…in the midst of the feast…

In the pre-dawn hours on the morning of January 9, I joined thousands of people who took to the street of Manila to worship a Jesus Christ statue known as the Black Nazarene. The centuries old statue is thought to have healing powers and has its distinctive color because it survived the fire that sunk the ship that was taking it to the Philippines. The procession of the Black Nazarene is the largest procession in the country, and takes place on the same date every year through the streets of Manila. Before the procession begins, however, Mass is held in the early morning hours with thousands of devotees in attendance – some after walking barefoot through the streets to arrive at Rizal Park, or Luneta Park, where the procession begins.

After Mass and Communion, the Black Nazarene is carried into the streets for procession in a shoulder-bourne carriage. The devotees wear the color maroon, associated with the image, and go barefoot in imitation of Jesus on his way to Mount Calvary. People who have touched the Black Nazarene are reported to have been cured of their diseases, and Catholics come from all over Manila to touch the image in the hopes of a miracle. Towels or handkerchiefs are hurled to the marshals and escorts guarding the Black Nazarene with requests to wipe these on the statue in hopes of the miraculous powers attributed to it “rubbing off” on the cloth articles. Many in the path of the procession who are close to the carriage attempt to climb and touch the cross themselves…

The procession is notorious for the annual casualties that result from the jostling and congestion of the crowds engaged in pulling the carriage. The injuries and even deaths of devotees are brought upon by one or a combination of heat, fatigue, or being trampled upon by other devotees. Earlier, the government had warned about a terrorist plot to disrupt the annual festival, but there were no incidents.

Nearly 24 hours later, the procession of the Black Nazarene finally ended. Accompanied by some 2 million devotees, the Nazarene entered the doors of Quiapo church just after 6 A.M.

I think having experienced this twice, I will watch next year on TV.

Click you mouse over each image to get a full description and follow the link to the full gallery of  Black Nazarene: In the Midst of the Feast.

Until next time!