Folk Catholicism or true piety?

Lilibeth Frondoso

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'It is only God who could see the hearts of people'

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Thursday, January 9, the feast of the Black Nazarene, is when photographers and videographers have a field day. There’s so much movement to capture in outstretched arms, bare feet, adoring faces, and sweaty bodies jostling to get near the centuries-old icon. The emotion is palpable in these photos and videos: reverence, love, hope, even despair, and obsession.

Devotion or delusion? Many dismiss the raw passion and unswerving belief in miracles as superstitious, even fanatical. Rappler’s Rambo Talabong explores the question in his podcast and arrives at a penetrating, surprising conclusion. He quotes the former rector of the Black Nazarene, Monsignor Jose Clemente Ignacio:

“Whether some expressions are delusional or devotional, it is the heart, the interior of the person, that will decide if an expression is right or wrong. It is only God who could see the hearts of peoples.”

Through the day, it was becoming increasingly apparent that this was not your usual Nazareno parade. For one, the parade left the Luneta grandstand early. Devotees were not allowed to go near the sides of the carriage, with the throng kept at a distance by a thick cordon of police.

As the day wore on, elation transformed to frustration as the “andas wall” of the police deprived many devotees of their vow: to touch their beloved icon.

Do the police understand what they just did? This is not the Sinulog or a Santacruzan, where watching from the sidelines is the full experience. Most of the devotees believe the touch itself is miraculous – hence the rush to touch or wipe the image with a towel. Watch below.

Here’s that tension-filled video of the image of the Nazarene entering the Church. That final homeward push has always been a communal endeavor as devotees police their ranks. Today, the experience was tinged with resentment of the police.

Must read/watch on the tension between police and devotees:

Southern Metro police chief snatches GMA reporter’s phone, deletes video of Traslacion commotion
Southern Metro chief sorry: I mistook GMA reporter as a threat
Año: Generals should never snatch cell phones. Period.
Nazareno 2020: At Plaza Miranda, police clash with Traslacion devotees
Militant lawmakers slam ‘police brutality’ at Nazareno 2020
Devotees find Traslacion ‘joyful and fulfilling’ despite police barricade

Nazareno 2020 in video:

The Black Nazarene leaves the Quirino Grandstand

A police cordon speeds up the procession, enabling the icon to move out of Luneta area before sunrise.

Traslacion 2020 ends in 16 hours
The Black Nazarene enters Ayala Boulevard from Taft Avenue

Last homily

Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle delivers his last homily before he heads to Vatican City to lead the Catholic Church’s Propaganda Fide.

Coronel thanks Tagle for service, support of Traslacion
Nazareno devotees say goodbye to Vatican-bound Tagle

Nazareno 2020: Dungaw

The image of Our Lady of Mount Carmel de San Sebastian looks out from the church terrace towards the passing Black Nazarene.

Filipino Catholics share story behind devotion to Black Nazarene

‘Andas wall’ ends at Arlegui corner Nepomuceno

When the police cordon ends, the Traslacion devotees find the opportunity to get near the image, resulting in pockets of stampedes.

Over 2,000 policemen to form ‘andas wall’ for Traslacion 2020
Philippine Catholics swarm Christ icon hoping for miracle
Volunteers share free food and water to tired devotees

People we met at the Nazareno Traslacion:

‘Sana all’: Devotees cheer couple who got engaged during Traslacion 2020
Traslacion first-timer ‘endures all pain’ to kiss the Nazareno
A beauty stylist’s devotion to the Black Nazarene
Devotee offers his back to help people climb to the other side of the road 
Senior citizens brave Traslacion procession
Vendor begs Isko Moreno to allow them to sell in Traslacion 2020

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Lilibeth Frondoso

She currently heads Multimedia Strategy and Growth in Rappler.