Mares Palma, 27, is a freelance social media spe-cialist now living in Malate, Manila. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree, major in Philippine Mass Media, at the De La Salle University, also in Manila.
In 2000, when Mares was only 12 years old, her mother died of brain cancer.
Thirteen years later, Mares fell ill and was diagnosed as having Hodgkins lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system, which is part of the circulatory system and a vital part of the immune system.
Since she was a kid, her family regularly attended Mass. But then Mares and her four sisters started working, and so going to Mass together as a family was no longer a priority on Sundays.
I WENT to an all-girls Catholic school in Marikina, from pre-school to high school. I dreaded attending the Sunday Mass. I felt bored and sleepy every time. I always tried to find ways to entertain myself while attending one. I gave it my attention only if the homily was interesting.
My dad was usually in Surigao to help in managing my cousin’s hardware store. My sisters found jobs and boyfriends. So I found myself going to Mass alone. Since my heart was not really into it, I eventually stopped going.
Finding The Feast
I started reading Bro. Bo Sanchez’s books when I was in high school. I even signed up for his email list and was constantly receiving updates from him. That’s how I came to know about The Feast being held at the Philippine International Convention Centre (PICC) in the Manila Bay area.
I often went biking at the Manila Bay area and every time I passed by PICC, I’d think, “That’s where Bro. Bo is holding his prayer gathering.”
I never felt compelled to check out The Feast. I never ventured going there— until 2012.
I received an email invite to the Truly Rich seminar. I got interested in the stock investment seminar, so I decided to go. After the seminar, Bro. Bo invited the audience to attend The Feast at the PICC the next day, Sunday.
This time, I said, “Tomorrow, I will check it out.”
I asked my friend Mary Ann to go with me. She agreed.
I found the place amazing. It was lovely, elegant, and air-conditioned. It was the same familiar Mass I know but at the same time, new and different. It didn’t put me to sleep. That’s because they played lively music and even had violinists. It was truly a feast – a feast for the eyes and ears.
And I marveled at the inspiring words of Bro. Bo. I went home feeling wiser. That day, I told myself, “I’ll keep going back to The Feast. Even if I have to go by myself.”
And I did. In a few months, I joined one of The Feast ministries called Creative Events Group (CEG). As a social media specialist and noting the lack of an official Facebook page for The Feast Bay Area (then called The Feast PICC), I volunteered to manage its account. To date, it has about 50,000 likes.
This year, I moved on to the Video Team under the Media Ministry because I felt this is where I am more needed now.
At The Feast, I didn’t feel l had to be anybody but myself. I couldn’t help comparing how I sensed judgment from the peering eyes of the priests, manangs or parish workers, while at my spiritual home, I felt loved.
Before joining the Light of Jesus Family which holds The Feast, I saw God as a Father whom I turned to when I was in need. The Feast, through the homilies and talks, has awakened my spirit to develop a closer relationship with Christ. Thus, I made myself available to serve in my chosen ministry and joined its formation program.
I hungered for God’s word. I taught myself to read the Scriptures every day through the devotion-als created by Bro Bo— Sabbath, Didache, and Companion.
In September 2013, I felt a lump in my throat. I braced myself for the worst as my mom had cancer. I went for a check-up and received devastating news: there was a tumor in my chest area, and it was malignant.
I went through chemotherapy sessions in 2013 and several radiotherapy sessions in 2014. My cancer cells proved to be tough. To date, I am not yet cleared of the Big C. But I am tougher.
Life goes on. I do my best to keep a normal life. I still attend The Feast despite this setback. I know I just have to keep the faith and pray harder.
The easiest thing to do now is to give up the fight but I refuse to do so. I choose to cling to God. I know that Jesus can heal me. It’s just taking Him time to respond to my plea. I know in time He will restore me to good health.
It’s hard and sometimes, I’m disheartened but I hang on to His promise. I trust in His timing.
It helps that I’ve found people here at The Feast who are now my good friends. People who pray for me and encourage me to hang on. I am also constantly seeking the intercession of the members of The Feast Pray-over Shepherding and Healing (POSH) Ministry.
I also found people who tell me where to seek healing and alternative medication, even connec-tions for work.
Back to the Church
Through The Feast, I’ve found my way back to God and to the Church— and I am not letting go.
Thanks to The Feast for reintroducing the Mass to me.