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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Mary Jane Veloso: A Miracle of Love through Prayers

An inspiring story shared by a dear friend  Bro. Ed Dionisio

Mary Jane Veloso: A Miracle of Love through Prayers

By: Edgardo M. Dionisio


0n 28 April 2015, I received a message from Fr. Harold Toledano, a missionary priest asking help if I can go to Cilacap to be with the children of Mary Jane Veloso, a Filipina who was scheduled to serve her death penalty for being convicted of carrying 2.6 kg of heroin found at the lining of her bag. My heart beat fast upon hearing it as my whole being was telling me to go and offer my help to the children of Mary Jane. However, I need to ask permission from my principal and head of school. By the grace of GOD, my request was granted and I remember Mr. Nick my Head of School saying, “Go and be with her children. You are doing it for your country, for your church and for GOD.” I felt ecstatic and grateful after I heard that approval knowing that I would have that very rare opportunity to be with the family of Mary Jane especially with her two boys who need help more than anyone else.

            2 Corinthians 9:7 - Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, [so let him give]; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. GOD is truly a generous GOD. Upon the appeal of Fr. Harold to my church community through our whatsapp group to extend financial assistance to me for my plane fare going to the place, instantly, one good and munificent lady by the name of Bang texted me and offered to purchase my plane ticket. This magnanimous lady said, “This is the least that I can do as my way of helping the family of Mary Jane through you.” It was very humbling to hear those words. However, since it was late to book online I can only get my plane ticket straight at the airport. Also, the Philippine Women's Association in Jakarta extended their generous support as well. I still tried to finish the simple tasks I have to do on that day as my commitment to my work is also my commitment to the GOD.

Off I went to the airport and the taxi was moving like in the movie “Fast and Furious” but I never felt nervous or scared as I have strong faith that GOD will protect me throughout my trip until I reach my destination. I was instructed by the check-in counter personnel to talk directly to the supervisor where I can book the next flight going to Jogjakarta. I was taken aghast to hear that they do not issue plane ticket for late passengers anymore as it is a new policy. In Mark 11:24 it is written, “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” With faith in GOD, I pleaded and prayed while I was talking to the supervisor. Lo and behold; my request was granted and GOD has touched the heart of the supervisor because he said that he will book me to the next flight going to Jogjakarta due to my urgent reason. I checked in and waited for my flight at 2:40 pm via Air Asia. Honestly, I felt that this was the time of my life that I became more prayerful knowing the accident that happened involving Air Asia flight from Surabaya to Singapore. I calmed down and again prayed to GOD to bless my trip. Aleluya! I was able to reach my destination safe and sound.

At the Jogjakarta airport, I met this lady by the name of Erwiana who was the contact person of Fr. Harold to guide and assist me to find a ride going to Cilacap from Jogjakarta. I learned that she worked as a domestic helper in Hongkong for nine months and was a victim of physical violence and abuse by her female boss. In Proverbs 21:15 it says, “When justice is done, it brings joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers.” To avenge herself, she filed a case against her female boss with the help of Migrante International, an advocacy group based in the Philippines that supports and protects Filipino migrant workers all over the world. She won her case and her perpetrator was incarcerated and is now serving her six year punishment in jail.

According to Erwiana I still need to travel from Jogjakarta to Cilacap for 5 to 6 hours by land. I opted to rent a car and I don’t mind if I have to pay and use my personal money. I felt a bit nervous because I have to travel in the evening as I fear for my safety and security as well. However, I put my full trust in the LORD and by HIS love and protection I was able to reach the place with the help of the two drivers who are best of friends. When I met Fr. Harold at Permata hotel, we went straight to the parish church where we were supposed to sleep overnight. At around 2:00 am, I heard someone knocking with urgency as if the person would like me to immediately open the door. I was already asleep and feeling the fatigue all over my body. When I opened the door, I saw Fr. Harold in a very jubilant mood saying that Mary Jane was spared from firing squad. We immediately rushed our way to the port to meet Mary Jane and her family.

