The Feast of the Black Nazarene every January 9 is among the most celebrated liturgical feasts for Filipino Catholics. At least one million people from all over the country come together to commemorate the translacion, or the relocation of the original image of the Nazarene from Luneta to the Parish of Saint John the Baptist, more popularly known as the Basilica of the Black Nazarene or Quiapo Church.
Devotees of all ages flock to the image of the suffering Christ to seek the fulfillment of their personal intentions or to express their gratitude for answered prayers.
In an interview with CBCP News, Quiapo Church rector Msgr. Clemente Ignacio views the devotion to the Black Nazarene as a testament to the empathy of Filipinos: “The Filipinos see themselves in the image of the suffering and struggling Black Nazarene.”
“If you will notice the Black Nazarene is a snapshot of Jesus rising again after the fall… we will see there the resilience of the Filipinos, they never lose hope,” he added.
Our photojourn prof assigned us to cover the Feast of the Black Nazarene, but a morning class and prior commitments would keep me from joining the throng on Monday. To make up for it, I headed to the Basilica yesterday with my friend Raine, hoping to squeeze in a few shots before sunset.
Because I arrived two days before the main event, I expected to find only a handful of churchgoers, the image of the Christ, and if I were lucky, a photogenic candle or two. But from the time we saw a row of sidewalk vendors flaunting their Poon memorabilia and a parade of about a dozen replicas of the Black Nazarene, it was clear that there was more to be beheld at the premature coverage. It surprised me to see so many young devotees — teenagers, gradeschoolers and even toddlers. There was even a pregnant lady and a cripple in the crowd.
I haven’t joined a religious procession since high school, so yesterday’s foray was a refreshing experience for me. Among the people we met was Ka Ed. He had been boarding the andas or the base of the statue’s carriage since he was 7.
Now 49, he carries on his devotion by pioneering and leading the Anak ng Poon ng Nazareno (ANPON), an organization of volunteer-devotees who provide manpower — think of them as bouncers, if you will — and maintain the peace in the Black Nazarene procession.
He and an ANPON comrade, Ka Jojo, helped Raine and I find the best angles with the least amount of risk. They advised us to ask the Poon‘s permission as we took photographs of His image. Even under unfavorable conditions, they said, the Nazarene grants the prayers and desires of devotees with the resolve to sacrifice and unwavering faith in Him.
We left Quiapo a little past dusk with muddy shoes, maxed out memory cards and new-found appreciation for the seminal spiritual experience that is the Feast of the Black Nazarene.