No mountain was high for hundreds of devotees who visited Mt. Calvary in barangay Malinao, Garcia-Hernandez town, for the feast of the Black Nazarene Saturday.
Luzonia Bajao, 46, along with her 11-year-old daughter, Myra, walked at least 3 kms from barangay (village) proper and climbed the mountain to pay homage to the Black Nazarene.
She said the Nazarene granted her wish to heal her daughter who was previously suffering from rheumatic heart disease.
The night before the operation, Bajao said she prayed to the Black Nazarene for a miracle.
â€œShe had a rheumatic heart disease and tuberculosis as well. Â The heart surgery didnâ€™t push through because the surgeon found no more inflammation of the heart lining muscles and valves. It was indeed a miracle,â€ said Bajao.
The doctor was surprised why her daughter was healed without any medication, she said.
â€œThe Nazarene was always so good in proving himself as the greatest physician,â€ said Bajao.
Concordia Galon, 80, said that she has been attending the annual feast for straight two years.
Bragging she is still strong, Galon, who came from Jagna town, said she walked for several kilometers just to see the Nazarene.
â€œAbtik pa ta mutungas sa bungtod para makita ang Mahal nga Nazareno, (I am still strong to climb the mountain just to see the Nazarene),â€ she said.
She said that she was wishing that the Nazarene would grant her a longer and healthy life.
Asked how long she will still attend the annual feast, Galon said: â€œHangtud naa pa koy kinabuhi nga ihatag ni Nazareno (Until the Nazarene will give me life).â€
The Mt. Calvary (originally named Mt. Kalagan) is a â€œholyâ€ mountain for the devotees of the Black Nazarene.
In May 2011, Marina Reblinca, a purported visionary and healer, brought the image of the Black Nazarene from Palawan to Mt. Calvary and established a small chapel funded by devotees.
â€œWe were from Palawan. The Nazarene told me he wanted to be here in this place. I followed his order. Â Then people flocked here,â€ said Reblinca. She also said that the Nazarene protected the place during the strong earthquake in 2013.
She said the Black Nazarene heals the sickness, gives hope and comforts people.
â€œThe Black Nazarene would never abandon you if you have strong faith in him,â€ she said.
Saturdayâ€™s feast had holy mass officiated by Rev. Fr. Cleofas Â Silagan. After the mass, people were treated to a free lunch.
People would fall in line to kiss the image of the Black Nazarene. Reblinca carried the image of the Nazarene for the patunob. She touched the heads and shoulders of the devotees for healing and miracle.
Mt. Calvary continues to lure pilgrims and devotees proving that indeed, there ain’t no mountain high enough to keep God from them.
In Talibon town, Nekolo Gonzales, 30, left his office in Ubay town to pay homage to the image of the White Nazarene, the â€œwhiteâ€ version of the Black Nazarene, which is believed to have miraculous powers.
Gonzales, who is from Trinidad town, said that he has been a devotee of the White Nazarene when he was a teenager.
Gonzalesâ€™ visit was for thanksgiving that he was able to get a job at the Philippine Coast Guard last year.
â€œHe helped me when I was looking for a job. Â I have to admit that I am not religious but I believe in miracles,â€ said Gonzales, â€œAnd for me the Nazarene is miraculous.â€
He also said that the color of the face of the Nazarene doesnâ€™t matter.
â€œIt doesnâ€™t matter if the face is white or black, he is still the same. As long as you know in your heart that he is the Santo Cristo Jesus Nazareno,â€ he said.
Gonzales is one of the many devotees of the White Nazarene located in barangay San Agustin, Talibon town.
Gregoria Cresencio-Fuentes, 63, narrated that the White Nazarene appeared to her aunt, Eutiquia Cresencio, in her dream. Â She said Cresencio, a purported visionary, had received private revelation from the White Nazarene but she had remained silent on the claimed apparition until her death. Instead, she asked someone to carve a White Nazarene for her devotion.
The image of the White Nazarene was originally made of wood and has been around for at least 80 years, she said. The first image was displayed in sitio Sudlon, about 7 kms in barangay San Agustin, but it was transferred to its present location in Purok 7 in the same barangay when the Nazarene told Eutiquia to have him transferred.
With the passing of the years, the wooden image decayed because it was exposed to heat, humidity and rain. Cresencio had the image replaced with cement in 1970s. Â Fuentes said the cemented image of the White Nazarene was donated by the late President Carlos P. Garcia, a relative.
She also said that there was a time when the White Nazarene requested Eutiquia to have the image placed in the center of the road but the plan didnâ€™t materialize.
The image is facing east.
â€œThe Nazarene said he will protect those who have faith in him,â€ said Fuentes.
A Philippine flag is placed in front of the image.
â€œThatâ€™s what the Nazarene wants to have a Philippine flag. It means that he is Jesus of Nazareth in the Philippines,â€ she said.
What noticeable is the image is not housed inside a chapel or church nor covered for protection.
â€œOur Aunt (Eutiquia) told us that the White Nazarene wants to be outside the chapel. He wants the sun to beat down on him and the rain fell on him as his suffering for the sake of his children,â€ said Fuentes.
Simplicio Polestico, 61, said he has been a devotee since he was 10 years old when his parents exposed him to the White Nazarene.
â€œI believe in him because I am a Catholic,â€ he said. He said that he was wishing that the Nazarene would grant him a longer and healthy life.
Annalyn Juarez, 35, said that the White Nazarene helped his husband, Crisben, 38, found a work in Saudi Arabia. Â She said her wish is for a better life for her family.
â€œThe White Nazarene is our father. He is our refuge and our strength,â€ she said.
Pilgrims and devotees also visited the White Nazarene on Saturday, the feast of the Black Nazarene where devotees flocked to the Quirino Grandstand for the yearly â€œPahalikâ€. The image was brought back to Quiapo Church via the traditional Traslacion. She said, however, the feast of the White Nazarene is on March 21. A mass and procession will be held with devotees from Bohol and Mindanao, she added.
For the devotees, the White Nazarene has become an emblem of passion, struggle and faith for Filipino Catholics.
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