ISOLA DI SAN FRANCESCO, Bohol—This once obscure islet is fast becoming one of the top tourist attractions in the province, after its owner-philanthropist built a chapel dedicated to St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, whom he credits for curing his right eye that had gone blind.
In an exclusive interview during a tour of the beautiful islet off Panglao Island, Ramon E. Rodriguez said he was blinded in his right eye after a vein erupted following a bout of high blood pressure.
For over a decade, he underwent medical treatment by an ophthalmologist, getting the most advanced medicine with steroids but to no effect.
Rodriguez admitted his “grandiose life” as a businessmen made him turn away from God for many years, until he became a devotee of St. Padre Pio. But with his prayers answered, he constructed the chapel on the islet, which he and his wife, Didi Cloribel, bought more than 50 years ago.
Now, the islet sports the chapel and a towering 20-foot replica of St. Padre Pio, who during his lifetime suffered the stigmata—the wounds of Christ—for 50 years before he died at the age of 85 in 1968. He was beatified in 1999 and canonized by Pope John Paul II in 2002.
Incidentally, May 25 (Thursday) is the 130th birthday of Padre Pio, born Francesco Forgione. He was given the name of Pio when he joined the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin.
The Isola di San Francesco is just a 10-minute trip by boat from Panglao. Most of the visitors go to the islet to pray, but some go swimming in its unpolluted waters. Going to the islet is free, with only a donation of any amount at the chapel as an entrance fee.
“I virtually forgot about God,” Rodriguez said remorsefully. “Then I got sick with high blood pressure. I went to my doctor, who prescribed me a medicine called Predzion Steroid which I took for many years, but still my right eye was still blind,” Rodriguez said.
“One day, my close friend Jesus Mendoza gave me a novena prayer of St. Padre Pio,” he added. “I took it and casually put the novena prayer to my pocket. But my friend told me to give due respect to the novena prayer by treating it with some degree of reverence.”
“He reminded me about Jesus Christ our Lord God and Savior, telling me ‘you have forgotten Him,’” Rodriguez quoted his friend as saying. Before he knew it, he started praying to St. Padre Pio.
“However, during the prayer, I told St. Padre Pio to cure me in 30 days and if he granted my petition, I promised to honor him the rest of my life,” Rodriguez said. “But after three weeks of constant prayer my right eye was still blind.”
“I reminded St. Padre Pio again that the 30-day deadline was fast approaching, and I swore to fulfill my promise if cured within that period,” Rodriguez said.
“However, on the 26th day of my novena, I was shocked when I woke up that morning when my right eye could see,” he said. “Still I could not believe. I covered my left eye and I saw everything with my right eye. I saw my wife Didi on my side still sleeping.”
To make sure his right eye could see, he went to the Cardinal Santos Medical Center in Greenhills, San Juan, where his family resides, to see his doctor. He was two hours early for his doctors’ clinic that opens at 9 a.m., so he proceeded to the canteen to take his breakfast.
“Before taking my breakfast, I again covered my left eye to check if my right eye could see. I was overjoyed when I saw everything with my right eye!” Rodriguez said. “When I went to see my doctor, telling him my right eye could now see, he told me that the medicine he gave me was effective. I did not tell him initially about St. Padre Pio’s intercession that healed me,” he said.
From the hospital, Rodriguez went to the church in Greenhills where he saw Fr. Guido, the parish priest. He asked him where the statue of St. Pio was, but the priest said there was none in the church. However, there was one at the St. Francis Church along Shaw Boulevard in Pasig City.
“While I was making the sign of the cross at St. Francis Church before the image of St. Padre Pio, I felt some hands pressing my shoulders telling me that from now on you pray to Me — Jesus Christ — who answered your prayers,” Rodriguez recalled. “I knelt and fervently prayed to God our Lord Jesus Christ and thanked Him for healing me through the intercession of St. Padre Pio.”