"Foreigners are just amazed at our fervor."
Call it “choreographed craze,” fanaticism or sheer faith. But don’t mock the millions of devotees who flocked to the route of the Black Nazarene procession. There is no harm in believing even if you’re one of those non-believers in the power of prayers and the miracle bestowed on those seeking deliverance from life’s hardships like a lingering disease, other forms of sickness or poverty.
This is more than the feeding frenzy of the faithful. Some of the cynics call the annual event on January 9 as pure theater that has drawn even foreign tourists to Quiapo church and its basilica. Foreigners are amazed that Filipinos have such strong faith. The reenactment of Christ’s crucifixion on Good Friday during the Holy Week has also become a tourist attraction. This is a testament to the Filipino people’s unwavering faith despite the desecration and mockery by officials in high places.
I cannot join this procession as I am already old and a person with disability. Even if healthy, I’m afraid to be crushed by the frenzied crowd who jostle against each other to climb and touch the image of the Black Nazarene. I have two brothers-in-law who did so very year and they lived to the ripe old age of 80 plus. And so did their widows, my sisters. There has to be something good about devoting religious fervor to the Black Nazarene.
History tells us that the Black Nazarene was carved by an unknown Mexican out of dark wood in 1606. The finished life-sized statue of the Christ in a kneeling position shouldering the cross was later shipped to Manila to be the centerpiece of the altar in the Minor Basilica of Quiapo church. Mexico and the Philippines, then colonies of Spain, had a strong relationship during the Galleon trade. In Mexico there is also an annual religious event—the Feast of the Lady of Guadalupe. People from across Mexico and other parts of the world go on pilgrimage to the basilica in Mexico City to pray and pay homage to the image of the Lady of Guadalupe which is actually the Virgin Mary.
Don’t ask me more about it as I’m sure the historians and the devotees of Guadalupe and the Black Nazarene know more about the lore surrounding these two revered icons.
Stories about the miracles of the Black Nazarene can only be the reason why its Feast Day on Jan. 9 has become such a big event causing classes and offices in the City of Manila to be closed. With streets along the procession closed to traffic, vehicular movement in the Quiapo district come to a standstill. More than 6,000 policemen are deployed in the district to keep order and prevent possible attacks by terrorist groups. Injuries among the crowd of devotees are recorded every year in the Traslacion which starts at 5 a.m. and often lasts up to 8 in the evening when the Black Nazarene winds its way back to Quiapo church.
Me, I stay home and simply follow the procession covered live by the three major television networks. Because of my age and disability, my own way of keeping faith and sacrifice is by not watching programs on the other channels.
As of 8 a.m. on Wednesday, an estimated crowd 800,000 were already in attendance which swelled to millions by dusk with 1,000 needing medical attention. Yet, no matter how hard it is to attend the Feast of the Black Nazarene, the same throng keep coming back every year. This speaks volumes about the Filipinos’ faith whether their prayers have been answered or the favors sought still to be granted by the miraculous powers of the Black Nazarene.
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Quote of the week from National Chairperson Jocelyn Martinez of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT): “ We are underpaid, and now we are also under surveillance.”
Ms. Martinez was reacting to profiling of members of their organization by the Philippine National Police which is investigating the alleged involvement of teachers in subversive anti-government activity.
Jose Ma. Sison, the founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines based in Utrecht, the Netherlands, said in a statement that ACT is not a front organization of the CPP, adding ACT is a legitimate non-government organization who simply want to improve their lot and living condition.
What say you, Education Secretary Leonor Briones? Do the teachers have to pray to the Black Nazarene for answers to their underwhelmed lives?