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 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 is a reenactment of the original 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 new colonies, in 1606. The friars also ordered a replica from Mexico because they were purportedly afraid that the image would be damaged by the growing number of devotees wanting to pay reverence to it. The original was christened “Nazareno ng Mayaman” (“The Nazarene of the Rich”) since only the well-heeled had access to it; the replica was, according to hearsay, nicknamed “Nazareno ng Mahirap” (“The Nazarene of the Poor”). Only the latter remains nowadays as “the Nazarene of the Rich” was destroyed in the Battle of Manila in 1945.
The carriage carrying the revered 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. the previous day. According to a tweet by the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO)’s official account, 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 recorded no casualties or major untoward incidents.
This historical statue of Jesus Christ carrying the 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 long-standing illnesses, passed difficult examinations, or even received serendipitous job offers by sincerely praying to the Nazarene. Indeed, Quiapo Church has been a witness to many stories of faith.
When asked about the popularity of this devotion, the rector of the Minor Basilica, Msgr. Jose Clemente Ignacio, explained, “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.”