When we reached our destination, I saw a lot of people waiting at the port especially from international and local media doing their live report. I had mixed emotion because many where crying and in deep pain as my attention was captured by Michelle, an Australian who was grieving for the loss of her friend. On her shirt it was printed, “Abolish Death Penalty!” She hugged my companions whom I have only met at the port and they were consoling each other. Michelle was very kind to say, “We are happy for Mary Jane!” I felt the genuine goodness and sincerity of Michelle and I agree to her that death penalty must be abolish. In James 4:12 it says, “There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?”

The group decided to leave the place to rest as everyone looked very tired and exhausted. There I met Connie, the chairperson of Migrante International, Pamella who works for Migrante as well, Atty. Edre the lawyer of Mary Jane from the National Union of Lawyers in the Philippines and Monique Wilson, a celebrity in the Philippines who was the main star of the London musical Miss Saigon. She was there as a representative of “One Billion Rising” an international organization that advocates women’s rights and protection of children.

Since Mary Jane was brought back to Jogjakarta as well as her family, we have to travel back to Jogjakarta and endure the long hours of traveling to meet her family and hopefully to visit Mary Jane. This time I felt relax and calm as I was traveling back to Jogjakarta with the presence of a priest and a nun. As we reached the hotel to meet the family of Mary Jane we were informed that we have to wait because they were in a meeting with the officers of the Philippine Embassy and Department of Foreign Affairs.

After spending a very long time traveling back and forth to Jogja and Cilacap, I have finally met the family of Mary Jane. With much anticipation and alacrity to meet the family especially the sons of Mary Jane, I prayed and prepared myself on how to approach and connect to the children. Daniel, a 12 year old boy, in his blue sando who looks tired was quite aloof as I tried my best to talk to him. He appeared nonchalant about it which was very understandable because it’s our first time to meet each other. On the other hand, Darren, a 6 year old boy who appeared sleepy was being carried by his father. I tried to approach him and introduce myself. He responded in a very respectful way with a prodding from his father. I asked him if he likes toy cars and without hesitation he said yes. I immediately handed him the toy car I bought at the Jakarta airport. I asked him if his brother plays it as well and as a young child who love toys he said no, thus, I have to give him the other one. That moment, I felt that I was able to connect to him in my humble way. It was very clear to me that my intention was to be of help to the two boys, I attempted to talk again to Daniel. This time I started the conversation by asking him about dota, clash of clans and other computer games. Finally! I got his attention and we were able to start a conversation. I showed him some games in my hand phone and allowed him to play with it. That was simply my “golden moment” to be able to connect to Daniel.  We have to say goodbye as we all need to rest after a very long day.

My encounter with the family of Mary Jane also gave me a rare opportunity to get to know the people whom I called the “unsung heroes” who have unselfishly shared their time, personal resources and showed their genuine concern to all the members of MJ's family. Fr. Harold who invited me to be part of this holy journey for me to witness, learn and realize a lot of things from this edifying experience. Connie, the chairperson of Migrante, she worked as a domestic helper for 13 years in Hongkong. She was called to serve the Filipino migrant workers without any remuneration but only relying on the allowance she receives as donation from generous and kind people who understand and support her group’s advocacy.  Pamella who gets the same treatment like Connie but decided to work as a full time volunteer despite having a family of her own which she has to support. Monique Wilson, a very talented and intelligent woman who left the glitz and glamour of show business and decided to work as a full time volunteer  of “One Billion Rising” advocating the rights and protection of women and children. She came all the way from Bali for her medical treatment for blood cancer. Iwenk, head of ATKI Indonesia the counterpart of Migrante Philippines here in Indonesia. Lastly, Atty. Edre Olalia, the lawyer of Mary Jane from the National Union of Lawyers in the Philippines. He was also the lawyer of  Flor Contemplacion, a Filipina who worked as a domestic helper in Singapore and suffered the fate of death penalty by hanging.

These people have touched my heart and soul to see another dimension of life that is cruel and despicable. I have truly felt and witnessed the authenticity and genuineness of their intention to help without expecting anything in return. In Deuteronomy 15:10, “Give generously to him and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to.

