Hundreds of thousands are gathered today in front of the Quirino Grandstand at Rizal Park in Manila for the “translacion” of the pilgrim image of the Black Nazarene, patron of the downtown district of the nation’s capital.
It is considered one of the greatest religious and cultural feasts in the Philippines.
Popular belief says that a quick procession heralds a good year for the district and the nation, while a long one, marked with unexplained delays to bring the image back to its home church, could be an omen of bad year.
Authorities have rerouted traffic in many sections of Manila to give way to the predominantly-male procession from Rizal Park to the Quiapo Church.
Check here for the official route of the procession.
Check here for the official program for the Black Nazarene feast day.
Said to be miraculous by its devotees, the image of the Black Nazarene came from Mexico during the Spanish colonial era.
The emotionally-charged procession called “translacion” features countless male and a number of brave women who try to seize and hold on to the 50-meter-long abaca rope that pull the carriage bearing the image of the Black Nazarene. Their participation is part of the devotees’ annual “panata” or pledge to the Black Nazarene in exchange for answered or still-to-be-answered prayers.
The “translacion” commemorates the transfer of the image to its present home church, which had been designated by Vatican City as a basilica minor in honor of Nuestro Padre Jesus Nazareno, the formal Spanish name of the dark wooden image of Jesus Christ bearing a big black cross.
Devotees are usually clad in white or maroon shirts, with silkscreen prints of the profile of the Black Nazarene. They usually walk barefoot to Quirino Grandstand as a sign of humility and devotion, as well as a form of sacrifice in honor of their patron.
Most of them and other devotees waiting in the sidelines wave and throw white handkerchiefs at the men guarding the traveling statue of the Black Nazarene throughout the procession, believing that once the handkerchiefs touch the image, they become blessed.
Among the popular devotees of the Black Nazarene is former Vice President Noli de Castro who joins the annual procession without fail.
Scores of devotees have died during previous processions due to heart attacks or were crushed to death by the seeming avalanche of people.
In previous years, Manila’s archbishop, Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales, complained that the Black Nazarene’s devotees have usually gone overboard with the devotion.
The Black Nazarene is also brought out for another, smaller procession during Holy Week.