Euro Trip 2018 Highlights: Italy and The Vatican

Here’s the next stop on my Euro Trip/Greco-Roman Adventure 2018 photo blog series: Italy and the Vatican! 😀
(Click here to see the first! haha)

So why did I decide to visit the aforementioned countries? Simple: I’m a devout and practicing Roman Catholic Christian and visiting the heart of my church/faith (a.k.a. The Vatican) has always been a dream of mine! Add to that that I’m a history buff, and Italy has always been on top of my “dream destinations” all the way back when I was still in high school!

To be honest, when my sisters were planning this trip, the original plan was really just to go to Greece. But since I’m the only one among us who hasn’t been to Italy/The Vatican, I sort of begged them to add the two countries to our itinerary — hence achieving our so-called Greco-Roman adventure! So, thank you, sistahs!!! 😛

By the way, one of the reasons why my ates agreed to go to Italy again is because they wanted to finally visit San Giovanni Rotondo — the place where St. Padre Pio spent most of his life and where his body/ultimate relic rests today! As I’m writing this, talking about the Saint is really timely because his heart relic is currently being toured in my country, The Philippines. 🙂 I think I’ll have a separate blog entry on how to go to San Giovanni Rotondo because it’s four hours away from Rome, so we literally had to spend an entire day (out of our total of five days in Italy) just for that visit alone.

For now, I’ll just give you a rundown of the places you can go to in Rome and Vatican City, when like me, it’s your first time, you have limited time, but you still want to make the most out of your trip!

So, where did the “Roman” part of this adventure take me? 😉

ITALY

Rome

-where we stayed at one of the amazing suites of Domus Spagna (highly recommended!) located in Via Frattina — and just a stone’s throw away from other must-see tourist spots in Romaaa…

…such as:

Piazza di Spagna / Spanish Steps

Trevi Fountain

Pantheon

The Pantheon used to be a Roman temple but is now a Roman Catholic church

Piazza Navona

Colosseum

Arch of Constantine

P.S: Of course, a visit to Italy won’t be complete without some authentic gelato! YUM!!!

San Giovanni Rotondo

And then, off we went to St. Padre Pio‘s place — which is, like I mentioned, four hours away from Rome — but totally worth it!!!

Inside you can also find relics of St. John Paul the Great and St. Teresa of Calcutta

As I mentioned in my social media post when this shot was taken:

Today’s one for the books. I saw the body of one of the saints I always ask for prayers: St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina. Yes, that’s right — I don’t pray TO them, I ask them to pray FOR me just like asking a friend to intercede or pray for me. As a devout and practicing Roman Catholic Christian, my devotion to saints has been one of the things questioned by other faiths. But I’m not posting this to argue or debate. In fact, there are many things about my own faith that I’ve still yet to discover; it’s a lifetime process, and I’m falling in love more with the Roman Catholic Church each and every time. When it comes to saints alone, the Roman Catholic Church isn’t the only church that has them. The Eastern Orthodox has ’em (I just came from Greece and have been a witness to the Greek Orthodox Church), the Anglican Church does too. But I don’t have all the answers; nobody does because only God has ’em. That’s why it’s more important to show love and respect. As another saint, St. Teresa of Calcutta, once said, “…for you see, in the end it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.” ❤️

Personally, what I like about St. Padre Pio is his story on how he died to himself every day when he bore Christ‘s wounds (stigmata) when he was still alive. He helped and inspired A LOT of people, too, along the way (he still does). And the best thing about this is, he was just like you and me: a person. And if he did it, so could I. So could YOU. We are all saints in the making — we just have to accept that first and foremost.

And that’s why I love asking saints (canonized or not) to pray for me. They remind me that this world is temporary and the ultimate goal is eternal life with God in heaven. 😇

So, how’s your journey to sainthood so far? Me, I still have a looong waaay to gooo, but I thank God that His mercies are new each and every day 🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼

THE VATICAN

And of course, there’s Vaticano! Someday, I pray that I’ll be able to return here with my future husband and attend the Pope’s sposi novelli wherein newlyweds are allowed “to appear for the papal blessing within the first two months of marriage…” Heehee. But until then, here are the places that sufficed:

The Vatican Museums

…yes, plural! Haha!

Warning, though: The museums are jam-packed with tourists! But you’ll definitely be in awe at all their collectionsss 🙂

I was finally able to see “The School of Athens” by the renowned Renaissance artist, Raphael, up close!!!