I woke up at 5:00 am of 31 April 2015 not feeling tired or even with a heavy head but with anticipation that I would have a chance to meet Mary Jane. I had a “holy breakfast” in the presence of priests, nuns and religious brothers and sisters from Focolare community. It has always been an inspiring experience to mingle with religious people as I always feel GOD’s presence and holiness. We said our goodbyes and thanked the religious sisters for accommodating us. We were picked up by Ate Linda, a Filipina who lives in Jogjakarta for almost 30 years now. She was another lady whom GOD has chosen to help us make our stay in Jogjakarta safe and convenient.

From the church we went straight to the hotel to meet up with the family of Mary Jane. Again, I had another humble moment to be with her two sons. I saw Darren, the youngest asking his father to buy him a flying toy bird made of plastic. I approached and told him I will buy it for him. I held his hand and without hesitation he joined me as he looks very excited as a young child longing to have a toy that he wanted to play with. I bought two, one for Darren and one for Daniel. I felt the simple and profound happiness from the two boys as I tried to play with them. After few minutes of running, playing and laughing, we have to end our play time as everyone was ready to go to the place of Mary Jane.

As our  car was moving towards Jogjakarta penitentiary, I felt excited and happy that I  will have a golden opportunity to see a person who was given another chance to live through the unceasing prayers of many people who believe that miracle do happen. As we reached the place, we were welcomed by media people taking photos here and there. At least for few minutes I felt how it is to be a celebrity. Kidding aside, Mary Jane was described by her family as a very kind, generous and loving person. For almost five years  that she was in prison, she accepts laundry from her fellow inmates and prison personnel. She would save her hard earned money and send it to her family in the Philippines. For many Filipinos working abroad, we love to send or bring home gifts for our family. Mary Jane bought and collected different items like shampoo, soap, coffee, and other stuff and put it in one big box which she gave to her family even if she knew that her  final day is already about to come. According to her parents, Mary Jane told them not to be sad because it will also make her feel sad. She was very thankful to the LORD to be able to talk to her family. She asked for their forgiveness for the sins that she has committed against them. She even invited her husband to join her family despite the fact that he already has a new family of his own.

If this is my time to die, I believe that GOD wanted me to be with HIM in heaven. If it is His will for me to live, even there’s only one minute left, He will spare my life from death and miracle will happen. She requested that she not be handicapped and not wear the cloth that will cover her face. She will face her executioner with dignity as she wears the shirt given to her by Fr. Harold with the face of JESUS printed on it. She believes that during her execution day, she will not be alone because GOD is with her to protect her and welcome her to heaven as narrated by her  brother Christopher.
Her sisters, a priest and personnel from the Philippine Embassy heard many gunshots as they were in the place where Mary Jane was supposed to be executed. They thought that she was already dead. Indeed miracle is for real. It was announced few minutes later that Mary Jane was not executed and was given a reprieve for a chance to prove and defend herself further in court that she is not guilty of the crime accused of her.

In John 11:40-42 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” It was indeed a miracle, a miracle brought about by great love, hope and faith through the unceasing prayers of the people of GOD who believes that miracle do happen.

POINTS TO PONDER
  1. Will you be an instrument of grace and blessing to people by allowing them to have a holy opportunity to be in this moment of crisis?
  2. Will you be willing to offer and sacrifice your time and resources to someone you do not know and not even acquainted with?
  3. Are you ready to be a catalyst of change for others no matter what it takes?
  4. Are you willing to fight for justice for the greater glory of GOD?
  5. Have you truly found and discovered GOD’S great plan for you?

Edgardo M. Dionisio I was blessed enough to be given a chance to be with the family of Mary Jane Veloso and see her in person. I made a blog about it with the hope that you may also learn something from my humbling and edifying experience.. Let us continue to pray for her that her death sentence be commuted as well as others who are victims of human and drug trafficking. Thank you to all your unceasing prayers. May the good Lord continue to bless each and everyone of you.

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