Millions of devotees gather annually in Manila, Philippines to celebrate the Feast of the Black Nazarene. The highlight of the January 9 feast day is known locally as the “Traslacion,” a religious procession during which devotees carry a replica of the Black Nazarene from Quirino Grandstand in Rizal Park to the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo. This yearly procession symbolizes the transfer of the said image from Intramuros to Quiapo in January 9, 1787.
The original Nazarene was brought by a group of Augustinian Recollect missionaries from Mexico to Manila, then one of Spain’s newly colonized lands, in 1606. Friars were reportedly afraid that the image would be damaged by the growing number of devotees wanting to pay reverence to it, so they ordered a replica from Mexico. The original was dubbed “Nazareno ng Mayaman” (“The Nazarene of the Rich”) since only the more affluent had access to it; the replica was, according to hearsay, nicknamed “Nazareno ng Mahirap” (“The Nazarene of the Poor”). Only the latter remains since the former was destroyed in the 1945 Battle of Manila.
The carriage carrying the iconic image reached the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene on Thursday at around 2 a.m. this year after a 21-hour long procession that started at the Quirino Grandstand a little past 5 a.m. on Wednesday. According to a tweet by the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO), the 6.15-kilometer procession moved at a rate of 300 meters per hour or 5 meters per minute. The NCRPO, which handled security for the event with approximately 7,200 police officers, also said it had recorded no casualties or major untoward incidents.
This historical statue of Jesus Christ carrying His cross is an emblem of passion, struggle, and faith for many Filipino Catholics. It is said that the suffering image of the Nazarene is a symbol the masses can relate to. A lot are drawn to stories of its miraculous powers, with firm believers alleging they’ve been cured of illnesses, passed difficult examinations, or even received job offers by simply praying to the Nazarene.
When asked about the popularity of this devotion, the rector of the Minor Basilica, Msgr. Jose Clemente Ignacio, said, “The devotion in Quiapo is somewhat similar to a pilgrimage experience and every year they come and somehow something changes in the people… I guess the people here know that there is a very deep gold mine of the spiritual fruits that they can experience in Quiapo Church.”