By Sr. Melania Ma. Sunga
Given a negative pronouncement in 1951 by an Episcopal Commission, the apparitions of Our Lady in Lipa, Batangas, Philippines are presently being given a second look by the Church. The head of the new Commission, Fr. Richard Hernandez, says that there are around 300 reports of miracles/favors received and ten authenticated cases.
Below is a case which has been passed on to the present Commission by a previous Commission way back in the 1990s. It was originally in the form of an Affidavit, testimonies under oath, before legal authorities – all the more to emphasize the veracity of the cure, the truthfulness of the witnesses and the rigorous documentation required by the Church. We have given the Affidavits a narrative format and have left the wording practically intact, although shortening it to fit space available.
I am Sr. Melania Ma. Sunga of the Religious of the Assumption. I was born on 31 December 1941 in Candon, Ilocos Sur, Philippines. I am the niece of Bishop Edmundo Abaya of Ilocos Sur. He is my mother’s cousin. Being a blood relative, Bishop Abaya took care of my mother Rosario Abaya-Sunga when the latter became an orphan at a very early age.
I was born with a club foot. Because of this handicap, I could never walk without limping and wear shoes or slippers until I was miraculously cured in 1949. Even while an infant, my parents consulted a family doctor as regards the possibility of an operation to straighten my foot. However the doctor advised them that I was too small and too weak to undergo any surgery. He further advised them that despite the operation, there would be no assurance or certainty that I could walk normally.
The doctor’s advice brought so much sadness to the family. My parents took it to mean that I would never be able to live a normal life when I grow up. Bishop Abaya was not spared this distressing news.
Sometime in 1949, when I was eight years old, Bishop Abaya, then studying at the seminary of the University of Santo Tomas, went on a pilgrimage to the Lipa Carmel Convent together with the Rector and fellow seminarians. During the said pilgrimage, Bishop Abaya remembered me and my pitiful condition and asked the Carmel Sisters for a bottle of water previously placed overnight in front of the statue of Our Lady of Lipa - Mary Mediatrix of All Grace. The Sisters obliged and, in addition, gave him the Tagalog version of the novena to Our Lady, Mary Mediatrix of All Grace.
Bishop Abaya gave the bottle of water and the Tagalog novena to my mother when he paid us a visit in Candon, Ilocos Sur. For nine consecutive days, my mother prayed the novena and in the evening before sleeping, she would rub some water from the bottle on my club foot.
In the morning of the ninth day of my mother’s novena, my father Graciano Sunga and my brother Abelardo were very surprised to see me walk without the usual limp. I also noticed that I could walk straight… My eyes then went to my club foot. A normal foot was in place. My defect or handicap was suddenly gone… As far as my family and Bishop Abaya were concerned, there was no doubt that I was miraculously cured of my defect… My miraculous cure became the hottest and biggest news in Candon, Ilocos Sur.
The loving presence of the Blessed Virgin Mary in our household did not end there. A week after my instant cure, the entire family including myself witnessed the mysterious presence of a brown rose petal inside Abelardo’s pan de sal as he broke it during the usual family breakfast. As we put the said petal against the light, we saw the half body image with a halo of Our Lady, the Blessed Mother.
The following day, my sister Maria Elena Sunga, then 17 years old, was sweeping the floor in front of the altar where the image of Mary, Mediatrix of All Grace was placed or exhibited. As she tried to gather the dust in the dust pan, a strong gust of wind entered the sala and blew away the dust. In its place, six rose petals lay on the dust pan. Certainly, no one put them there.
Two or three weeks later, my other brother Antonio, then 13 years old, bought some bubble gum with the wrappers of Batman, Tarzan and Superman. He kept the three wrappers inside his shirt pocket with the intention of asking our laundry woman Mercedes to iron them on his other shirt in order to engrave the images or features of the said cartoons. As soon as he got home, he took out the wrappers and discovered that they were individually and neatly folded. When he opened each wrapper, he saw a rose petal inserted between the fold. My brother then asked who placed them inside the wrappers. No one knew how the petals got there.
My parents decided to show all the rose petals the family mysteriously received in our own home to Rev. Fr. Ferdinand Carmelo, then the parish priest of Candon, Ilocos Sur. In turn, the said parish priest advised my parents to show them to Bishop Juan Sison.
Bishop Sison advised my parents to refrain from talking about or discussing my cure and the mysterious discovery of the rose petals lest our home be overfilled with visitors. I did not find this advice odd because the story of my cure had already reached other towns in Ilocos Sur.
But Bishop Sison was not incredulous or unbelieving. On the contrary, he believed in the miraculous cure of my club foot and the mysterious appearance of the rose petals as a sign of the Blessed Mother’s divine presence into our lives. He would often tell my father: “Feel free to come back. Whenever you find petals, report them to me.”
True enough my parents went back to see Bishop Sison on account of the rose petals they themselves discovered while doing their routine work at home. My mother found her rose petals among her red carnations. She never cultivated roses. As regards my father, he saw his petals among the pages of the newspaper he was then reading.
In May 1949, my entire family went on a thanksgiving pilgrimage to the Lipa Carmel Convent. During the usual raffle of the rose petals inside the chapel, my name and my brothers’ – Jose and Abelardo – were luckily called. We were each given a rose petal by the Sisters. To me the event proved the incessant blessings of the Blessed Virgin Mary on our family.
My family also became close to the late Bishop Cesar Guerrero when we transferred our residence to San Fernando, Pampanga. Bishop Guerrero became my brother Antonio’s spiritual adviser when the latter enrolled as a seminarian in the Mater Boni Concilii Seminary in Apalit, Pampanga.
Bishop Guerrero unquestionably believed in my miraculous cure and the mysterious appearance of the rose petals in our home at Candon, Ilocos Sur. He would exhort us all members of the family to continue our devotion to Our Lady, Mary Mediatrix of All Grace.
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