La Sperduta bell is leading a ‘lost’ person’s way ‘home’

La Sperduta (left), one of the five bells of the Basilica Papale di Santa Maria Maggiore’s bell tower, with the writer and Fr. Gregory M. Adolfo.

MUNICH, Germany—For months, I have been wondering what and where my next journey will be after graduating last July from the European Union’s Erasmus Mundus Joint Master’s Degree in universities in Austria and France.

A lot of thoughts came in my mind, which, at times, turned to worries. Will I be able to get a position in the academe? Will I get a job? Or is this the end?

The anxiety was not serving me well. I was lost. I was beating myself with negative thoughts, and I hated myself for it. I thought that after receiving my master’s degree opportunities would come my way immediately. But that wasn’t the case.

With the pandemic and a competitive atmosphere among applicants in both the industry and academe in Europe, there wasn’t any glimmer of hope for me.

Eventually, after weeks of worrying and a series of phone calls, pouring out my worries to my Cebu-based sister Marrise, while I was in Europe, I decided to take a short trip to clear my mind.

Together with my Indonesian Muslim friend, Rochamukti Rizcanofana, we decided to discover the beautiful country of Italy. Of course, what is a trip to Italy without a visit to Rome?

Since we were stopping by Rome, we included a visit to the Basilica Papale di Santa Maria Maggiore, one of the four papal major basilicas and the largest Catholic Marian churches in Rome.

Besides, the situation in the basilica is favorable to me, or to us Filipinos: the priest, a member of the sacristy, is a Filipino and also a Visayan like me.

Fr. Gregory M. Adolfo has been in the church’s service for years. I was introduced to him before by a fellow Boholano, Lhoy Balbin, who has been working in Rome. That was during my first trip to Italy in 2019 during the Holy Week.

Father Adolfo at that time gave me a short tour inside the church. But since it was a Holy Week, most of the church’s areas were closed in observance of the holy days.

This time, during my visit with Rochamukti, we did not expect a huge treat from the heavens—or an exclusive tour at the church’s bell tower.

But the bell tower was opened for us, thanks to Father Adolfo.

While climbing the historic spiral steps that was designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, the famous Baroque style creator and sculptor, Father Greg, as Adolfo is fondly called, shared its story.

The tallest campanille in Rome, Basilica Papale di Santa Maria Maggiore’s bell tower stands tall as a symbol of hope for the lost.

“According to stories, back in the medieval times, when trees reigned around Rome, a woman was lost and couldn’t find her way out. But when the bells of the Basilica Papale di Santa Maria Maggiore started ringing, she followed the sound,” Father Greg said.

He continued: “She found her way to the church and took refuge there that night.”

This is the reason why the bell tower’s five bells is being rang at 9 o’clock every evening, to guide the lost in finding their way “home,” according to the priest.

During the early times the church held traditional blessing and naming of the bells. One of the bells that rang for the lost woman was called “La Sperduta.”

Father Greg explained the meaning of the bell’s name: “Translated from Italian to English, [La Sperduta] means ‘lost’ or ‘the lost one,’ and is by far, as per the many people who have heard, it is the most beautiful sounding bells in Rome.”

Digging through the Internet, I found that the Romanesque bell tower was built in the 1300s during the reign of Pope Gregory XI, coincidentally the namesake of Father Greg.

As the bell tower rises 75 meters high, its five bells’s ringing, including that of the La Sperduta, could be heard to the farthest corner of Rome every 9 p.m., summoning the faithful to prayer.

When I tried to connect all the information I learned about La Sperduta, I realized that maybe I was also a “lost” woman.

When I felt lost, God was ringing the bells—maybe asking me to visit Him in His holy place. I remembered that I promised in 2018 to return a couple of years later, but the pandemic got in the way.

I guess He was reminding me that I needed to make up for that promise. Maybe this is why I thought of visiting Italy and putting Rome in the itinerary despite being there before.

I knew, I am privileged enough to travel around despite the pandemic, and I took the opportunity.

There’s this Korean song I listened to repeatedly during my whole trip in Italy. Titled, “Magic Shop,” by the popular South Korean group BTS. It meant that there is a place you enter in your heart where all your wishes come true.

The lyrics of the song as translated in English says:

“On days where I hate myself for being me,

On days where I want to disappear forever,

Let’s make a door, it’s in your heart

Open the door and this place will await, Magic Shop.

While drinking a glass of hot tea

And looking up at the Milky Way

You’ll be alright, oh, this here is the Magic Shop.”

Other people could have different interpretations on the meaning of the song. But at that moment, I realized that my “magic shop” was God’s home—offering me comfort just as how I would feel whenever I drink my hot tea, and just look up to the sky, which has endless possibilities.

God called me again to His home, the only magic shop I knew that makes my sincerest desires come true. It reminded me that I just have to surrender my worries to Him, and that I just needed to trust Him.

I knew His timing is always right. Why did I say so?

A few days before our visit to the Holy City of Rome, I unexpectedly received an e-mail for an interview invitation. It was for a doctoral degree position in one of the leading technical universities worldwide. Of course, I took the chance to be interviewed.

Right after the interview that took an hour, I told myself not to expect too much as I might only get frustrated. Yet, I still hoped for the best.

The next day, the unexpected news came: I was offered the position.

Stephanie Tumampos is a doctoral researcher at the Technical University of Munich, where her research on “Modelling, Prediction and Anomaly Detection of Earth Surface Dynamics,” is in collaboration with the Imperial College London. She graduated in July from Erasmus Mundus’s Joint Master’s Degree in Copernicus Master in Digital Earth in University of Salzburg (Austria), and on GeoData Science in University of South Brittany (France). She was a BusinessMirror photojournalist and science reporter before she embarked on her scholarship in Europe.

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