Sunday, January 15, 2012

Feast of the Black Nazarene

Last week Quiapo celebrated the Feast of the Black Nazarene (Nuestro Padre Señor Jesus de Nazareno).  Every year on January 9, the Black Nazarene statue is placed on a gilded carriage; two ropes attached to it are then pulled by a throng of Catholic devotees in bare feet through the narrow streets of Quiapo.  This annual feast is considered as one of the largest festivals in the Philippines.

The original statue was handcrafted by an unknown Mexican sculptor.  It was transported to Manila aboard a Spanish Galleon by Augustinian Recollect priests.  On May 31, 1606, it was enshrined at the Church of San Juan Bautista in Bagumbayan, now part of Luneta.  In 1608, it was moved to the bigger Recollect church of San Nicolas de Tolentino in Intramuros. Finally, on January 9, 1787, it was transferred to Quiapo Church, which is also known as St. John the Baptist Church after its patron saint.

Believed to be miraculous, the Black Nazarene has become more famous than Quiapo’s own patron saint, St. John the Baptist, whose feast is celebrated every June 24. Devotees have attributed miracles and answered prayers to the Black Nazarene.  Henceforth, the Feast of the Black Nazarene on January 9, as it has come to be known, is held to commemorate the journey of this 17th century statue from its original home in Luneta to Quiapo in Manila.

The statue survived the fires that engulfed Quiapo Church in 1791 and 1929, the great earthquakes of 1645 and 1863, and the 1945 bombing of Manila during World War II.  Devotion to the Black Nazarene was encouraged by Pope Innocent X, who issued a papal bull establishing Confradia de Jesus Nazareno in 1650. In the 19th century, Pope Pius VII granted indulgences to people who prayed devoutly to the Black Nazarene.

Besides the annual procession on January 9, the Black Nazarene statue is also brought out of the church every Good Friday for a procession that traverses the same route of Quiapo streets.  However, the starting point is not from Luneta, but from the church.  It usually starts as early as three in the early morning.  This is to ensure that the statue is returned to the church before three in the afternoon.

Good Friday 2011 video by Tito Eric

Last year, after studying the Good Friday procession route, I decided to shoot a video of which at the intersection of two narrow streets: Aguila and Carcer.  This position would place me as close to the statue’s carriage as safely possible.  I took possession of this spot, a lamp post, three hours before the estimated arrival of the carriage on this particular intersection.  While shooting, I had to practically hug the post after stepping up and planting my feet on the edges of its two-foot base to gain height over the crowd.

For good measure, four young men whom I know who are residents of Quiapo, volunteered to protect me.  They were to act as my human shield from the possible onslaught of the wave of the devotees pulling the ropes of the carriage, which could get incorrigible at times.  Its impact caused the shaking of my camera (as you will notice when viewing the video).  The four young men acting as my shield would push them back to prevent my slipping off from where I was standing and, God forbid, get trampled upon by the crowd (busily maneuvering to squeeze through the line to join the devotees pulling the ropes).

Except for this year, I have been covering the annual Feast of the Black Nazarene the past several years now, and to date, I remain awed yet dumbfounded by the unfathomable devotion of those who pull the ropes, as well as by those who risk their well-being, if not their life, by climbing on top of other devotees to reach the top of the carriage to wipe their handkerchief or face towel on the statue.  This video is proof of the seemingly perilous and frenzied intensity of their devotion.

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  1. Jan 9 just passed me by this year. That's a pity.

  2. It's been decades since I've been to the Quiapo procession. Today you need to be physically fit and properly attired, prepared to face a stampede and survive if you were to venture out to witness the procession :) Just getting to the place would be a hurdle in itself !