|The Prayer Card from the Holy Family Church in Taipei|
My birthday is in March and it is usually the end of school year in the Philippines. Back in my school years, I was running for academic honors and has to maintain an above average grade in my major subjects in college. I always used my birthday to ask my God the gift to get the honors that I was running for and even to maintain the required grades in my course. And it worked for me. I always had my birthday wishes granted.
As I continue to celebrate my birthdays, my wishes vary with my interests and so with my ways of celebrating it. When I reached thirty, I eventually found myself celebrating my birthdays abroad. It has become a personal tradition that I wanted to explore the world and celebrate the day I was born. Being a Catholic in the Philippines, a birthday is not complete without going to the church for a mass or light a candle. When I celebrated my birthday abroad, I did the unconventional to my Catholic faith.
March 17,2007, I found myself kneeling together with the other tourists and local believers inside a pagoda of Golden Buddha in Bangkok while trying to sneak a photo as it was not allowed. Entering the temple means we had to follow the rituals of vowing and kneeling.
March 17, 2012, I had my birthday eve in a bar with foreign friends in Kuala Lumpur, then spent the rest of the day with college and office friends in Singapore. It was quite a discovery for a not-your-party-girl like me but I had lots of laughter with new friends whom I just conversed over via telecons and in-house office chat.
March 17, 2013, I spent the rainy afternoon inside the church ALONE on a Sunday (something that is impossible in the Philippines) in Jeju Island, South Korea when I went to my first solitary travel in the country for ten days. It was the most solemn and closest encounter I had with my God. I was able to visit the church, light a candle and pray the Holy Rosary.
Then came August of 2014. It was not my birth month but my friend, Connie. Along with her sister Jen, we went together for a three-day trip in Taipei to celebrate her birthday. Being the one who is always tasked to prepare the itinerary, I made sure we can attend the English mass on Connie's birthday at Holy Family Catholic Church.
|Holy Family Church in Taipei|
|Pingxi Sky Lantern in Taiwan|
Pingxi Sky Lantern in Shifen station is famous to tourists and locals who believed that their wishes will come true. Unexpectedly, we were perhaps, one of the few who proved otherwise.
|Arrays of lanterns along the railroad|
We wrote as many wishes that we can, filling all spaces even up to the edges of the lantern. Those were about personal, career, love, money, material things even for other people. Every space in different strokes and styles, as much as we could to fill in. For some reason, it was enough for the three of us. Or rather, we made it fully enough for us. No need to have one lantern each. One is enough. We had four sides anyways.
|my side of the our skylantern|
And so we wrote our wishes - my half-meant wishes.
We took our celebratory photo, a MUST for all tourists from different parts of the world. It was all over the place. We had our photo with every side, one each for our wishes. And the lady who sold the lantern to us and the one directing the ceremony of its sort, lighted the lantern and shouted, "Let It Go"! We cheerfully enjoined her as we let go of our lantern, following its trail.
|Our celebratory photo before we released the lantern|
|as we released our lantern|
Shamelessly it crashed against the branches of tree at the top of the store where we bought the lantern, burnt so quickly as if our wishes just turned into ashes. I felt weird, a bit worried. But I shook it off. The worry was no longer about my wishes but on the damage our burning lantern might caused. The worry turned to laughter. We laughed at how people around us seemed to regret about our burning lantern. We laughed on the chaos we created for a brief moment. We laughed at the thought that we almost destroyed the true meaning of sky lantern to the tourists and many believers of it.
And we finished our trip that day exhausted but had so much fun. Here's the clip of our embarrassing video.
Looking back, some of my prayers were granted, not in the exact ways that I wanted them to be but in God's ways. I know and believe that my wishes were granted, just like how I trusted my God to grant my wishes on my birthdays. It was not because our lantern of wishes was burned but it was because of the burning desire in my heart that my God will bless me more.
Our trip in Taiwan was a wake-up call for me - not to settle in anything fad but to keep the faith. Our dreams do come true - just Pray Hard and Work Hard. And I will continue to explore the world and celebrate my life that God has blessed me with.