St. Peter’s Basilica

The Pieta

Aside from where St. Peter is buried, the Basilica also serves as the burial place of most popes, just like this: the tomb of Pope John Paul II (now St. John Paul the Great)

You can confess inside, too! I DID!!! 😀

St. Peter’s Square

There was no papal audience when we visited (it was summertime, and we were informed that the audience is canceled during that season), but hey, at least I got these decent jump shots! Wahahahaha!

And that’s it! Haha! I know, bitin. Five days may sound long, but that wasn’t enough to tour Rome alone! Heck, you might need a month or more to tour entire Italy — which I plan to do in the future!!!

I’ve said before that my priorities are changing and it might take a long while before I step on European shores again, that’s why I’ll forever be grateful to God for giving me this opportunity to achieve my travel dreams in my twenties. ❤

TO GOD BE THE GLORY ALWAYS AND FOREVER!

Euro Trip 2018 Highlights: Greece (and Turkey)

My dream to visit my “dream” continent, Europe, was planted in my heart I think a decade ago. Since then, I’ve been there three times — in three consecutive years nonetheless! God, indeed, is faithful!!! 🙂

In 2016, I traveled to my ultimate dream destination, The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (with a bonus trip to the Republic of Ireland).

In 2017, I was privileged to visit Central/parts of Eastern Europe (Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, and Austria), and I knew then that I wanted to see more of the EU!!

This year, 2018, I went on a Greco-Roman adventure — fulfilling my dream to visit the heart of my Catholic faith: The Vatican ❤

It has been a little over a month (time flies fast!) since I came back from this memorable experience. I have a feeling that my next Euro trip won’t be as soon as the previous ones (priorities are changing! *ehem, ehem*), but I’ll definitely be back! Europe is such a great continent, and one of the things I love about it is that each region offers a different experience!

And since I know it’ll take some time before I get to explore another European region (Nordic countries, anyone? Haha!), allow me to relive and savor my latest adventure through this photo blog.

For this Greco-Roman adventure, I went to Greece, a side trip to Turkey, then on to Italy and the Vatican.

So, where exactly did I go in the “Greco” part of this adventure? 😉

GREECE

Athens

-where I saw remnants of Classical Greece and then some

Parthenon

Theater of Dionysus

original modern Olympic stadium

Delphi

-where I was transported back to the time of Greece’s ancient civilization

en route the Oracle of Delphi

it was raining, but that definitely didn’t stop us from exploring this historical place!

Meteora

-where God allowed me to once again be amazed by His natural creations

at a monastery on a hill

Mykonos

-my favorite part of Greece! I want to go back here with the love of my life, hehehe 😉

with the famous windmills at the back

at the famous Little Venice

Patmos

-where I saw the cave where St. John wrote the book of Revelation (no photo, though, because it wasn’t allowed! More info here)

Crete

-where I learned about the ancient Minoans (even the Parthenon was built at least after a century since the Minoan civilization!)

Santorini

-another dream come true — totally felt like a part of the cast of “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants” haha 😛

one of the blue domes of the Greek Orthodox churches

“Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 3,” anyone? Haha! (Shout-out to my friends Nicole, Tanya, and Bec!)

TURKEY

Kusadasi

-where I think Aladdin got his magic carpet! CHAAAR haha

handmade carpets being sold by Mr. George Clooney look alike!

Ephesus

-where I walked on the same grounds as St. Paul when he was preaching to — you guessed it — the Ephesians!

ruins of the library of Celsus

AND THAT’S A WRAP!!!

Next stop on this photo blog series: ITALY! Ciao!

“I Love You” Means…

Has it been more than three months since my last post?! Haha! Well, I’ve been meaning to update my blog and I think it’s just fitting to finally publish this today, the first day of a new month. 🙂

Sooo.

One of my favorite Catholic lay preachers, Bro. Bo Sanchez, once said that if someone said “I love you” to you, you might as well reply with this question: “Are you willing to die for me?”

And I actually agree! As of this writing, I’ve been single for a year and a half already, and if there’s one thing God taught me in this current season I’m in, it’s what true love really means — it’s not a feeling, it’s not just a decision, but it’s about dying to one’s self for the good of the other. Did you get that? Authentic loving means dying — selfless, not selfish. What does this mean?

For this one, it’s best to turn to the Greeks’ definition of love (the English one is just so vague! haha). The Greeks have these different terms for love:

  • Eros – more on feelings and/or romance (also the most fleeting!); this is the one that makes us say, “I fell in love”
  • Philia – more on friendship (the best foundation); this is the one we can offer to everyone, even non-romantic prospects
  • Agape – more on dying to one’s self for the good of the other — the ultimate form of love! This is the one modeled by Jesus on the cross; for couples, this is the kind of love you ought to show to your partner when the honeymoon phase has already faded away; for the rest of humanity, this is the kind of love we’re all called for in order to have happy, healthy, loving, and peaceful relationships

So how exactly can we apply agape (the highest form of love) in our lives? As a follower of Christ, my best guide is the Bible. Saint John Paul the Great‘s Theology of the Body is also a good place to start! (And thanks to catholic-link.org, I was enlightened more through this infographic!)

