The people of Quiapo, Manila have three big important celebrations before the end of each year and at the early part of the New Year. We celebrate Christmas and New Year with the rest of the world and in the early part of January, particularly the 9th day, we commemorate the feast of the Black Nazarene. This year, the celebration is doubly important as it marks the 400th year of the Black Nazarene enshrined at Minor Basilica in the heart of Quiapo district.
The miraculous image of the Nazarene was brought to the country by religious missionaries from Mexico and venerated by catholic believers for many years. Devotees of the Black Nazarene have faithfully and religiously honored the image of the Nazarene as a way of thanking the Lord for the many blessings they receive each year and to pray for their good health and long life.
The organizers made it clear that the celebration every January 9th is in observance of the arrival of the miraculous image of the Nazarene from Mexico 400 years ago, and not in celebration of the feast day of Saint John the Baptist, the patron saint of Quiapo Church which falls on June 24. Many maybe are misled into thinking that the Patron of the Quiapo church is the Black Nazarene since it is enshrined in the main altar of the Basilica. Saint John the Baptist is the patron saint of Quiapo church.
June 24 is also San Juan City day and also the town fiesta in my hometown of Daet in Camarines Norte. There are countless town fiesta celebrations which with Saint John the Baptist (cousin of Jesus Christ) as its patron.
I have been living in Quiapo for so many years now and have never missed joining the procession of the Nazarene within the Quiapo area, starting from the church through Villalobos street passing through part of Santa Cruz to Recto Avenue turning right to Quezon Boulevard passing through the underpass towards the vicinity of Malacanang Palace and through Arlegui Street and again through Villalobos and back to the church.
The organizers of this year’s celebration have decided to widen the route of the procession to reach more people with the graces from the Holy father.At 4:00 P.M. last January 8, the image was brought from Quiapo Church, the national shrine of the Black Nazarene, to the Luneta Grandstand for an overnight vigil of the devotees. The short procession which took more than an hour to reach the Grandstand because of the thick crowd of devotees, made it’s way through Quezon Bridge straight to P. Burgos and at about 6:00 p.m. the image reached the Luneta Grandstand where firework display and candlelight ceremony headed by the Catholic Bishops Conference (CBCP) president Archbishop Angel Lagdameo wereaheld to welcome the image.
The activities were highlighted by penitential services followed by a concert on stage from several religious group. The vigil lasted up to the early morning of January 9, the day of the feast of Senor Nazareno. At 7:00 in the morning of that day, a special mass with Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales attending, followed by “Parangal kay Nazareno”; and at 12 noon the procession again moved slowly on its way back to Quiapo Church ending at about 6:00 in the evening.
The grand procession took a very long route starting from the Luneta towards Independence Road to Katigbak Street through P. Burgos towards McArthur Bridge, then to Palanca Street, P. Gomez, Quezon Boulevard, Arlegui, Paternal and Vergara, R. Hidalgo to Globo de Oro, Carlos Palanca again then Villalobos and straight to Plaza Miranda where a throng of the religious that covered the whole area were waiting for the arrival of the miraculous image.
The enormous crowd gathered at the plaza gave me a real chill. This was the height of religiosity of the devotees of the Black Nazarene. In the middle of the day, the young male devotees of the Nazarene doggedly followed the Nazarene’s “karosa”. It was indeed surprising that this year, there were more young men who joined the procession. Most of them persevered in inching close to able to touch the image. Climbing up and going down from the “karosa” was a sacrifice in itself as it was not easy squeezing throuigh the thick human barriers. White handkerchiefs were waved and thrown to the people on the ‘karosa’ to wipe them on the face or any part of the image as their mementos for the night’s devotion.
The life-size black image of the Nazarene we see in the procession is the replica of the original statue. The original image was bought by a priest in Mexico and was brought to Manila on May 31, 1606. Because of its yearly processions, the original image was badly damaged and in 1998, the replica has been used in the procession for the annual festivities of the Black Nazarene. The original statue is what we see at the main altar of the Quiapo church.
Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales, in his homily during the mass at the Luneta Grandstand, gave more emphasis on humility in the likeness of Jesus Christ. He said Jesus of Nazarene is the image of God and our brother in poverty and that He also personifies the Pilipino, and so we must not abandon Him. The Archbishop said that we are seeking solid development and advancement both for the people and the country. The beginning of which was already exemplified by the Lord Jesus in His humility, His being poor which we should all emulate.What we all need is to live in full humility.