Angie had no formal instruction in catechism since she came from public schools. It was providential that a catechist in high school then introduced her to the Sacred Heart of Jesus devotion every 1st Friday, confession and communion, and the use of the brown scapular.

A crisis of faith

She took up BS Chemistry in the University of the Philippines and she recalls, “The first two years of General Education, we had a subject on Eastern Thoughts
(Buddhism, Hinduism – relativism of truth) and Western Thought.

In one of our classes, there was a discourse on “Science & Religion”. My professor, probably an atheist said that religion is the “opium” of the people – meaning “it reduced people’s immediate suffering and provided them with pleasant illusions, but it also reduced their energy and their willingness to confront the oppressive, heartless, and soulless reality that capitalism had forced them into” (Wikipedia).

Then we took up Machiavelli’s political agenda – “the end justifies the means”. With all these input, I started to drop all my “rituals” (saying the rosary, hearing mass, and the 1st Friday communion) for it seemed that everything was superficial. I was looking for the truth. It was a crisis of faith.”

The hand of God

After graduation she worked in the Chemistry Department of the Ateneo de Manila University in Katipunan under Fr. William Schmitt, SJ, who has a doctorate in Organic Chemistry. Fr. William installed piped in music in each room in the department transmitting station DZFE program “The Master’s Touch”. It was a Protestant radio program that featured classical music and Christian reflection. This daily dose of the “Master’s word” revived Angie’s hunger and search for the truth.

Wanting to deepen her spiritual life, she started to attend the Ignatian
“Search-ins” organized by Fr. Thomas H. Green SJ, author of the book “Come down Zacchaeus”. She was given a spiritual director – Fr. Raymound Gough SJ – who told her, “Angie you are putting GOD under a microscope!” Those words were somehow like a blow to her head. She said, “It jolted my brain.”

The dawn of God’s love

She met the Focolare Movement through her sister Yaga who was the guitarist of the Focolare’s music band for girls called Gen Gloria. Her parents had also been very close to the Focolare, but she herself was not so enthusiastic about joining the Movement. Nevertheless in the 70s she was obliged to attend the yearly summer gathering of the Focolare called Mariapolis. She shared, “I was not really interested in attending the program so I volunteered to prepare the cots for the participants. I really began to practice what I learned in the Mariapolis only when I started to render voluntary service at the Bukas Palad Social Center that was started by the Focolare in the 80s”.

Angie was given the responsibility of running the nutrition program that was started by her sister who is a nurse. In spite of their best efforts, several children were dying one after the other due to severe diarrhea and dehydration. She narrates, “One particular baby whom I was following had shown signs of improvement from his malnutrition but when he got sick with severe diarrhea & vomiting, we decided to bring him to the hospital. After a few days I went to visit the family hoping to see the baby recovered from his sickness.

But to my great dismay they told me that the baby died! I cried my heart out and told Jesus, this is it, I am done. I can’t continue with this emotionally wrecking job. Still crying on the way to Bukas Palad, I remembered that the Word of Life for the month was about the rich man, the camel and the eye of the needle (Mt.19:23-30).

It struck me because I realized that I was rich with my ego, my “ability” to save the child. That incident made me understand that God wants me to Love Him with much humility and not to be self-sufficient in serving Him – and above all not to be playing God! I realized that I’m just an instrument of His Love to serve others.”

She wrote this experience to Chiara Lubich who replied to her through a letter. Chiara gave her an Ideal name (a practice in the early times of the Movement): Alba meaning dawn, saying that the people I meet should see in me the dawning of GOD’s Love. She gave her a phrase from the Gospel as a program for her life – “Seek first the Kingdom of GOD and everything will follow”.

Reciprocating God’s immense love

Angie stayed and worked in Bukas Palad for around 3 years, until they were able to train some mothers to help in running the social center and the nutrition program. Later she found her vocation in the Movement as a Volunteer and continued to help in building unity in her local community and involved herself more in the Focolare Social Projects like setting up medical missions for the Sulyap ng Pagasa Housing and Community in Bagong Silangan, Quezon City.

Unstoppable, Angie, now has an eye and passion for a new cause and advocacy, and that is to help in a very relevant and urgent issue in our times; the problem of drug addiction. Since she lives in Marikina near Tumana – a hub of drug-related problems, “tokhang”
(the police arresting people who are involved in drugs) has become a frequent occurrence.

She observed that the “kalakal” or street-children buying and selling junk that she used to help were no longer coming to her place because of their fear of being caught as drug-related suspects. Such a situation made her interested to go and support the Fazenda d’Esperanza in Masbate City, a community engaged in the rehabilitation of drug addicts, hoping to get more experience on how to help people who are involved in drugs, or who had dependence problems.

Jose Aranas 

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