Filed under: Philippines
Marfel is a 38 year old worker in the transportation industry here in Manila. He lives in a tiny house with his wife and five children. He needs 500 pesos ( $10 ) to support his family and himself per day. He works 6 days a week approximately 12 to 14 hours per day driving. Since his teenage years he has been a devotee to the Black Nazarene which is located at the Quiapo Church here in Manila. “My life is in the hands of the Black Nazarene,” he explains.
“I am now in my third life”, he continues. At the end of my first life, age 21 I was electrocuted by an air conditioner but my life was saved by the Black Nazarene when someone pulled the plug. When I saw I had survived I knew it was the Black Nazarene. Seven years later a truck he was driving spun out of control after a rear tire blew out. It turned over and revolved on its top with two and half tons of plastic cargo on it. When it came to a stop he was unhurt and he knew it was the Black Nazarene who saved his life a second time. Every Friday he visits the image of Jesus and wipes it with a cloth as he prays and remembers.
Marfel joined hundreds of thousands here this week for the 400 year celebration of the Black Nazarene. According to the legend his image is black because the boat which carried the Black Nazarene to the Philippines from Mexico in 1607 caught fire. An annual procession commemorates the transfer of the image to its present location, St. John de Baptist Church in Quiapo from the old Manila walled city of the Spaniards, Intramuros in Jan. 9, 1767. But this year was special because it marks four centuries of devotion to the darkened image here. Its charcoal color contributed to a Filipino image of Christ, God’s son, a person with darkened skin like they themselves have.
For four hundred years, miracles have been attributed to the Black Nazarene. This year the thousands that gathered to follow the procession commemorating its transfer to the Quiapo Church strained to touch the image or gently wipe it with a cloth. Marfel was very proud to take his oldest son with him in the press of the crowd where the two of them helped carry the rope attached to the platform. While he walked, celebrated, prayed and joined a great community Agape love feast sponsored by the church, buses, taxis, jeepneys – all the subsystems of transportation in this crowded city – sought out routes through narrow neighborhood streets. Everyone understood when people were late for work.
An intense internal confidence and calm permeates Marfel and fellow devotees. I wonder what unexpected power and blessing for a full life waits to be revealed to the devotees in the next four hundred years.
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