By JULLIE Y. DAZA
The miracle of Quiapo is not the traditional, etched-in-stone show of faith and fervor by a multitude of devotees willing to risk their lives to venerate a miraculous image, the Black Nazarene. The miracle is that, if we wanted to, we could clean up the plaza and make it look like a piazza, no kidding!
Sure enough, we wanted to, and we did it, congratulations! For two days.
The local government, police, volunteers, the usually pigheaded vendors peddling their unsanctified wares actually contributed sweat and time to “clear the streets” around the church, including the densely congested Carriedo (not always the safest place for the unsuspecting). The outcome was a sight for sore eyes, a plaza and a street that had become walkable, inhabitable (even for angels?). Why, the churchyard actually looked friendly, handsome, after all the sweeping and hosing down performed under the unmoving glare of some sculptured, perhaps amused, saints. The streets breathed, exhaled, inhaled what must have tasted like fresh air, exposing a view of sky that had for so long been hidden by dirty tarps, grimy tents, makeshift roofs. Pedestrians rediscovered their ability to walk without mincing their steps, no need to elbow their way through.
Is this Quiapo, the helter-skelter Quiapo of jeepney jams, petty thievery, a few crowded blocks generating noise, the commerce of man and the necessity of prayer, Quiapo the soul of Manila? A pity, that the thousands who studiously avoided the three-day traffic trap did not have a chance to glimpse the illusory Quiapo.
But if we could do it once a year on Jan. 8 and 9, why can’t we keep the place appearing dignified and sanctified every day of the year, if only to honor the church and its most sacred images? Cleanliness is next to godliness. Cleanliness is good for business, too.
Today, day after the fiesta, what’s there to expect but a return to the mundane, the everyday Quiapo, where the deepest desires and the highest hopes meet at the altar, waiting to rise to heaven for the answer we want? Environmentalists, being the good neighbors they are, want yesterday’s garbage to disappear like magic, with no return engagement; better yet, there shouldn’t ever have been a ton of garbage to be left as a smelly souvenir. So divinely did they put it, Traslacion yes, Trashlacion no.