Today, I was at the Apung Mamacalulu (Merciful Lord or Lord of Mercy) in Angeles City. We were invited by the current Rector of the Shrine, Fr. Raffy dela Cruz, to experience the place like we have never done before. The Shrine is popular among its Angeleño devotees. One sure mark of a genuine, original Angeleño is knowledge of and familiarity with the Shrine. In my childhood, my family and I used to go to Sunday Mass as this Shrine.
Fr. Raffy shared with us that at the Shrine everyone in welcome. There is no judgement and no one is judged. This is specially evident on Fridays when hordes of devotees come to pay their respects to the Lord laid out in his tomb. His eyes are closed. He does not look at the devotees in judgement. He just welcomes them to his side.
And they come from all over. There are the ordinary folks and the well-heeled. The professionals and the market vendors. The pickpockets, murderers, the dregs of society, and even the working girls from Fields Avenue. They come in all their weakness, their needs, and their sinfulness, knowing they will not be judged. They come anyway because they know they are sinners; they have done wrong; they are needy; they need strength and courage to face the vicissitudes of life. And here before the entombed Christ, they seek their redemption.
Seeing the steady flow of devotees, I feel the holiness and the sanctity of the place. Not that the people coming here are already good or are saints. On the contrary, they are admittedly and self-confessed sinners. They acknowledge they are weak and inadequate. But in this place, their prayers are heard and many are answered. Lives are changed. Hopes are restored. Trust and belief in goodness comes alive. Yes, miracles happen here because there is something sacred in this place and there is someone loving and holy in residence.
There is no science here to explain what these people experience. But something or Someone holy and sacred have touched their lives for the better.