On February 21, one of my classmates from LOJ School of Leadership, Miguel Ramirez, invited to help him give a retreat in Baguio. He organized a retreat for over 150 participants who are college students from Saint Louis University-Baguio. These are students who are also leaders and members of various organizations in the university.
The plan then was to meet up at Cubao on Saturday, 8:00PM. We were with Francis Yanga, one of the Pray boys. From there, we discussed the program flow of the retreat, boarded the Victory Liner bus at 11:00PM to Baguio and readied for the activity which would begin at 8:00AM. Yes, that was the plan!
But the Lord had a different plan. The 8:00 PM meeting didn’t push through because Miguel said he couldn’t make it. Then around 10:00 PM, he called up, telling me the news that shocked my night. Miguel said, “Jan, I can’t come with you guys in Baguio, I’m diagnosed with Chicken Pox. Doctor wants me to rest for the next 4 days.” Wow!
At first, I was concerned about his health. He said he’s fine but the concern now is the retreat we’d be giving to those 150 students in Baguio. “Will the retreat push through?!” I asked; and he said, “Yes! And you have to do it without me physically but I’ll be there with you the rest of the way.”
At that moment, I felt the strong presence of the Lord and that He is in control. Francis and I met up at the bus terminal, faithful that the Lord has a perfect plan for us in Baguio. We departed Manila around 11:00 PM and arrived in Baguio City around 5:30 AM. As per Miguel’s instructions, we took a cab from the Baguio terminal to the SLU Hospital to freshen up, heard mass at 8:00 AM, ate breakfast with our host, Tita Malou, afterwhich she drove us to the SLU gym.
We met up with J Yogawin (the one who organized the event in Baguio, who also happens to be my classmate in the School of Leadership). We barely had a meeting on how to run the day but with God’s grace, we have decided to divide the talk into three parts – Talk 1: Love Languages (Francis); Talk 2: God’s Love and Loving God (J); Talk 3: Loving God in your community (Jan).
It was perfect!
Francis and I were introduced since we came in a little late. Then I introduced them Sarap Sir! (I want to thank Jpaul for introducing it to us 2 years ago, may Sarap Sir continue to bless other youth that we will evangelize.) We continued the day by splitting them into 4 groups, asked them to create a group cheer and design a flag that would represent each individual and as a group.
Kinarir nila ang group cheer! Intense! Competitive! I was surprised that they were giving their all in dancing, shouting, and even tumbling! To the point I needed to remind them of their safety measures! WOOHOO!!
But at that moment as well, I felt the tension among the groups of claiming who’s the best among them. I was reminded of my purpose of going to Baguio in the first place, that not everyone is not in good terms before the retreat and our mission is to remind them that at the end of the day, whatever differences we had in our decisions in handling the organizations, we are still all friends.
It was the first time I heard Francis and J give a talk and they were totally awesome! Francis was a small dude so he’s kinda cute when we gave his talk about love languages.
J’s singing voice was moving. Kinilig ang mga students when he was singing different Tagalog songs, which referred to our relationship with God. After J, I asked them to group themselves according to their organizations then I gave my talk about loving God in their community/organization. After which, I asked them to stand, pray for one another, and approach each person and tell that person I love you, I forgive you, Please forgive me. Oh boy, I was just there in front, praying that the wall of pride would be crushed and be replaced by love.
I saw the Lord moving in the place as the participants cried as they asked for forgiveness from their friends. I was moved when I witnessed everybody telling each other those three phrases that were full of sincerity. Oh thank you Lord! It felt like 30 minutes was even short because I saw them laughing with tears in their eyes as they hugged each other but I needed to cut them off due to lack of time. This was not part of the plan but Francis, J and I had this feeling that a sharing of experience should be done. So we asked brave souls to come up in front and share their experience. I was moved by everyone who shared. One participant shared how he used to be in good terms with his friends after 3 long years and because of a misunderstanding, he had a falling out with his friends and almost gave up his Catholic faith. And now with a renewed faith, he asked for forgiveness for the wrong he had done. It was unbelievable! The sharing went on for another 30 minutes. Unfortunately, I had to cut it short because of time constraint.
I witnessed that love erased all hatred and pride that day! The last activity was the affirmation paper, wherein a paper will be placed at your back, then people would be writing good stuff about you! You can see the glow in their eyes as they read what were written on their papers.
Then we prayed for blessings and deeper friendship for everyone. Alleluia!
After the event, Francis and I went straight to the bus terminal for our 7:00 PM departure to Manila! I arrived at my house around 1:00 AM. Mama was waiting for me and she was the first recipient of my story about my experience. I went to sleep around 2:00 AM to get ready for work in the morning.
Father, thank You for the humbling experience. Thank you for using me to give and share joy, hope and love to your children. Amazing! I learned a lot as well. Lord, continue to use me more. Surprise me again, oh Lord! Amen! Sarap Sir!!!