The business of devotion

Mark Z. Saludes

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The business of devotion
Street vendors and small businesses are big winners during the Feast of the Black Nazarene, when sales are up at least 6-fold – blessings, they believe, from the Mahal na Poon

MANILA, Philippines—Quiapo is known as one of the centers of religious congregations in Metro Manila and for many people living in this district, it is also a center of commerce and businesses especially for small scale and street market vendors.

“There is no concrete study or statistics that will show how huge the revenue and opportunities the Feast of Black Nazarene gives to the City of Manila every year. But we can assume that it is more than double the income of a business establishment versus the ordinary day,” said Liberty Toledo, Manila City Treasurer.

Every year, thousands of devotees, tourists and residents gather for the grand procession of the Black Nazarene. This feast is a good opportunity for small scale business, ambulant and street vendors.

On Thursday, January 8, the statue of Jesus will be transferred to Quirino Grandstand for the traditional pahalik or the kissing of the feet before the translacion or the transfer of the Black Nazarene on January 9, which will spur more economic activities in various districts of the city.

Toledo said the city government has encouraged  universities to conduct  a study on the revenue generated by the annual event, which benefits mostly small traders and street vendors, since most big business establishments are closed on January 9.

“As of this date, we don’t have a formal study on the income we generate in this feast, that’s why we encourage the academe and universities to do the research,” said Toledo.

OPPORTUNITY. The Feast offers a good opportunity for small scale businesses and ambulant vendors.

In Plaza Miranda where the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene stands, hundreds of vendors are preparing for the anticipated influx of people who will join the translacion on Friday.

Jun Laxa, a 56-year-old vendor in Quiapo, said his total sales on the day of the feast alone amounts to a month’s sales on ordinary days.

“I have been selling religious items here in Quiapo for 45 years already and I was able to send all my children to college. I believe Mahal na Poon is giving me blessings because I am serving him by bringing his image and statue to the public,”  Laxa said.

According to Sally Bulando, a 39-year old candle vendor in Quiapo church, she gets an average of P3000.00 ($66.58) net income during the Feast of the Black Nazarene compared to her P500.00 (US$11.00) sales on an ordinary day.

Bulando, who has been selling candles for 15 years, gives a color guide for prospective candle buyers: “Colors are based on the church goers’ wish. If they want to pray for their problems to be solved, they should use the black candles, but if they want to give thanks to the Nazarene, they should light the candles in different colors. The bestsellers during these days of the year are the black ones.”

HOT SELL. Sally Bulando earns an average of P3000 (US$65.89) net income every Feast as compared to her ordinary day take of P500 (US$11).

Alex Redo, 30, repairs religious images. He said his Plaza Miranda stall normally attracts only two clients per week but more people flock to him in January.

“They usually bring their damaged and deteriorated statues of the Nazarene, Sto Niño and other religious icons. I fix them, put new clothes, replace the hair, and repaint their body,” Redo said.

He added: “I am a painter but my devotion to the Black Nazarene brings me to this place and work. He (Black Nazarene) never fails to take good care of me and my family, maybe because I never fail to fix broken statues of him.” –

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