“Love of family through Mary in Jesus Christ the Nazarene.”
– THEME of the Holy Mass (St. Patrick’s Cathedral, New York City in Celebration of the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity)
NEW YORK CITY — Among the devotees who welcomed The Holy Black Nazarene (Mahal na Poon Nasareno), the most religious holy icon in the Catholic tradition, during its first launching at the St. Patrick’s Cathedral, were a retired female nurse and a male illegal immigrant.
“The Holy Black Nazarene has changed my life,” beamed 74-year old Filipino-American Carmelita “Aling Lita” Bombase, a retired Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) in an exclusive interview.
“Since I became a devotee of the Black Nazarene, all my prayers have been answered. I survived a heart surgery when I was 57 years old. I won a raffle in the Heritage (a casino on EDSA-Roxas Boulevard in Pasay City, Philippines) and I used the money to help my relatives.”
Bombase and her brother, Romeo, a retired member of the United States Coast Guard, were petitioned by her father, Jose, a war veteran, and arrived in the United States in 1975.
“My mother was only a housewife. We lived a simple life. I regularly went to the church in Quiapo and in Baclaran to pray for the Black Nazarene and Mother of Perpetual Help,” recalled Bombase, who first finished midwifery at the Luzon College (now university) in Dagupan City.
“I knelt from the (church’s) entrance to the altar. I asked for forgiveness for all my sins and the health and safety of my parents and brother.”
The successful heart surgery enabled her to fulfill her dreams, Bombase — who never had a husband – said.
Because she did not have children, Bombase considered her two nieces–one a member of the U.S. Air Force and the other a scholar in Virginia– as her children.
“I’m here today to welcome and pray to the Holy Black Nazarene and to convince my fellow Filipino-Americans to offer something during the Mass,” Bombase said.
Rolando Vergara, 54, of Butuan City, Mindanao, asked this writer to take a photo of him posing with the Holy Black Nazarene inside the St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
He has been a TNT (tago ng tago) since 1989. “I terribly missed my family (a 49-year-old wife and three children he left when they were kids).
Vergara said he was worried that his kids no longer recognized him even in the Skype (a social media communication system) and his wife was slowly getting cold.
Vergara danced and sang a hymn during the 6:30 p.m. Mass celebrated by Fr. Efren Esmilla and attended mostly by members of the Filipino community that included Consul General Mario De Leon and wife, Elenor.
“Black Nazarene tulungan nyo po akong makita at maka piling muli ang aking pamilya. Miss na miss ko na po sila. Mahal na mahal ko po sila. Ayaw kong magka hiwalay kami (Black Nazarene, help me to be reunited with my family again. I miss them and I love them so much. I don’t want to be separated with them),” Vergara prayed, tears rolling down his face.
In his message, Rev. Dr. Joseph Marabe, JCD, invoked Isaiah 53, even from the Old Testament, which described as the “Suffering Servant”, whose face is “without a desirable appearance”, the Black Nazarene of Quiapo which “manifests the utmost compassion for us all, sinners (‘wounded for our transgressions) and many of us who suffer physically and materially (‘the spoils of victory’).”
The Black Nazarene, known to the devotees in Spanish as Nuestra Padre Jesus Nazareno (Tagalog: Poong Itim na Nazareno), is a life-sized, dark wooden sculpture of Jesus Christ carrying the cross, while representing his passion and suffering.
It is believed to be miraculously by many Filipino Catholics.
Originally with fair complexion, it is believed to have turned dark after the statue survived a burning galleon ship upon its arrival from Mexico to the Philippines.