Miracles of Quiapo – A Novel

Product Name: Miracles of Quiapo – A Novel

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Miracles of Quiapo (A Novel)

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.

Set in Quiapo, Manila, Philippines, Miracles of Quiapo is not the kind of story that we have been used to hearing about miracles.

“The last monologue by Deo is SO beautiful. The message was exquisite. I do not consider myself an overly religious person, and I was not brought up Catholic, but I do believe in a god, and I have my own tales about how absolutely blessed my life has been, how everything bad in life led me to the perfect culmination of happiness. I love the religious message of positivity and I also love the political undertones to the novel.”

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 of 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. This is where we need to have faith–faith in God, trust in others, and confidence in ourselves. 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.

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See why Miracles of Quiapo is more than a story of miracles; why it is more than a story of faith; or why it is more than a story of greed and power politics.

Deo’s monologue (Chapter 11):

I practically lived in the vicinity of Quiapo Church for twenty-two years. I made Plaza Miranda my home for at least ten years, from the time I was five years old until fifteen. I lived those precious growing-up years with my friend Junie, the one who should be standing up now before you instead of me. Junie and I went through the grind, eking out a living from the sale of recovered scraps as well as from alms, from the kindness of others. Before us, his father himself scavenged to survive for twenty years in that same place, two years of which under the bridge near Sta. Cruz—over there (pointing northeastward), just over two kilometers away from here. It was a habitat shared with flies, ants, and spiders.

Many times, I heard the priests in Quiapo and in Sta. Cruz say that God is good, that he did not leave anyone hungry, etc.

I did not believe them. For how could I believe them if all around me there was hunger?

But you know as a kid, even in our wretched conditions, Junie and I had time to play with spiders… and you know how creepy spiders are, how they scare people away and get whacked in return. We made pets out of them. There was a time I spent a couple of hours just watching one of my pets build its web, and I could not believe how beautiful a spider’s web is if we only allow it to complete its work, instead of pitting them against each other until one or both of them die from exhaustion or injuries just like we did when we were kids, or when we drive them away with brooms or sticks because we think they are unsightly and fit to be condemned for blighting our surroundings.

God’s work in our lives is like that of a spider’s web. We can only appreciate its beauty if we allow him to complete his work with our cooperation. In this context my life story can never be dissociated with that of Junie.

Yago—Junie’s father—was left for dead when he was eight. Nobody knew how he survived the next five years of his life. What we know is that he managed to keep not only both his body and soul together, but he also kept his sanity while experiencing the lowest ebb of his life. In fact, he managed, in the end, to raise a family from which a generational leader like Junie emerged.

And I think the dramatic part of Junie’s story evolved the way it did because of Nardong Sablay. The latter was the one who left the eight-year-old Yago on the sidewalk of a busy street in Caloocan, alone and without any resource to help himself survive. Of course, Nardong Sablay acted on the orders of his lady boss, and should be blameless. But he made it a point to make life harder for Yago than it already was for the kid.

When Junie started to attract a following as chair of Sangguniang Kabataan, then as member of Barangay Council, you can imagine Nardong’s horror (who remained as one of the trusted hands in Mr. Ty’s Tondo household) when Joey (who by the way is now a colonel in the military), brought him to his parents’ house in Tondo. On learning from Joey that Junie was Yago’s (a.k.a. Golek) son, Nardong Sablay (who was already sixty years old at the time), asked Junie, with Joey’s permission, to hire him as an all-around errand boy.

‘I wanted to mend the irreparable damage I inflicted on his father,’ Nardong Sablay pleaded. Joey acceded because he knew his own mother was also blameworthy for what happened to Yago.

The point I am trying to say is that 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, or in the case of Gidaben, who had to risk his own life by sharing us his story, or in the case of wayward cops, whose reformation both surprises and inspires us.

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 toward 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 six or seven 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 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 five 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.

It is just fitting that we strip ourselves of our sandals or shoes because we are walking on holy ground. This ground is holy because it supports our bond with God and his creation. Our bare feet feeling the earth symbolize the acceptance of our responsibility for each other, including those generations that will come after us. We need to spare the ground of our trash. We do not need to step on somebody else’s shoulder just to be able to touch the Nazarene.

Sylvia finds an abandoned infant—a boy—atop a mound of garbage. She thinks she found in him a treasure that, when cashed in, could help her land an overseas job, redeem herself, and repay her mother for the disappointments she brought to the family. But she risks losing the child to government authorities. This prompts her to offer the custody of the child to a catholic priest (Father Andoy) in nearby Quiapo Church (St. John the Baptist parish). Father Andoy and fellow priest Father Revo give the boy a nickname—Anding—and later baptize him as Deo Renato. On learning that the priests have arranged for a permanent custody of the child by a foster parent, Sylvia panics. She hastily auctions the month-old baby to interested buyers. Meantime, OXD, an international syndicate preying on orphans for money, gets wind of Anding. OXD almost successfully snatches Anding from Sylvia and her client, Judge Vida De Gracia, if not for the sudden appearance of a police car. Anding goes on to live for the next five years under the motherly care and protection of De Gracia, who legalized his adoption. For his legal identify, she names him Francisco De Gracia; she calls him Franco by his nickname.

