Today is the largest and the most celebrated religious event of our neighbors in the Philippines – the Procession of the Black Nazarene.
Barefoot devotees from all over the country come by the thousands to participate in the procession. All wanted to get a glimpse of the 500-year-old, life-size, dark-skinned statue of Jesus Christ; down on one knee, carrying a cross; it is taken off its shrine and paraded in the streets of Manila.
The Chaos. Some describe it as a pandemonium! Imagine thousands of people pushing and shoving, almost in a state of trance... the moment they see the statue taken out of the church doors! Chanting “Viva el Señor!” with only one thing in mind – to get close to the Black Nazarene.
Devotees toss white cloths to the “guards” (on the carriage) asking them to rub it on the statue. Why? – It is believed that the Black Nazarene is miraculous. People claimed to be healed throughout its 200-year history and devout Filipino Catholics are hoping for the same miracle.
The statue was brought to the Philippines by Spanish priests from Mexico in 1606. It is believed that it was carved by an Aztec craftsman. The statue was housed in different churches until 1787; the statue is enshrined to where it is today – the Quiapo Church.
Why is it black? I asked a Filipino friend if the Black Nazarene supports the “theory” that Jesus Christ was actually dark-skinned (North African) like what the Ethiopians were claiming. Well, I was told that it is not the case. According to one legend, while the statue was on its way to Manila, the galleon caught fire and charred the image. But despite its condition, Filipinos still kept the burnt statue for veneration. Interesting, isn’t it?
” Viva el Señor!"
BISEAN's 400th blogpost!
*Photo credit: Manila Times, LakbayPilipinas.net and Michael Cohen