Miracles of Quiapo (A Novel)
Set in Quiapo, Manila, Philippines, Miracles of Quiapo is not the usual miracle story we hear. Meet Boy Deo, rising from the dump to become the darling of the masses!
In a sqaulid place that society hardly finds worthy to look at, an abandoned child appeared from its half-lit alleys. This child would be raised by surrogate parents. With grit and determination, he coped with untold hardships to blend in a world full of inequities, grinding his way to survival.
Beyond being able to survive, he made a good account of himself through both formal education and the school of hard knocks, as it were. Later in life he earned his spurs while building a career in community organizing. Such was his springboard to national prominence that one day, to everyone's surprise, he was elected mayor of the country's premier city.
Miracles of Quiapo is a story of human determination to overcome adversity. It is about the triumph of good over evil. It celebrates little good deeds. It is a portrait that needed strokes from many hands to complete the artwork. It is about people helping people.
SPOILER ALERT! This book will disappoint those who expect a story about instant results that come from showing one's devotion to the Black Nazarene. What the book tries to underline is the transformation that happens in our lives—from rejection to acceptance, from sin to forgiveness, from separation to reconciliation, from desolation and sorrow to hope and joy, from the pain of bondage to the joy deliverance—when we commit ourselves to not judge others and instead to do even just little good deeds for them. Its message also highlights the need to allow God to complete his work for us. Transformation can take years, even a lifetime, to happen. Some of us may not even know we are going through this path of our journey until we see the fresh flashes of smile in the faces of those with whom we relate every day.
To quote the main character of the story:
... there is always hope for redemption, regardless of how compromised one is, if only we allow God to complete his work for us. Who would have thought that it would take two generations—from Yago to Junie and myself—for us to see the beauty of a completed masterpiece, like a spider’s web, which started, in the case of Nardong Sablay, in betrayal that was driven by envy and hate, but ended in redemption and reconciliation.
You would think that Nardong Sablay, after his role in dumping Junie’s father, would be worthy of condemnation in the way we swat spiders away from our homes. But he redeemed himself by asking to be part of Junie's household; in the end, he even tried to heroically save Junie’s life on that tragic night that we got ambushed in the campaign trail.
Also, let me share with you something which I don’t think I have ever mentioned in public speeches before. As a kid, I followed the ants. I watched how they scavenge for crumbs, and how they bring their food to their colonies which I found to be hosted by trunks of trees or damaged concrete buildings. One time there was flood that either submerged or carried heaps of things away—push carts, scraps, trash, merchandise goods, construction debris, and even cars. There I saw the ants floating above the water. Whole colonies wrapped themselves up as one like a ball. Floodwaters rushed towards the river, and the floating colony passed by the shed where myself and two or three of my friends, soaking wet, were waiting for the rain to stop.
The ants looked like they were tied to each other through their limbs. The ants showed their commitment to each other, helping themselves to create air space that enabled the colony to float. Each one helped the other survive the flood that swept them from their homes.
From the spiders that taught me to wait for the completion of God’s creation, to the ants that taught me how one depended on the other to survive, I come here today with the message to suggest that there is beauty in an ugly world, that there is love for one another even if it seems envy and hate everywhere are pulling us down.
Spiders can help change our views as individual persons. Ants can help us transform our views as a community.
I remember the first time I experienced the Traslación. Maybe I was 6 or 7 years old. I saw this boy, maybe even younger than myself, who was crying because he lost her mother. Then somebody told him to just stay where he was because his mother would look for him in the last place where the two of them stayed together. That good little deed of assuring him was what God needed to perform a miracle; he stopped crying and, sure enough, his mother found her way back to him.
The message of ‘just staying where you are’ has not left me as I grew older. Staying where you are, to me, means keeping the faith. As we struggle, God will come back to us, in the person of somebody who we might not even know. In instances that I cannot count, I also experienced the Black Nazarene’s miracles in my life. The miracles came in the form of food when I was dying of hunger, and of mothers—I had at least 5 of them—who found their way back to me.
Staying where you are means keeping alive the hope that life will turn for the better for as long as we put in the effort to make a living, with determination and dedication. It means doing little good deeds for our neighbor. It means helping to put the smile back in those who need our help. To be of service to others is the last place— “the communion of saints,” as we hear the preachers explain in their homilies and as we pray the Apostles Creed—where we need to stay together. That is where God, I suppose, will come back to us. Cardinal Calaveria has reminded us of how the Holy Eucharist works for us. It is an assurance that God will keep coming back to us, fulfilling his promise that he will not leave us alone.
