Christmas in Bethlehem

Maya in the Manger
By Earl D.C. Bracamonte

For the first time in Jerusalem’s Manger Square, a Filipino artist will be performing as one of the foreign acts to celebrate Christmas this year. OPM crusader Mitch ‘Maya’ Valdez is that artiste.
Simply dubbed “Songs from the Heart at Christmas,” the one-night-only performance is part of a 12-day pilgrimage tour under Bishop Raul Martinez, DD, as arranged by Journeys of Faith Inc. “This will be Mitch singing for God. No glitters, just a decent touristy look. I’ll be doing my usual spiels between songs. It would be a 45-minute to an hour-long show. I’ll be doing mostly English songs. It’s the very first time a Pinoy will perform in the Holy Land. My only connection to that part of the world is my great grandfather who had Syrian blood,” shared Mitch during an exclusive interview.
“I’m not really a talker. That’s strange because all my shows are ‘talkies,’ Unknown to many, I have terrible stage fright! It’s even an open secret among industry insiders that I throw up before every performance. Fortunately now, the nauseating spells are gone.
“When you are given a gift like mine, you’re also given a challenge for the reversal of the same. Hearing mass daily is now part of my routine,” she added.
The pilgrimage route which starts at Amman in Jordan will end in Cairo where a mass will be heard before pilgrims return to Manila. From Amman, the tour will visit Biblical and historical sites like Mount Nebo, Madaba, Al Maghtas, Petra, Allenby Bridge, Bethany, Bethlehem, Tabgha, Jerusalem, Mount of Olives, Kidron Valley, Mount Zion, Qumran, the Dead Sea, the Shepherd’s Field, EinKarem, Tiberias, Nazareth, Cana, Mount Tabor, Sea of Galilee, Mount of the Beatitudes, Capernaum, Jericho, Eilat, the Taba border, Sinai, the Suez Canal and unto the Egyptian capital. The last activity of the tour is a visit to Old Cairo particularly the Hanging Church and the Abou

Serga Church where the Holy Family stayed when they escaped from King Herod.
“I’m a free spirit but I also had four years of St. Scholastica schooling. At some point in your life, you seek an anchor especially with the disaster toll that’s happening around us. I want to go to the Holy Land to touch and go through Jesus’ Steps in His passion, then go to the Wailing Wall and lament all my woes in life. I always wanted to do a show there even before this opportunity came,” confessed the comedienne.
“I heard Mitch say on TV that she wanted to go to the Holy Land. Later, I met Mitch through Nestor Torre, who will be with us to write about the pilgrim tour. Journeys of Faith Inc. started as a hobby in 2001. After leaving my day job as a corporate planning officer with PAL, I started arranging travels for the Manila Archdiocese. I did the travel agency thing from home. After two years, it grew big. A decade hence and we have our very own office,” revealed Arlina Onglao, travel agency owner and concert producer to the Manger Square show.
The pilgrimage route will also be passing by the church in Zeitoun where our Lady appeared. The Virgin Mary Church in Maadi is the site where the Holy Family crossed the Nile River on their way to Egypt and where a Holy Bible was found floating against the current of the Nile.
The ‘Songs from the Heart at Christmas’ concert unfolds this Friday night, Dec. 22nd. After an early dinner at the Bedouin tent in Beit Sahour, pilgrims and guests from Filipino communities in Israel will proceed to the Manger Square to watch the concert.
“I’m more open to people now. I’m still an activist but more tempered than before. I now listen to the other side of an argument. We make a lot of mistakes because we don’t have a structure or foundation; so there’s no safety net.
“On hindsight, rules are good because they’ll save you, keep you and protect you from harm. I thank God for the ‘bloody’ path I trekked ‘coz I found the road to the rules,” Mitch intimated at the close of our colloquy.
For more information, simply get in touch with the Journeys of Faith Inc., Catholic Pilgrimages & Cruises, through tel. nos. 929-0144 and 929-0155. You may also visit their Web site,


Popular Posts