OXD operatives doggedly pursue Anding–now named Franco–until they get to abduct him in a shopping mall. De Gracia who, as always, is with him when the abduction happened, alerts his friends in the military, led by General Dimas Uy, about the kidnapping. Uy sends composite teams to major streets he anticipates as the kidnappers’ likely escape routes. Uy’s men are able to track the OXD operatives a few kilometers before the latter could reach their safehouse. Their operation having been compromised, OXD operatives hastily drop Franco—hogtied in a bag—in a storeroom at the back of the Quiapo Church.

Chapter 3: Finding Franco

Still on the hunt of a big payday, OXD does not give up on its quarry. Having known that Franco will be fetched by Quiapo police from the rector of Quiapo Church, who has taken custody of the boy when Hijosdiscovered him at the storeroom, and to be transported to the nearby police station where Police Chief Sir Dikomo, has arranged a news conference for next day, the OXD sets up a trap. At the precise moment that Franco and his police handlers are about to cross the Quezon Boulevard enroute to the police station, OXD stages a commotion to distract the police handlers from their grip on the boy. Unfortunately for the OXD, the commotion goes out of control as gunfire explodes inside the Lacson Underpass. People panic and each one races for the nearest exit. Franco’s handlers lose him and, a few minutes later, the toddler finds himself seated beside Teresa inside a bus bound for Novaliches, a one-to-two-hour ride from Quiapo. For the next several years, Franco is under the care of another mother in Teresa, who gets him baptized as Boy Deo.

Orphaned at five, Yago’s relatives sell him a couple of years later to Mr. Ty, a Manila trader. Yago copes well as a slave. He feeds himself with the food that he serves the family dogs. One day, in a quarrel with Mr. Ty, his wife suspects that Yago brings back luck to the household, Mr. Ty’s wife orders Nardong Sablay, a house help, to get rid of Yago. Nardong Sablay tows Yago away to a distant bustling street in Caloocan City, a few kilometers north of Manila, and leaves him to fend for himself. A decade later Yago re-appears as chief thief, among other underworld titles, and becomes an affiliate of a network of criminal gangs run by rogue cops. Later, while on his way to conversion and leaving his criminal ways behind, the rogue cops suspect that he is double-crossing them. The rogue cops set him up as one of the fall guys in a kidnap-for-ransom rescue operation. Yago survives the staged operation, but gets jailed for no reason and without a case being filed against him. He then looks forward to the day when the jail warden sends him outside of prison for community service as it offers him chances to see his wife Katalina and son Junie. However, his last taste of freedom becomes tragic when one of the jail guards escorting him, who thinks he was trying to escape in the middle of a commotion inside the Lacson Underpass, shoots him (which eventually caused Yago’s death). This happened on the same day Franco—later named Boy Deo—gets to slip past his handlers and tossed into the hands of Teresa.

Teresa is one of the five children of Paāg and Minda, his wife, who make a living from farming in Bukāran, a forested barrio in faraway Biringan City, Samar Island. A high-ranking government official happens to operate a commercial logging company in Samar and deploys government troopers to secure the company from protesters who consider its activities as a threat to the environment. One day a team of government military men led by Lieutenant Reg Makatigbas reaches Bukāran. The visitors initially engage the hosts nicely (Makatigbas even flirted with Pamela, elder sister of Teresa), but the hosts would soon find the visitors to be abusive. Paāg turns to armed rebels for support and days later leads a rag-tag team in an ambush of government troopers. Soldiers retaliate and shoot everyone on sight in Bukāran. Teresa and her siblings scamper to safety, leaving their parents behind. Days later, Teresa and Waday, another sister, arrive in Tacloban City, some 100 kilometers west of Biringan City, where relatives offer them temporary refuge. They next travel Tondo, Manila, where an uncle of the mother side welcomes them. They soon find jobs as guest attendants in a nearby beer joint. Here they meet a rich customer named Mr. Dayamante, with whom they both separately dated eventually. Mr. Dayamante’s wife gets wind of his fling with Teresa and Waday; she initiates a catfight inside the beer joint that leads her husband to hastily leave and pins to death a scavenger’s infant daughter as he maneuvers his car away from the scene. The wife accuses Waday as the cause of the infant’s death and successfully sends her to jail. The incident also forces Teresa to abandon her job in Tondo. She needs another means of livelihood to support herself and the unborn child she carries. She finds one as a balut vendor in Novaliches, under the care of another uncle.

