I love to think of the real Naomi. And I love to tell her story and that of her daughter-in-law, Ruth over and over again in our conduct of Parish Renewal Experience Seminars (PREX). Naomi and Ruth are biblical figures in the Old Testament. They inspire the church on their love-faith relationship. Their story tells much about God’s fidelity and love that extends even to non-Jews.
I lovingly associate Mang Pining to Naomi. Mang Pining is my mother-in-law. A portion of her life is at the heart of my life testimony, which I share in the conduct of PREX seminars. Here it goes…
When I got married, Nok requested that we live with his mother in Mexico. I consented. Mang Pining was easy to love. She also loved me like her own true daughter. She lovingly accepted me, even with our big gap in socio-economic status. She filled up for my absences from my own family as I continued to work even after I was already married. She became a substitute mother during my active years in San Miguel. It was during those years that I was like a boarder at home. I left early in the morning to report for work and I came home too late in the evening so that I seldom attended to the needs of my own family. She made up for what I failed to do. She took care of my sons’ needs.
Who would forget this woman? She was a loving matriarch to all. No one who came to the rice mill, which she operated for a living, had left without sharing her grace. She was also a charitable person. She helped a lot of people. In the great flood of the year 70’s, her house was converted into an evacuation center. She sheltered so many people. According to stories told about this incident, she fed so many people that the maid had to cook one sack of rice a day.
In 1993 she was diagnosed to have cancer. It is during this time of sickness that I saw the fruit of her piety and good works. She received so much spiritual and moral support from the parish community where she used to serve as an officer and member of the Catholic Women’s League. Neighbors, friends, pastoral workers, seminarians and priests visited her from time to time.
Her relative, Tino Panlilio, a Eucharistic minister regularly served during her reception of Holy Communion. Some of the priests who were beneficiaries of her generosity visited her, heard her confession and administered the Sacrament of the Sick. She received so much grace.
When she died on July 16, 1995, the Feast of Our Lady of Carmel, throngs of people came to the wake and on the day of her interment. Many masses were celebrated. Hundreds of Mass cards were sent along with beautiful flowers. What a vast crowd of people who attended the funeral of an unassuming person!
Today, when we visit her tomb the inscription touches us:
“IN MEMORY OF A LOVING MOTHER, A TRUE CHRISTIAN”.
Mang Pining is the Naomi of my life. When she died, I developed a strong desire to continue her apostolate in the parish. She must have prayed for that! Her death left my heart grieving. I suffered from emptiness and sadness. And in prayer, I often turned to her for motherly support. A few months after her death, our newly installed parish priest, Msgr. Tony Bustos whispered to me, “Can I give you an apostolate?”. I nodded. On December 31, 1995, I took an oath to serve as the Parish Pastoral Council Auditor in a very solemn installation rite. That started a beautiful ministry in the parish. Msgr. Bustos empowered me so much.
With all that he allowed me to do for the parishioners, very soon, like Ruth in the biblical passages, Mang Pining’s “people in Mexico became my people.” Mang Pining made God more real to me.
I found God in the faces of the poor people I began to serve. I thank God for my Naomi. And I thank God for the people He sent me to serve.