Thousands join Nazareno procession
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) - At least 164 were wounded as hundreds of thousands of devotees converged Wednesday, January 9, for the annual Black Nazarene procession, police said.
In the nation's biggest annual religious gathering, barefoot men and women crammed into Manila's streets hoping to touch the life-sized, black icon as it was paraded through the city's historic area for a day-long procession.
As of 10 am Wednesday, police said about 500,000 devotees have joined the procession, and more are expected to join as it passes through the city's maze of streets.
The "Traslacion," or the transfer of the image back to the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene (Quiapo Church), started at past 7 am, after a Mass celebrated by Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle at the Quirino Grandstand in Manila.
The procession will take the image through several major streets in and around central Manila, ending at Quiapo Church later in the day. As of 3:40 pm, the image was traversing Palanca Street in Manila.
Reports said organizers aim to end the procession by 730 pm. Last year, the procession lasted around 22 hours after the carriage carrying the image broke down.
The image was transferred to the grandstand Monday, January 7, for the traditional "pahalik," where devotees line up to touch and kiss the image.
Back at the Quiapo Church, hourly masses will last until noon.
Up to 8 million devotees join the annual procession of the Black Nazarene, a 17th-century mulatto image of Jesus Christ, which Filipinos closely relate to and is believed to cause miracles.
The statue was brought to Manila by Augustinian priests from Mexico in 1607, and its dark color is believed to have been caused by it being slightly burnt in a fire aboard the Spanish galleon on which it was being transported.
Most of the nearly 100 million Filipinos are Catholic, a legacy of Spanish colonial rule that collapsed at the end of the 19th Century.
For what she said was the 40th year in a row, grandmother Carmelita Maralit, 64, waited for the "Black Nazarene" to pass her by, holding a lit candle under the intense tropical sun.
"I have high-blood pressure and I believe it (honoring the statue) helps ease my pains," said Maralit, who travelled in from an outlying suburb, told AFP as others jostled around her.
The frenzied rush of people trying to touch the icon causes the moving carriage on which the statue rests to look like it is being tossed in a sea of human waves. Most of the devotees wear no shoes as a sign of penance.
Larry Torralba, 34, carried four white handkerchiefs as he and 69 neighbors waited for the parade, intending to jump above the throng onto the icon's carriage and touch it with a handkerchief.
"I'm not asking for miracles, only that (God) keep me away from trouble and help me find work," said the sometime Manila carpenter, currently out of a job.
But while many hail the statue for its supposed special powers and the Catholic Church celebrates the outpouring of devotion, not all Filipinos think the same way.
One of the country's most prominent independent filmmakers, Jim Libiran, described the procession as "a pagan sacred orgy for a Christian idol" that was no different from the hysteria of pop fans.
"To the non-religious, this is like being with Justin Bieber... (or Michael Jackson, or John Lennon) without their bodyguards," he said in posts on his Facebook and Twitter sites.
Seen in the context of “utang na loob” or debt of gratitude, the Nazareno devotion is an “awesome” display of gratitude to God, anthropologist Dr Fernando Nakpil Zialcita told Rappler. The challenge, he said, is to extend this devotion “to a group larger than family.” - Rappler.com, with the Agence France-Presse
|For more of Rappler's coverage of the Feast of Black Nazarene, click on the links below::|