The Traslación is an occasion for the recollection of how our lives have experienced the outpouring of love from our brothers and sisters. The Black Nazarene performs his miracles through them. He heals the sick through our doctors and other medical professionals. He wipes the tears away from our eyes through our mothers. He brings laughter in our lives through our friends. And he keeps us humble through our enemies.
The story features a nameless (but later on would assume several names) abandoned child who went through often hellish conditions to survive. Finding a home that could adopt him was not so much a problem. In fact, he hopped from one family to another, earning for himself various identities along his stops.
Throughout his childhood years, he also learned to cope well with depravity and to get by among the homeless in Quiapo.
What made his life harder was a shady transnational organization that hunted down homeless children for its various long-term agenda. The consequences of the chase and their impact on the fate of the abandoned child ultimately honed his life-and-survival skills.
His desire to join politics was prompted by his view of a world that needed to be changed. For a backdrop: the story of one of his adoptive parents recalls the rape, the plunder, and the killing inflicted by an authoritarian government on its people in the countryside.
The story has several sub-plots. One is that of a band of criminals who got murdered by the police just when they were on a steady path towards conversion and reformation. The other is the story of a poor rural family who became a victim of displacement from a shooting war between government forces and communist rebels. Two sisters from that family eventually sought refuge with relatives in the city. After they found a job as attendants in a beer joint, rich clients of the entertainment hub befriended them. One such rich client, an influential government official, impregnated one of the sisters, who also courted simultaneously the other sister. The wife of the government official got wind of his affairs and soon trapped them in the beer joint. The husband rushed outside in shame, drove with his government-issued vehicle, and unintentionally hit an infant sleeping in a mobile cart. The infant died on the spot, but the wife of the errant government official instead charged the other sister with murder, which led to her conviction and 25-year imprisonment.
Alongside the political undertones of the novel, the 81,000-word book essays the practical side of the Catholic faith from the perspective of paupers. It raises the proposition that there is more to the Church than her rituals. Farther afield, free of sectarian boundaries and even among non-believers, it suggests that miracles do and can happen everyday, as a consequence of even just the "little good deeds" that we do.
Chapter 1: Deo Regnat
Hastily-wrapped new-born Anding, aka Deo Renato, was found atop a mound of garbage. He later was sold to a surrogate family. Deo Renato, aka Franco, found in his second home a well-to-do and well-connected family.
Chapter 2: Losing Franco
Franco was kidnapped by the OXD operatives.
Chapter 3: Finding Franco
Franco finds another mother in Teresa.
Chapter 4: Yago
Franco finds another family (Yago) that gave him home.
Chapter 5: Teresa
Teresa, who made a living from begging in Quiapo Church, showed Franco how to survive in the most dire of conditions.
Chapter 6: Boy Deo
Franco became Boy Deo, who not only survived, but went through school with impressive academic results.
Chapter 7: Junie, Reg and Joey
The public ministry of Boy Deo started in the company of boyhood pal Joey, son of Yago.
Chapter 8: Citizen's Congress
Boy Deo proposes to change the world.
Chapter 9: The Witness
Boy Deo shook the nation with his testimony in a congressional hearing.
Chapter 11: Little Good Deeds
As Mayor, Boy Deo led by example, doing little good deeds.
Chapter 10: The Rise of "The Eyes"
Boy Deo rose to become adviser and confidante of Joey, who also rose to become Vice Mayor of Manila. But a few weeks before the election for Mayorship of Manila, with Joey as leading candidate, Joey was killed in an ambush. Boy Deo replaces Joey as candidate, and went on to win the mayoralty election.
Miracles of Quiapo is a work of fiction. But facts and true-to-life events buttress the core ideas on which its story-telling stands.
Examples of these facts:
1) The statue of Black Nazarene was brought from Mexico to the Philippines through the Manila Galleon Trade (1565-1815). The Manila galleons were Spanish trading ships which linked the Spanish Crown’s Viceroyalty of New Spain, based in Mexico City, with her Asian territories, collectively known as the Spanish East Indies, across the Pacific Ocean. The Galleon Trade was also known as "Nao de China" or "Galeón de Acapulco".
2) Quiapo Church, City of Manila, Intramuros, Luneta, Quiapo and Sta. Cruz Districts (all in Manila) are actual places in the Philippines. Mention of Kalaw Avenue, Roxas Boulevard, Taft Avenue, etc. refers to real and existing street names in the City of Manila.
3) The Traslacion is a yearly procession of the Black Nazarene to commemorate its transfer from Intramuros (its original home, San Nicolás de Tolentino Church; later from outside Rizal Park) to its present home in Quiapo Church.
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