Here’s what it says and my understanding of each:

Agape means answering without arguing (Proverbs 17:1). For example, if you’re a Christian from a different denomination and I’m Catholic, let’s focus on sharing our common love for Jesus. Arguing about doctrine/dogma just isn’t Christ-like. The same goes to discriminating other religions. Let’s just not.

Agape means speaking without accusing (James 1:19). We all have the right to voice out our concerns. But we have to remember that sometimes it’s not about what we have to say, but how we say it.

Agape means promising without forgetting (Proverbs 13:12). I’m sometimes guilty of this! Haha! But yes, we gotta learn to be accountable of our own words — whether it’s as minor as doing a favor for another, or as major as staying faithful to your partner. That’s agape looove!

Agape means listening without interrupting (Proverbs 18). As a very talkative person (wordy pa!), this was a very hard lesson to learn. But gradually, I’m happy to say that I’m now able to apply this to the point that sometimes I’m already mistaken for being an introvert (sooo not me! wahahahaha)! But yes, I’m still a work in progress in this aspect, and I can only thank God for His grace.

Agape means working without complaining (Philippians 2:14). You know that feeling when you’re willing to do anything for someone you love? Well, that also applies to someone or something you don’t necessarily like or love but is required of you. For example, if there’s a major reorganization at your workplace and you don’t necessarily like it but you still do it nonetheless for the greater good of the entire organization, then that, in itself, is already showing agape love to your workplace, boss/es, and colleagues! Besides, thank God that you still have a job and you still have the capacity and means to work!

Agape means trusting without wavering (1 Corinthians 13:7). For most singles, trusting God in the waiting season is probably one of the hardest things to do! But we gotta keep on trusting lest we end up settling for not His best — and that’s just sad. So trust God fully, and use this time to love and seek Him all the more!!!

Agape means forgiving without punishing (Colossians 3:13). More than forgiving others, this is about forgiving yourself too. After all, forgiveness is a gift you give to yourself. And when you don’t forgive, you’re the only one who’s punishing yourself. Don’t do that. Show yourself some agape love. And just like hurt people, hurt people, people who have sufficient self-love are also the ones who are able to give love to others more!

Agape means praying without ceasing (Colossians 1:9). It’s easy to pray when things are going well. But when they don’t? I say that agape love is when the going gets tough, the tough get to praying more! This includes praying for your enemies. It’s not easy, but God will be very proud of you!

Agape means giving without sparing (Proverbs 21 and 26). For example, if you’re going to donate pre-loved items to a charity, make sure that those items can really still be used. Don’t just give for the sake of giving. Give with a purpose and it’ll be more meaningful. Also, agape love means loving freely without expecting anything in return. Easier said than done, but through God’s grace, anything’s possible!

Agape means giving without regret (2 Corinthians 9:7). When my ex and I broke up, there was a point that I considered him as the biggest mistake of my life! Haha! But no, that was just the high emotions talking. When I realized that I’ve already moved on, I have nothing but thanksgiving to my ex and our past four-year relationship because that experience brought out the best version of myself — and I wouldn’t have it any other way! BUT we need to draw the line. When it comes to sin, though, we must learn to repent, recover, then restore. So yes, regret the sin/s, but not the love.

I’m sure there are still other examples apt for each of the aforementioned points, so you’re free to reflect on your own. Ain’t it fun? So many ways to show authentic love! 😀

Basta ako, sabi nga sa isang commercial, wala man akong “love life” ngayon, hindi naman nawala ang love sa buhay ko — not just love from my family, my friends, and myself, but most importantly from God, who is Love Himself.

So now, before I utter those “three words, eight letters” to anyone, I reflect first if I really mean it. Am I really willing to die to myself for the good of that person for me to say that I love him or her? ‘Cause if not, then I might as well just keep my mouth shut. This way, when I finally utter the words “I love you,” God, me, and that person will know that I really, really do.

I guess it’s also timing that I’m going to Greece very, very soon. I bet there’s a thing or two I could learn more from the Greeks.

Less eros, more agape, and then some. 😉

Happy agape loving,
Mika

“If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge,
and if I have a faith that can move mountains,
but do not have love, I am nothing.”

-1 Corinthians 13:2

When was the last time you exemplified agape love to others?
Share your thoughts!