Nuestro Padre Jesus Nazareno.
By ALEX M. EDUQUE
Last Wednesday, January ninth, the annual Traslacion was the feast of the Black Nazarene where the original image is paraded from the Luneta through the streets of Manila back to its shrine, the Quiapo Church, for its devotees to pay homage to their patron. While others are quick to mock this tradition as idolatry, as a largely Catholic country, see as part of our culture. You may agree or disagree with me, but I personally choose to see it as a day of thanksgiving - one where those whose lives the Black Nazarene has touched choose to give back and give thanks in solidarity. A day where any and all differences are put aside, and being a devotee is prioritized and put at the forefront. Because on that day, it is faith and heart that truly matter. It is what unites us all.
I have repeatedly talked about my view on faith in this column, and how I see it to be more of a spiritual self-journey and realization, versus religion, which to me is more regimented in practice and sectarian. And though the Black Nazarene is a Catholic (and therefore religious) symbol, in the grander scheme of things, it is one that, above all, encourages faith and gives hope. We can only very well assume that everyone who has ever entered or said a prayer in the Quiapo Church is Catholic, in the same way that we will never be able to tell how God hears our prayers, and how the deepest desires of our hearts are discerned by a greater being. At the end of the day, this is the role faith plays in our lives - to give us hope, and to get us through the toughest of times. To help us trudge through despair, and have someone, or something to cling to - even through the simple thought of a greater power hearing our prayers, and the cries of our heart. Undoubtedly, the Black Nazarene is one of the greatest of them.
I can personally attest to that strengthening of faith that the Black Nazarene gives. My grandfather himself was a devotee, and would go to Quiapo (no fail) every Friday until he was bedridden. As I went through the difficulties and uncertainties of adolescence, although I never really went astray, there were moments of loneliness and loss; of doubt, questioning, and anger towards betrayal. I really do not know what led me to Quiapo (perhaps it was my wowo, as I fondly called my grandfather from up there), but I found myself there amidst crowds of people one Friday morning, and felt a sense of inexplicable belonging. People were shedding tears, others were clinching their fists with eyes closed kneeling down so deep in prayer, while others looked longingly and lovingly at the altar. Whatever the sentiment was, there was an energy so strong, yet so peaceful, serene, and positive that penetrated deep within, and resonated with me.
For every Friday that I was home during the summer of my college years, I made it a point to go to Quiapo for mass. And while not all my questioning found certain answers, I can confidently say that my doubts were pacified, and my insecurities were allayed. I found great trust in knowing that I was not alone - in going through hardships and trials; in asking, believing in prayer, and in waiting for an answer. I sought solace and comfort in the mere presence of strangers who seemed to believe in the same. Although I am still one to never forget, forgiveness taught me to forego anger and hate, and to accept the pains of betrayal as an inevitable part of life.
Admittedly and sadly I haven't been back to Quiapo in a while. That being the case though, I do believe still in my heart that while I physically have not been there, my daily novenas have been instrumental in grounding my faith, and having that peace resonate with me through the years which is invaluable. More than anything, the Black Nazarene taught me to let go of my problems, and let God. To trust in the power of prayer, and to believe. If and only for that, His miracles are one that have touched my life, and will be with me for a lifetime. At the end of the day, we are all God's children. And as we sing the lines of the hymn of our beloved "Nuestro Padre Jesus Nazareno," we are indeed all brothers and sisters in Christ, whose inner most voices are being heard.
Alex M. Eduque