Mary, Mother of Christ

The devotion to Mary, the Mother of Jesus Christ our Savior, has always been given a special place in the hearts and the minds of Catholics since the founding of the Church. The kindness, grace, and love that Mary Our Mother had shown as a wife, as a mother, and as a person is a source of inspiration and example for all of us seeking to attain salvation.


She lived a life full of love: love for God and love for mankind.

She lived a life with a purpose: to serve God through the goodness of her thoughts and actions.

She lived a life of purity: a life unadulterated by the evils of the world.


I encourage everyone, whatever your religious leanings be, to know the story of Mary the Mother of Christ and let her be our example so that we too shall live a life of goodness and love. She was a woman who had a simple life, but lived it extraordinarily through living day by day with love in her heart and with absolute trust and faith in the Lord our God.


Let me share with you a little known miracle of Mary the Mother of Christ. These miracles all happened at the then small village of  Vailankanni in India.  Remarkably, all these extraordinary events took place on September 8, the feast of the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary.


The Apparition of Mary the Mother of Christ to a Shepherd Boy

Approximately 400 years ago, there was a small pond and on its bank was a huge banyan tree. A shepherd boy from Vailankanni used to carry milk everyday to a rich man in Nagapattinam which is ten kilometers away. One hot summer day, the boy fell asleep on the shade of the huge banyan tree by the pond.


He was startled awake by a vision of a beautiful woman holding a lovely child in her arms.  The woman greeted him with a motherly smile and asked him for some of the milk he was carrying so that she could give it to her child. With happiness and open heart he gave her some milk. And felt deep satisfaction upon seeing the child smile.


Upon reaching the home of the rich man he begged for forgiveness for being late in delivering the milk and for the little portion that he gave to the woman and her child.


But, when the lid of the milk pot was lifted, he was amazed to see that the pot was brimming over with milk.


The master was fascinated by the extraordinary phenomenon witnessed by the boy and he hastened to the spot where the Lady had appeared with her child. With great reverence, the gentleman prostrated himself on the holy ground where the Lady had appeared to the boy.


The story of the apparition of the Lady and Child and the miraculous brimming over of the milk, spread like wild fire throughout the neighbourhood. The Christians in Nagapattinam were convinced that the vision was that of the Blessed Virgin Mary with the Child Jesus. Their hearts overflowed with joy at the thought of Our Blessed Mother deigning to choose such an unobtrusive place as Vailankanni to make her apparition. From that day onwards the tank has come to be known as ‘Matha Kulam’ (Our Lady’s Tank). Innumerable miracles are taking place even today by applying it on diseased persons. A chapel now stands at the place where Mary appeared to the shepherd boy.

The Apparition of Our Lady to a Buttermilk Vendor

A few years after her apparition to the Shepherd boy, Vailankanni was blessed to be visited yet again by Our Lady, and this time, to a poor lame boy of the village. At the close of the 16th century, there was a poor widow in the village of Vailankanni with a son who was born lame. In order to eke out their existence the lame boy would sell buttermilk at a place known as ‘Nadu Thittu’. It was a slightly elevated spot where there was a huge banyan tree with outstretched branches. The widow would carry the lame boy to Nadu Thittu day by day and leave him with a pot of buttermilk to sell to passersby who would take shelter under the banyan tree.


One day, he was waiting and waiting for customers to come. Morning turned to noon and still there were no passersby. He was already starting to feel sorry and a bit disappointed.


But his disappointment turned into joy when, in the twinkling of an eye, he saw awoman of stunning beauty standing before him, holding a baby in her arms. The Mother and Child were attired in impeccable white garments. The woman looked at the boy with a charming smile and asked him for a cup of buttermilk for the child. Without a moment’s hesitation the lad gave her a cup of buttermilk. After feeding the buttermilk to the child, the woman then cast a benevolent look at the lame boy and turned towards her child in her arms as if entreating him to heal the crippled lad. The Mother’s silent request was instantaneously answered. Without the boy realizing it, a miracle had been wrought on him, but he kept on gazing at his distinguished visitors as though entranced.


The woman was gratefully for the youth’s generosity and requested another favour of him. The lad was to go to Nagapattinam and to inform a certain rich Catholic gentleman of the woman’s appearance to him and to inform him of her desire to have a chapel built at Vailankanni in her honour. While he was eager to carry out the mission entrusted to him, his physical impairment rendered him incapable of carrying out the mission. The boy told the woman so. But the woman bade him get up and walk as he was no longer a cripple. Immediately, the lad leaped to his feet. His joy knew no bounds when he realized he could walk. He ran as fast as his leg could carry him, all the 10 kilometers to Nagapattinam. On the way he would pause a while to make sure that the miracle that had taken place in him was not a figment of his mind but a reality.


On reaching Nagapattinam the boy, narrated to the gentleman of the apparition. He informed the gentleman that she had sent him as her emissary to ask him to build a chapel in her honour in Vailankanni. The gentleman had little doubt in believing the lad as he himself had a similar vision of Our Lady in his sleep the previous night, bidding him build a chapel in her honour. With the willing cooperation of the people of that locality whose enthusiasm had been kindled by the miraculous healing of the widow’s crippled son, the Catholic gentleman of Nagapattinam soon put up a small thatched chapel at Vailankanni. An altar was erected in the chapel and a beautiful statue of Our Lady of Vailankanni holding the Infant Jesus in her arms, was placed on the altar. That marked the humble beginning of the Shrine of Our Lady of Vailankanni.


