MANILA, Philippines -- At 63, Dionisia Pacquiao has found a new life mission after what she recalls to be a personal encounter with the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Before the end of the year, the mother of Filipino boxing icon Manny Pacquiao intends to erect a chapel beside her home in General Santos City.
In an interview with the current affairs program "Hiwaga" aired on Friday, the Pacquiao matriarch said this new mission was motivated by having spoken with the Virgin Mary last year.
Pacquiao, popularly known as Mommy Dionisia, said she was sitting alone beside a statue of Mary inside their home when the figure smiled at her.
"May narinig akong sign, pero malamig ang boses niya, ni Mama Mary... Ang ibig sabihin niya, magtayo ng simbahan. Kung saan ako nakatira, dito ako mapapatayo ng bahay ng Diyos," Pacquiao said.
This "apparition" of the Virgin Mary to Pacquiao wasn't the only instance she has "seen" the venerated figure.
The first time was in 1978, when the devout Catholic had just given birth to Emmanuel or Manny. According to Dionisia, she was diagnosed with symptoms of leukemia at the time. But one night was all it took to reverse her condition, she said.
"Meron akong nakita. Hindi ako natulog dahil nagpapa-dede pa ako ng anak ko, si Emmanuel. Parang nagliwanag ang kwarto namin. Wala namang ilaw, wala namang kuryente noon sa bukid. Nakita ko [si Mary], ngumiti siya," said Pacquiao, who was 29 at the time.
"May message siya na wala pang time, na hindi pa pagkakataon na humawak sa [kanya]... [Pero] pinili niya kung sinong babae ang gusto niyang pakitaan," she said.
Only days after the Virgin Mary "appeared" to her, Pacquiao sought another medical check-up in the hope of finding improvements in her condition. "Bigla nalang gumaling. Ang Mahal na Birhen ang palaging nagsusubaybay sa akin, parang gabay ko siya," she said.
Before then, Pacquiao as a child had already prayed the rosary everday, but her "encounter" served to further strengthen her faith.
"Hindi naman tayo ang may ari ng katawan natin at buhay, ang Diyos ang may ari. Pero bakit may Virgin Mary? [Dahil] hindi magiging tao si Jesus kung wala si Virgin Mary," she said.
"Kahit anong sakit ang dumaan sa ating katawan, kung maging strong ka lang sa Diyos -- tingnan mo si Mommy D," she said.