all of us, one for men and one for women. We were also shown the common dining room and the little chapel where the Blessed Sacrament was exposed with the continuous 24-hour praying by the BLD “Intercessory Ministry.”
We were impressed by the “auxiliaries,” the members of a previous ME Class who were already prominent in their respective businesses, professions or government positions, yet happily serving as cooks, waiters, ushers, singers and prayer warriors, and unabashedly attending to our every need as the honored guests of a powerful and all-seeing King. The BLD “couple-elders” were also around, unobtrusively eyeing and supervising everything going on.
Our ME was not conducted via pedantic classroom lectures but through the “sharing of experiences” of an “A” couple who had benign marital problems and a “B” couple who had problems serious enough to be separated for a few years until they found Christ in their own ME. We identified with both couples and learned that unless we embraced God 24/7 and allowed Him to rule our marriage, we could not solve our difficulties. The sharings were followed by the powerful homily of Fr. Pascual Adorable, SJ (now deceased), whom we called the “Lightning Rod of God.” His talk penetrated deep into our body, soul and spirit, starting with the five senses and later gnawed into our very being overcoming us completely into the holy presence of the Lord. We identified with the sharers as they related their journey from pain to love and as we associated their experiences with the passion and resurrection of our Lord, slowly in the beginning but overpowering in the end.
We arrived on a Friday afternoon but by the following Sunday noon, my wife and I were miraculously transformed from a divided couple to a united whole that completely surrendered all cares and pains to our Lord, happy and confident that there is no problem so big God cannot solve it.
Three weeks thereafter, we were back in Mirador, this time as a part of the volunteer ME class 26 to sponsor the next batch of couples, singing to them, serving them and praying for them. And sharing our own transformation in Christ.
Bukas Loob sa Diyos continued helping us overcome our cycle of trial and triumph, of pain and pleasure, of passion and resurrection in more life-changing weekly prayer meetings and in one-on-one shepherding, capped by a mystic “Life in the Spirit” Seminar.
Leni and I (along with other ME couples) will always associate Mirador with resurrection and salvation because since then – for over 35 years and counting – we have never experienced any more problems that could not be overcome with prayers of surrender to our Lord Jesus Christ, who by His own suffering, death and resurrection made it possible for us to enjoy the joy of Christian marriage. This joy we wanted to share with countless others who ascend to Mirador to “rest and relax” with a happy weekend encounter with our Lord. Eventually, together with several other couples who constituted the BLD Treasury Ministry, we were led by our Holy Spirit, after prayer and reflection, to build and donate the “Christ the Redeemer” statue at the portico of the Mirador Shrine – anonymously for 30 years until Fr. Jose Quilongquilong, SJ, found us and asked us to come out in the open and relate how the statue was built. Thus, on the 30th year of its donation, on June 8, 2019, in simple ceremonies, we rededicated it with a marker at its foot and with a short scroll at the hallway of the Retreat House.