Pope Francis and the ‘Borongan miracle’
Pope Francis will visit the Philippines in January 2015, a momentous event for Filipinos. He is to visit areas in the Visayas devastated by Typhoon “Yolanda” and the earthquake before it. For him, these events have global significance related to the disasters prophesied by Our Lady of Fatima. The Philippines is dear to the Pope.
After the earthquake that damaged and even destroyed many ancient churches in Bohol and Cebu, the Pope sent the original statue of Our Lady of Fatima to the disaster area. He wanted Filipino survivors to pray to Our Lady to avert future disasters. The seeming message of the Lord through the earthquake is: “Your hearts are more important to Me than your churches.”
That original statue has in its crown the bullet that almost killed St. John Paul II. He is the so-called Fatima Pope, who consecrated Russia to Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart, which, to Vatican scholars, made global peace possible. Immediately after the consecration, Gorbachev visited John Paul II and unilaterally promulgated détente (reconciliation). The end of the Cuban crisis and of the Cold War, when the USSR disintegrated, and the dismantling of the Berlin Wall were all attributed to Russia’s consecration by the Fatima Pope. The assassination attempt on John Paul II was predicted in the Third Secret of Fatima—that he would be saved by the intervention of Our Lady.
A sister belonging to the Religious of the Virgin Mary, a native of Borongan, related the “Borongan miracle” to me. She spoke of a legend, oral history handed down through generations.
Borongan in Eastern Samar faces the mighty Pacific. If Yolanda devastated Tacloban and the entire eastern seaboard of Samar, why was Borongan unscathed? Borongan never felt the supertyphoon. Its houses and coconut trees are today intact, while the rest are still recuperating from devastation. That was the miracle—not the legend I will describe, but Borongan immune from Yolanda.
A passenger-boat ride connects Borongan to nearby islets. The legend dates back to the 1950s. A mysterious woman hugging her baby, a stranger to the people, boarded the passenger boat. At the first islet stop, she refused to disembark. People asked her where she was going. She just smiled without a word and pointed to the sea. Finally, at an islet, now called Punta Maria after the legend, she disembarked and was never seen again. The next day, the residents were surprised to see a statue of Mary with Baby Jesus at the beach. They decided to transport the statue by boat to Borongan, and there they gave it to the parish priest.
Believable? It is not important to verify this legend. Borongan intact from devastation today is living proof of the miracle.
The statue was named Our Lady of the Nativity. The incident catalyzed a new fiesta. Every Sept. 8, the birthday or nativity of Mama Mary, the statue would be brought back to Punta Maria and welcomed by its residents. Later, the residents would all travel to Borongan in a flotilla of boats to accompany the statue back to its home in the parish church. Soon, street dancing was introduced as part of the fiesta, which is now a smaller sea version of the feast of Our Lady of Peñafrancia.
When the massive earthquake devastated many churches in Bohol and Cebu on Oct. 15 last year, the people of Borongan were frightened. But not a single house or building was destroyed. There were no cracks in the ground, unlike in nearby towns.
An old woman relates that, when Yolanda came, she saw three tsunami-sized waves from her balcony facing the ocean. She simply closed her eyes and prayed. When she opened her eyes, she saw the waves split and move to the sides, mimicking the parting of the Red Sea. Believe it or not.
The people of Borongan had earlier not known about Yolanda. They felt strong winds, but discovered only much later that the rest of Samar and Leyte, especially Tacloban, was devastated by the supertyphoon. Borongan’s coconut trees today are green and bearing fruits. Borongan itself is as pristine as before Yolanda hit. (I encourage readers to make, not a tour, but a pilgrimage to Borongan on Sept. 7 and 8, and pray for safety against the next disaster, which is the wish of Pope Francis.)
The “Borongan miracle” is said to be a sequel to the “Hiroshima miracle.” After the first atomic bomb in history was dropped on Hiroshima in Japan on Aug. 6, 1945, the Jesuit house a few hundred meters from ground zero was found miraculously intact. For kilometers around, everything was razed, except this one tiny house, standing tall in the rubble. When the bomb exploded, the small group of Jesuits were praying the rosary in that house.
“When you cross turbulent waters, I shall be with you. In the wild rivers, you shall not drown. When you walk through fire, you shall not be burned. No flames shall consume you, as I am with you always. For I am the Lord, your God, your Saviour, the Holy One. For you are precious and glorious in My eyes, and I love you.” (Isaiah 43:2-8)
Bernie V. Lopez (firstname.lastname@example.org) has been writing political commentary for the past 20 years. He is also a radio-TV broadcaster, a documentary producer-director, and a former professor at Ateneo de Manila University.
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