Tens of thousands of Catholic faithful walked through the streets of Manila early Sunday in reverence of a historic statue of Jesus Christ, which is believed to have miraculous powers.
The “walk of faith,” which church officials estimated attracted some 88,000 people, began after a midnight mass for the so-called Black Nazarene statue.
Earlier, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. enjoined Filipino Catholics to celebrate with “a safe, meaningful and solemn observance” the Feast of the Black Nazarene of Quiapo today and called on devotees to remember the established national culture and traditions of overcoming issues and tribulations.
“I am one with all Filipino Catholics in the Philippines in celebrating the Feast of the Black Nazarene. Today we mark the arrival of the image of Nuestro Padre Señor Jesus de Nazareno from its original location in Intramuros to its current home in Quiapo, Manila,” the President said in his message relayed by the Office of the Press Secretary.
“As the Catholic faithful expresses their devotion to the Black Nazarene, let us also remember its deep rootedness in our Filipino culture of overcoming the great trials and tribulations in our midst.
Indeed, it is through our faith that we can conquer the storms that loom ahead of us and bring forth a life filled with grace and steadfastness.” Mr. Marcos added.
Filipinos must take the event as a “symbolic movement” of the earthly journey of every pilgrim in finding the new meaning of the “passion and sufferings” of every individual, he added.
“Let us take this highly anticipated religious tradition as a symbolic movement of our collective earthly journey, finding new meaning in our passions and sufferings as a people,” the President said.
Mr. Marcos also said people must look and connect themselves with the image of Jesus Christ and make it the “center of existence” around love, hope and compassion to others.
“May the image of Jesus Christ inspire us to center our existence around love, hope, and compassion as we open up ourselves to others in the world during these extraordinary times.” he said.
“Together, let us embody these values as we write a new chapter in our nation’s narratives so we can altogether live in an era of peace and prosperity for all, the President added.
Many Filipinos believe touching or getting close to the statue can lead to the healing of otherwise incurable ailments and other good fortune.
Evangeline Rugas, 59, was among the worshippers attending the open-air mass where a replica of the icon has been on display.
She was “praying for a miracle” for her 5-year-old nephew who suffers from seizures and cannot walk.
“Nothing is impossible for the Black Nazarene,” Rugas said as she sat on a plastic sheet laid on the ground.
The original wooden statue was brought to the Philippines in the early 1600s when the nation was a Spanish colony.
Many Filipinos believe it got its dark color after surviving a fire aboard a ship en route from Mexico.
This year’s parade replaced the traditional frenzied procession, which used to involve hundreds of thousands of believers thronging a life-sized statue as it was pulled through the streets on a float.
One of the biggest displays of Catholic devotion in the Philippines, it was cancelled for two years in a row due to COVID-19.
This year’s event was held a day before the feast of the Black Nazarene, which falls on Jan. 9, and without the venerated statue in the hope of reducing crowd numbers and the risk of infection. The roughly six-kilometer route ended at Quiapo Church, where the Black Nazarene is enshrined.
Mask-wearing devotees, some carrying candles or small replicas of the Black Nazarene, poured through narrow streets in the early hours of the morning.
Mercy Dayrit, 70, said she had prayed “day and night” to the Black Nazarene after she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016.
She was declared “cancer free” last year, which she attributes to the icon.
“So many miracles happen,” Dayrit said.
In the weeks leading up to Sunday’s walk, the statue was taken to churches around the city and nearby provinces to give worshippers the chance to see and touch it in the hope of avoiding a huge crowd on the feast day.
Police Capt. Rowell Robles, Plaza Miranda commander in Manila, said that adequate preparations and measures were put in place that made for a safe and peaceful Walk of Faith.
“With everyone’s help, the activity was done in an orderly and peaceful manner,” Robles said.
Some of the roads in Manila have been closed since Jan. 6 for the Black Nazarene activities.
The road closures will be in effect until Jan. 9, police said.
Nazareno 2023 kicked off with novena masses that started on Dec. 31, 2022. It will last until Jan. 9, when Cardinal Jose Advincula will lead a Mass to be held at 12:01 a.m.
Police said the walk started from the Quirino Grandstand at Luneta Park at 1:30 a.m. then finished after two and a half hours at the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene, more popularly known as Quiapo Church.
Catholic devotees flock to Quiapo Church for the early morning regular Mass on Sunday, as part of the celebration of the Black Nazarene.
The “Walk of Faith”, where tens of thousands traced the route of the traditional Traslacion sans the revered life-size image of the Black Nazarene, was held before the regular Sunday masses.
Even though the image of the Black Nazarene was not part of Sunday’s Walk of Faith, some devotees brought Nazareno statues and photos.
Devotees also brought candles, which they held all throughout the walk while singing worship songs and praying.
Those waiting by the roadside displayed images of the Black Nazarene and even staged performances to honor the Nazareno.
Fr. Earl Valdez of the Quiapo Church and one of the officials for the Nazareno 2023 activities, said the walk was a success.
“Those who participated in the Walk of Faith seem to have gotten the point and meaning of the activity, and embraced it wholly,” Valdez said.
During the Mass held Sunday before the Walk of Faith, presiding priest Fr. Rufino Sescon, Jr. said the absence of the usual Traslacion is not a hindrance to celebrating one’s faith.
Among the groups providing assistance was the Philippine Red Cross (PRC), which set up first aid stations and deployed medical personnel and volunteers who, as of 9 a.m. Sunday, checked and monitored the blood pressure of 101 devotees.
The PRC said 21 devotees with minor injuries (e.g., abrasion, chest pain, abdominal pain, and concussion) received first aid treatment from PRC medical staff while one unconscious patient was
transported by the PRC ambulance to Jose R. Reyes Memorial Medical for further medical assessment.
Aside from 280 volunteers, two doctors and five medical teams, the PRC also deployed 15 ambulances, one fire truck, and 17 foot-patrollers from Jan. 7 to 9.
Four first aid stations were positioned at the Quirino Grandstand, Kartilya ng Katipunan and Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene.
One Emergency Medical Unit (EMU), equipped with 20 beds, basic medical equipment, devices, and supplies, was set up at the Kartilya ng Katipunan.