A Shrine for Apu-A A +A
Tuesday, October 30, 2012
JUST as there are two different Virgen de los Remedios images in Pampanga (one in Baliti and the other in the Archdiocesan Chancery), there are also two different Apung Mamacalulu images in Angeles City (one in Lourdes Sur and the other in the Sto. Rosario Parish Church).
How things got to be that way is already part of local history. As far as devotees are concerned, the presence of two images, instead of just one, proves that God indeed works in mysterious ways, and that no matter how we try, we can never understand why things turn out the way they do.
The reasons often reveal themselves in due time; if we are lucky, during our lifetime. In the case of Apung Mamacalulu, what we’re witnessing is God literally directing the course of events. The only thing lacking is a pillar of fire or a ladder reaching to the clouds with angels climbing up and down.
I will not retell here all the fortuitous turns of events that led to the Archdiocese finally taking possession of a sacred property. What is important is the ancient, miraculous image of the Interred Christ is now in the hands of the Archdiocese, the shrine is now administered by the Archdiocese, and the faith of hundreds of thousands of pilgrims is now nourished and deepened by the Archdiocese.
This is important because for the longest time, the Lourdes Sur chapel (formerly a warehouse for mascovado sugar) was privately owned and privately run, which means that although the devotion continued to grow, the pilgrims were like sheep left to wander on their own, their religiosity unable to rise to the level of spirituality. (Of course who am I really to say that folk piety is not as pleasing to God as Church-assisted devotion?)
Although there are two images of Apung Mamacalulu, all the prayers and supplications directed at them converge to one and the same destination. Even for practical considerations, having another image in the parish church will help ease the suffocating congestion in the Lourdes Sur shrine, located in the city district with the narrowest alleys made narrower by stalls of ambulant vendors.
Also, both are miraculous.
The first recorded miracle occurred in October 1897 during the time of the Revolution against Spain (the Apung Mamacalulu image in Angeles had been around for about 50 years by then).
A certain Roman Payumo of barrio Capaya, was being led to his execution at the back of the parish church. When the execution squad passed near the left wing of the church where the image of Apung Mamacalulu was enshrined, Payumo prayed to the image to save him from death.
He managed to escape and run to the sugarcane field, which was the worst place to hide. But he found a hole where he stayed under a layer of leaves until his friends rescued him.
The second miracle involved the Dizon family in Magalang town, whose house stood inside a compound that was guarded by a pack of fierce dogs.
One morning the Dizon couple found a strange old man with large scars on his hands knocking at their door. What surprised them, aside from the wounds which resembled those of Christ’s, was the fact that he had managed to enter the compound without being attacked by the trained dogs, or even without agitating them.
Seeing his condition, the kind couple asked him to come in for breakfast, but the old man asked for a blanket instead. After they had given him a thick white blanket, he thanked them and left, again without causing a stir among the dogs, which merely watched him walk by.
The incident made the couple curious. They went to Angeles to look for the old man among the beggars, and they finally ended up in the Lourdes Sur chapel where they stopped and prayed as was their usual practice.
Imagine their surprise when they saw, covering the Apung Mamacalulu image on the altar, the same thick white blanket they had given the old man!
Their story, like that of Roman Payumo, spawned many more similar miracle stories, both at the parish church and at the Lourdes Sur chapel. Today many devotees leave blankets on the image at Lourdes Sur for a few hours or days and then retrieve and bring them home to use on sick family members, presumably to cure them.
At the rate the pilgrims flock to the Lourdes Sur shrine, it won’t be long before it is declared a national shrine which, if you ask me, it already is. Those who are looking for proof that the Catholic Church is still a potent force in these secular times will find it at the Apung Mamacalulu shrine.
Published in the Sun.Star Pampanga newspaper on October 30, 2012.