So many cures were taking place to those who prayed at the miraculous Mother with her Divine Infant came to be known as Our Lady of Good Health, Vailankanni (Vailankanni Arokia Matha). A chapel has been recently built at Nadu Thittu where Our Lady appeared to the lame butter milk vendor.

The Miracle to the Portuguese Sailors

In the 17th century a Portuguese merchant vessel was sailing to Colombo. While it was cruising towards the west to reach the Bay of Bengal, it was caught in a violent storm. The gale grew furious and the waves rose high and lashed violently at the ship and the fate of the vessel, with everyone on board was all but sealed.


The helpless sailors instinctively fell on their knees and with all the fervour, their sinking souls could muster, sought Mary’s help. They vowed to build a church in her honour wherever she helped them land safely.


Their earnest petition was instantly heard, for all of a sudden, there was a miraculous lull in the winds; the waves subsided and the sea became calm. Soon the battered ship was pushed to safety to the shores of Vailankanni.


On landing, the first thing the sailors did was to fall on their knees and thank God and the Blessed Virgin Mary for having saved their lives. They set about immediately to remodel the thatched chapel.


May these miracles give us hope in knowing that God is always with us, and through Mary the Mother of Christ, he gives us aid.

No matter what our stations in life God always sees us as His children, and will always give us His love, and grace us with His blessings as long as we have faith in Him.

May Mary be our guide in attaining peace in our lives as well as in the next, by being in union with God our Father.



If you want to know more about these miracles and the shrine built to honor Mary at Vailankanni, click here

Balbakwa Recipe (Cebuano Ox Skin and Tail Stew)

Balbakwa (Cebuano Ox Skin and Tail Stew)


Balbakwa originated from Cebu, an island in the Visayas group of islands smack dab in the center of the Philippine archipelago.  The spread of this dish may be attributed to the penchant of Cebuanos to travel, added with Cebu being a hob of trade and commerce in the Visayas where many people from outlying islands would come to sell their produce.


There is something about the thickness and almost gluey yet savory consistency of this soup that just goes oh-so-well when nursing a hangover or when you are feeling melancholic while sitting by the window side and listening to the pitter-patter of raindrops falling on the roof. It even goes well for lunch! You can almost always find balbakawa being served on roadside eateries all over Cebu and anywhere there are Cebuanos hanging about.  If you are looking for food that will give you that almost dreamlike state of bliss and contentment, then you must try balbakwa!


The history behind this dish seems to be shrouded in mystery and vagaries that only time and the inconsistencies of human memory could ever account for. But, to that unknown, forgotten, and unsung hero who first thought of making a dish out of over-boiled cow tail and skin, he will always be a hero in my eyes and has the undying gratitude of my entrails.


Anyway, have you ever heard someone say “it may be simple, but it’s darn hard!”? Well if you haven’t, try cooking this dish and I assure you sweat will pour and blood will drizzle. Not to mention the swearing. It will be intense, to a point that someone overhearing you will think that you are singing some new hipster-issshh rock song. Nah, just ribbing you. But, anyway, this dish is really labor intensive. So if you want to try cooking this make sure that you start it off with a calm head and be prepared to shed some sweat.


Just like any other superstar dishes in the galaxy of food, there are several takes on how to make balbakwa but they are all unanimous in saying that the best balbakwa is cooked over low heat for hours. Some of these balbakwa variants even feature pork and beans, and even peanut butter just like in Kare-Kare.


Here is the recipe that is, i think, as close to the original as i could get:



1  kilo ox tail (or ox feet) and skin, cut into small pieces

3 tablespoons of salted black beans

4-5 pieces of saba (also known as cardaba) banana, sliced into chunks

1/2 cup of boiled white beans

3 pieces star anise

1 piece (or a big finger) of ginger, minced

5 cloves of garlic, crushed

3 pieces of onions (the red one, not the big ones that are used for salads), quartered

Salt and Pepper

1/2 cup of thinly chopped spring onions (for garnish)

You can add MSG (monosodium glutamate) if you want to add more of that umami flavor


Boil the beef parts (skin, oxtail, ox feet) for about 3-4 minutes then remove the water, do this 3 times so as to get rid of unwanted smell

Note: start counting down the time when the water already starts to boil.


After repeating the first step three times boil again the beef parts but this time add the ginger and about 1 tablespoon of salt, let it simmer till the meat becomes tender and the broth starts to have a thick and sticky consistency.

Note: to be sure of the exact amount of water to use, the technique is to have all the meat almost completely submerged. Make sure also that you will be using medium heat and let the meat slowly cook so that all the flavors will be enfused to the broth. This may take some time so prepare to wait and make sure to stir it a couple of times every now and then to make sure that the meat will not be burnt in the bottom of the pot. Another secret to this recipe would be to add about a couple of grams worth of very small cut pure beef so that it will add to the meaty flavor of the broth.


In another pan, saute the onions and garlic until they become golden brown. Then add the boiled white beans and saute it with the onions and garlic.


Pour the contents of the pan into the broth. Add the black beans (do not include the brine water if you are using canned black beans).


Add the bananas.

Note: Make sure that the bananas will be fairly soft yet still partly firm before you turn off the fire. The end product of the broth should have a thick and sticky consistency and would have a greyish brown color.


Season to taste. And add the chopped spring onions right before you turn off the fire.