Quarantine in Kwaresma: An invitation to strengthen one's faith

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 10) — This year could’ve been Ruben Enaje’s 34th time to be crucified on Holy Friday.

But the enhanced community quarantine imposed in Luzon to contain the spread of the coronavirus prevented him from performing his vow.

“Ang nararamdaman ko ngayon dahil sa tinagal-tagal nang tradisyon na ito halos 50 taon na... Nakakapanghina ng loob. First time ganito ang nangyari,” Enaje said.

Enaje in 2018

He still ended up visiting the usual spot in Barangay San Pedro Cutud where he is nailed to a wooden cross — a tradition that draws thousands of local and foreign tourists in Pampanga every Good Friday.

Enaje started playing the part of the crucified Christ in 1986, a year after he survived an accident when he fell from a building while on a painting job.

“Ang panata ko ngayon kahit hindi ako makapagpako. [Para] sa buong mundo. Itong pandemic na ‘to sana mawala na. ‘Yan ang hinihiling ko sa Panginoon.”

Finding Christ

The coronavirus forced the cancelation of traditional Lenten activities.

For Raine Eguico, it’s all a matter of perspective.

“Yes, we don't get to go out, attend Holy Masses in our parishes, or do Visita Iglesia anymore, but if each person's believing heart continues to seek the Lord, nothing can stop him or her in making ways to still connect with Him especially in this time of pandemic. All the resources are out there in social media,” she said.

She couldn’t help but think of ways to go back to her "inner room" and meet Jesus there.

“Because I have a lot of time to be silent these days, I grab the chance to reflect on the recent events of my life and the situation of the world today, attend online Masses, listen to online recollections and teachings, and participate in online Lenten activities.”

Nico Arguelles would have wanted to observe Good Friday in a fellowship with other believers.

“It's our joy and duty to remember what Christ has done for us during this day. Our current situation allows only online gatherings which are suboptimal and truly unfortunate,” Arguelles said.

Carl Daniel Patambang, a high school student, said this year’s observance of Holy Week has become more significant than ever.

“Even though the events under the holy week are cancelled, hindi 'yun naging rason to lose faith, kundi, 'yunpa 'yung naging rason to strengthen it,” Patambang said.

Becoming more spiritual

Eguico said the current health crisis drove her to be more spiritual.

“It is reminding me how short life truly is and challenging me to reflect on the way I have lived my life so far.”

For Arguelles, the pandemic confronted him with events that he couldn’t control.

“Which brings me to a deeper understanding of my need for the God who is sovereign above all. Only He can grant true peace during this time.”

Patambang said he can’t do things what frontliners are doing, all he could do is pray for the safety of everyone – and for the crisis to end.