EXPLORING the world, meeting people in their native countries, learning about their history, heritage, culture, and experiencing their way of living firsthand does wonders to our mind, body, and soul. The journey reveals that we, as a species on this planet, have greater commonality and mutual interests than our selfish individual differences. The wonderful visit to countries eager to please tourists is always refreshing to the spirit. Vacation, a decompressing break from our daily stressful life, is wonderful and healthy for both the visitor and the tourism industry of the target destinations.
Our group of 21 medical colleagues, spouses, and a friend from Las Vegas, Chicago, Indiana, Kentucky, and New York just returned from a 14-day (April 22 to May 8) transatlantic cruise to Malaga, Valencia, and Palma de Mallorca (Spain); Marseilles (France); and Florence and Rome (Italy).
On board the Odyssey of the Seas of Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, the Windjammer Restaurant on the 14th deck became our meeting place several times a day and “headquarters” during the 14-day cruise. From Day One, I had informed our group that “according to the cruise’s rule,” we were supposed to eat every two hours. And we almost followed that “rule,” but conscious of our health, practically all of us violated this anyway. But the Lobster Night was irresistible. Our group picture with the Captain of the Ship, Per Kristofferson, showed almost everyone gained a few ounces, if not a pound or two.
The cruise package included an added 2 days of land tours in Rome which provided us the opportunity to meet with the Philippine Cardinal Luis Antonio “Chito” Tagle on Saturday, May 5. According to Inside the Vatican, Pope Francis selected Cardinal Tagle to head the Vatican’s Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. The congregation, which handles evangelization in Africa, Asia, and Oceania, is expected to be combined with the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, which has focused primarily on Europe, as envisioned by the Pope.
On Sunday, May 8, we travelled for more than four hours in three rented driven vans to San Giovanni Rotondo (Fr. Pio Pilgrimage Church), 237.3 miles south of Rome, to view the body of Fr. Pio in a sealed plastic vault designed for public viewing.
Francesco Forgione, OFMCap, popularly known as Padre Pio and as Saint Pio of Pietrelcina, was an Italian Franciscan Capuchin friar, priest, stigmatist, and mystic. He is venerated as a saint in the Catholic Church, celebrated on September 23rd each year. Fr. Pio was born on May 25, 1887 in Pietrelcina, Italy, died on September 23, 1968, and buried in the Sanctuary of Saint Mary of our Lady of Grace. The new Fr. Pio modern-structure pilgrimage church is on the left side of the old church of Saint Mary. The river of devotees from all around the world honoring the mystical saint Fr. Pio seemed unending. The rigorous walk back to our vans, on an uphill climb, was a great challenge to many of us in our mid-70s and mid-80s, with arthritis and other ailments. A self-imposed penance? Maybe. But it gave us an inspiring, uplifting, and a most spiritual feeling with inner peace.
We got back to the Star Hotel of Metropole in Rome at almost 9 p.m., just in time for our “last supper” with the Rev. Fr. Roderick Ignacio (Padre Ricky) at the Antico Ristorante Bar Imperium, a famous restaurant a couple of blocks from our hotel. Fr. Ricky is Parish Priest of Santa Maria Maggiore, San Paolo Apostolo, and Santa Lucia Trocchio. He is also the Rector of Shrine of our Lady of Piternis, Cervaro Delegato dei Sacerdoti in Diocesi, and del Rappresentante del Consiglio Pastorale. Fr. Ricky is a close friend of Pope Francis.
While on this cruise, we had the privilege of meeting fellow Pinoy cruisers, 31 from Hawaii, and very importantly, countless fellow Filipinos working on the Odyssey, young and vibrant, very courteous, and willing to please. Proudly a Filipino trait. They all left their loved ones in the Philippines to support their families back home and provide education and a better future for their children. While they were always cheerful, like their fellow workers from other countries, you could witness how hard they work each day, devoid of enough sleep, longing for their spouse and children back home, and practically a slave to their job, with meager salary. Indeed, a great personal sacrifice on their part, all in the name of love of family and survival itself. (A tip for future cruisers: Gratuities helps these noble workers. Let generosity prevail among us who are more blessed to share our loving compassion with them.) Even before the cruise ended, some were already asking when the next one would be. Indeed, life must be enjoyed fully!
A cruise is certainly like life on this good earth. During the journey you discover the nature of men and their individual philosophy, behavior, interests, frailties, strength, personality. The very same qualities and attitude in life become obvious among all of us and our fellow cruisers on our voyage in life itself. Qualities unknown before, shining through, good, bad, or in between. Indeed, life and cruising are almost twins, people traveling in time and space, sometimes on treacherous terrains or rough waters, all unable to change the ocean waves and the wind direction, but with a God-given option to adjust the sail to navigate the course and arrive at the target destination. Unfortunately, some try to control the waves and the wind like a god, instead of wisely adjusting, and are destined to be lost at sea. In our life, bringing one’s sunshine and smile to every occasion, with a back-up umbrella just in case but keeping it unopened because of faith, all contribute to a healthy and happy life with soothing inner peace.
The greater the human contacts among various peoples of the world, the greater the chance of understanding, liking, and respecting one another and cementing lasting friendship with each other, one person and one nation at a time, especially among children whose innocence is devoid of poisonous biases and prejudices. They are our hope for the future, and prayerfully, a chance at achieving world peace. Most unlikely in our generation but hope reigns in my heart.
The human species better “cruise” peacefully together now on a global scale with a devotion to world peace before it’s too late, or we are doomed to disintegrate together into cinders and ashes in the galaxy in a colossal nuclear Armageddon turning planet Earth into a ball of fire and particles of black dust, exposing our stupidity.
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The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of the Asian Journal, its management, editorial board and staff.
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The main objective of this column is to educate and inspire people live a healthier lifestyle to prevent illnesses and disabilities and achieve a happier and more productive life. Any diagnosis, recommendation or treatment in our article are general medical information and not intended to be applicable or appropriate for anyone. This column is not a substitute for your physician, who knows your condition well and who is your best ally when it comes to your health.
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Philip S. Chua, MD, FACS, FPCS, a Cardiac Surgeon Emeritus based in Northwest Indiana and Las Vegas, Nevada, is an international medical lecturer/author, Health Advocate, newspaper columnist, and Chairman of the Filipino United Network-USA, a 501(c)3 humanitarian foundation in the United States. He was a recipient of the Indiana Sagamore of the Wabash Award in 1995. Other Sagamore past awardees include President Harry Truman, President George HW Bush, Muhammad Ali and Astronaut Gus Grissom (Wikipedia). Websites: FUN8888.com, Today.SPSAtoday.com, and philipSchua.com; Email: [email protected].