While watching TV, Teresa sees a sea of Black Nazarene devotees during Traslacion. She commits to memory footages of people being interviewed who claimed being miraculously healed of their sickness by the Black Nazarene. She plans to bring her congenitally deformed daughter—Luzie—to Quiapo Church to pray for her healing. The visit to Quiapo Church soon becomes a routine on Fridays and Sundays as alms given by churchgoers to Luzie keep coming in. She always brings Boy Deo with her when she and Luzie go to Quiapo. After months of visiting Quiapo Church, Teresa suspects that Boy Deo, who develops a bond with Junie, a boy his age, enjoys staying in Quiapo more than he does in Novaliches. There are times when Teresa leaves Boy Deo behind in Quiapo when she goes home to Novaliches. Away from her parental watch, Boy Deo experiences deprivation; he often calls the street his home. But it is also becoming clear that Boy Deo has what it takes to survive on his own in an unforgiving and sometimes unfair world.

Chapter 7: Junie, Reg and Joey

Despite his financial constraints, Junie demonstrates his aptitude and will to succeed and give honor to his parents by successfully earning a college degree. He aims to build a career in politics. Reg Makatigbas has a solid career in the military and transitions to become a political leader at the national level. Joey is a young and idealistic military man. He is Reg’s protegee. Joey is also the son of Mr. Ty, whose wife expelled Yago, Junie’s father, from her household supposedly for being an agent of bad luck. Joey tries hard to compensate Yago, through Junie, for the injustice that his family inflicted upon Junie’s family. Joey supports Junie in the latter’s work to achieve his political ambitions. Joey leverages the trust he has with Reg to build the alliances that Junie needs.

Chapter 8: Citizen’s Congress

The promise of Junie’s political career gradually unfolds, thanks in no small measure to Joey’s support and the partnership he developed with Boy Deo. When Junie gets elected to become barangay (village) chair, he collaborates with Boy Deo on getting the latter’s idea of a Citizen’s Congress to work. Citizen’s Congress allows the constituents to directly propose legislation, in effect by-passing the structure on representation that is currently established in the country’s political framework. The role of elected representatives of the people shifts from being lawmakers and executives to facilitators of the process that vets, prioritizes, and enacts public policy that the people themselves, constituting themselves as an assembly, propose.

The competition for the nation’s presidential race heats up between top contenders in Sir Dikomo and Reg Makatigbas. Sir Dikomo plots an event that aims to discredit and embarrass Reg Makatigbas. The latter responds by getting his allies in the Senate to initiate an investigation—ostensibly to address gaps in regulating the country’s orphanages—that aims to expose the irregularities involving Sir Dikomo. In this congressional investigation, Sir Dikomo comes across at best as one who lacks transparency, leaving doubts on his ability to lead the country as president. Makatigbas and his allies tries to boost the morale of the beleaguered colleague and project themselves as friends instead of competitor by offering to expose Boy Deo, who acts as Junie’s adviser in the congressional investigation, as a fraud. This ploy backfires. On questioning by Senator Dayamante, a rabid supporter of Makatigbas, Boy Deo pins him as killer of an infant who escaped accountability for the crime. Boy Deo’s testimony shakes the nation and dooms the chances of either Sir Dikomo or Reg Makatigbas in the coming presidential election.

Chapter 10: The Rise of “The Eyes”

As Junie rises to become the Vice Mayor of Manila, Boy Deo establishes himself as an adviser and confidante. His reputation as barangay executive preceding him, Junie builds a solid following not only among the constituents of Manila but also among the thin elite and influential crowd. Media begins to cartoonize him as the new “Cinderella of Philippine politics.” The Senate investigation and the publicity generated by Boy Deo’s testimony further boost Junie’s political future. The local elections are just weeks away and Junie maintains his lead in pre-poll surveys among Manila mayoralty candidates. Poised to become the next mayor of Manila, Junie instead gets savagely murdered in an ambush. Boy Deo replaces him as candidate and goes on to win the mayoralty derby.

Chapter 11: Little Good Deeds

As Mayor, Boy Deo leads and performs. He serves his constituents with competence, courage, and integrity. As an individual, he preaches by example, doing little good deeds. The only blight on his professional record was a personal one. His identify is in question and cannot show any proof except the photocopy of a birth certificate. Father Revo offers him a lead, which prompts him to think that finding his biological mother is the only way he can address his identity crisis. Fortunately, with Sir Dikomo’s and Reg Makatigbas’ help, Boy Deo is able to track down his mother, who is confined in a mental hospital with no relatives on record. It turns out Boy Deo’s parents are activists; the mother, in particular, is hunted down by authorities. A few days after she gives birth to Boy Deo, the police arrested her. She hastily leaves the infant under the care of Luzviminda, her live-in partner, with the message that the latter finds a way to bring the baby to his biological father at the Quiapo Church. Later before break of dawn, Luzviminda drops the unnamed baby—later called by various names like Anding, Franco, Boy Deo, etc.—on top of a pile of garbage at Watkasing Street in Quiapo.

Miracles of Quiapo is a work of fiction. But facts and true-to-life events inspired the writing of this novel.

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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