Devotees defy pandemic, troop to Quiapo Church for Nazareno 2021

Paterno Esmaquel II

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Devotees defy pandemic, troop to Quiapo Church for Nazareno 2021

FAITH. Devotees of the Black Nazarene defy warnings to stay home on January 9, 2021, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

But health experts warn devotees to stay home as the more contagious UK variant of COVID-19 might already be in the Philippines

Devotees defied the COVID-19 pandemic on Saturday, January 9, and trooped to Quiapo Church for the annual feast of the Black Nazarene despite persistent reminders to stay home or hear Mass in other churches.

The Feast of the Black Nazarene, the biggest religious event in this predominantly Catholic country, is usually characterized by a day-long procession that attracts millions of devotees every January 9. The Black Nazarene refers to Jesus of Nazareth, as represented by a 17th-century mulatto image that devotees believe to be miraculous.

This procession called the Traslacion was canceled this year, however, to help curb COVID-19 has affected more than 483,800 people and killed at least 9,300 in the Philippines.

Still, devotees persisted in their annual tradition and trooped to Quiapo Church, where the image of the Black Nazarene is enshrined. While only 400 people at a time are allowed inside Quiapo Church due to quarantine rules, thousands of others heard Mass or prayed outside the church building.

CROWD. Devotees hear Mass outside Quiapo Church on January 9, 2021, the Feast of the Black Nazarene.
Photo by KD Madrilejos/Rappler

Manila police said at least 19,800 people were in Quiapo as of 5:50 am on Saturday. 


HIGHLIGHTS: Nazareno 2021 Masses, novena, and other activities

HIGHLIGHTS: Nazareno 2021 Masses, novena, and other activities

Bishop Broderick Pabillo, temporary head of the Archdiocese of Manila, opened the fiesta with a Mass in Quiapo Church at 4:30 am on Saturday. In his homily, Pabillo said the huge crowds despite the pandemic prove the Black Nazarene’s “magnetism.”

Talagang ang Poong Nazareno ay isang magnet, napakalakas na magnet na ina-attract ang maraming tao sa kanya at hindi mapipigilan ang attraction na ‘yon,” Pabillo said. (The Black Nazarene is really a magnet, a really strong magnet that attracts many people and we cannot stop that attraction.)

Saan ba tayo na-a-attract? Hindi lang po tayo naa-attract sa isang imahen. Ang isang imahen, ‘yan po ay isang tanda lamang. Naa-attract tayo sa pag-ibig ng Diyos,” Pabillo said. (Where are we attracted? We are not only attracted to an image. An image is only a symbol. We are attracted to the love of God.)

Devotees defy pandemic, troop to Quiapo Church for Nazareno 2021

Still, Pabillo reminded devotees not to flock just to Quiapo Church for this annual feast. In an earlier interview with church-run Radio Veritas, he said devotees can also attend Nazareno Masses in other churches in the Archdiocese of Manila, such as San Sebastian Church, Santa Cruz Church, and Binondo Church.

Health experts also advised devotees to stay home on Saturday, and choose to attended Masses online.

UNWAVERING. Devotees who cannot enter Quiapo Church choose to hear Mass outside the minor basilica. Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler
Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

In a statement, the Healthcare Professionals Alliance Against COVID-19 (HPAAC) warned that the more contagious UK variant of COVID-19 might already be in the Philippines. HPAAC said it would be safer for devotees to attend Masses through radio, TV, or the internet.

Ang pagtugon sa panawagang ito ay tanda rin ng pagmamahal natin sa ating kapwa at sumasabuhay ng ating pananampalataya,” the health expert said. (Responding to this call is also a sign of our love for neighbor that lives out our faith.) –

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Paterno Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at