Tomorrow marks the 11th year since the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo, Manila sent an official replica to the City of Golden Friendship.
Among the many religious figures Filipino Catholics believe miraculous, the image of the Black Nazarene has the most faithful—having over millions of devotees. And every year of January 9, Filipinos celebrate its feast by solemnly parading the life-size figure across the streets of Manila—likewise for its ten replicas distributed across the country.
But how and when did this annual feast of religious translation even started?
In 1606, a group of Augustinian Recollect missionaries voyaged from Mexico to Spain’s newly colonized land, Manila. These missionaries arrived at the shore, bringing with them various religious images that were built from strong classes of wood—one of which is a dark-skinned Christ carrying a huge cross (Señor Nazareno). They also brought and kept the images of La Oracion del Señor, Señor Azotado, and Señor de Paciencia.
Contrary to popular belief that the image caught fire on its way to Manila, the reason why it’s dark is that the original image was carved from a very dark type of timber called Mesquite. This was clarified by Msgr. Sabino Vengco Jr. in his interview with GMA News back in 2015.
Msgr. Vengco flew to Mexico and studied this himself. He even added that the mesquite’s wooden core is black—similar to the Philippine kamagong.
Traslacion in Spanish means moving something from one place to another. The term offers a more accurate description of what we see during the feast of the Black Nazarene as the image (literally) makes its way through the sea of humanity.
As the growing number of devotees increased, the friars were concerned that the image would be damaged, hence ordering a replica from Mexico and sending it to Manila. However, according to hearsays, this replica has been dubbed as “Nazareno ng Mahirap,” while the one enshrined in Intramuros was called “Nazareno ng Mayaman.” Why? Because back then, the image in Intramuros was only accessible to affluent devotees.
On January 9, 1787, Archbishop Basilio Sancho de Santa Justa ordered to transfer the Nazareno ng Mahirap to Quiapo Church. Unfortunately, the Nazareno ng Mayaman that was left in Intramuros was destroyed during the Battle of Manila in the 1940s.
Nevertheless, the secular-administered church commemorates its transfer, engraving it to the Filipino Catholic culture.
Four centuries later, the official replicas of the Black Nazarene were disseminated across different regions of the country, including Manila, Cagayan de Oro, Davao del Norte, Zamboanga City, Zamboanga del Norte, Iligan, Eastern Samar, Nueva Ecija, Nueva Vizcaya, and Batanes.
Each devotee has their own reason as to why they are devoted to the Nazareno.
Some say that it’s relatable, especially to the general mass. The suffering of Christ depicted the poverty and daily suffering of many devotees. Meanwhile, others believe and testify to the Nazarenos’ miraculous powers—having the image itself surviving natural calamities, wars, and healing a lot of the sick. Wishes, as well as guidance, were also granted, such as passing the board exams or gaining a job offer.
However, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle said that only a true devotee can understand the significance of the celebration.
Other facts about the History of the Black Nazarene:
- It was believed that the life-size image was first placed at the St. John the Baptist Church before the state handed it over to the San Nicolas de Tolentino Church in Intramuros;
- A group of men that encompassed strong devotion for the Nazarene established the first Philippine Confraternity Cofradia de Jesus Nazareno in 1620;
- During the 1650s, Pope Innocent X officially recognized the country’s strong devotion to the Black Nazarene;
- With the same concern as to the friars used to, the Archdiocese of Manila also produced a replica—placing the copy’s head on the original one (the version used in the procession), while the original Nazareno’s head is attached to the copy at the church’s main altar;
- Number of participants in this annual procession in Manila alone reaches up to 18 million and counting;
- Devotees participate in the procession on barefoot and endure a 7-kilometer walk that usually lasts up to 12 hours.
Today, the number of devotees who participate in the annual traslacion increases here in CDO. Consequently, tightening security measures and emergency response teams to continuously assure the safety of thousands of devotees. As of last year, there were 250,000 devotees.
Since this year’s traslacion authorities anticipate up to 300,000 participants, they highly discourage the attendance of pregnant women, persons with disabilities/sickness, and children under 12 years and below.
Hopefully, this solemn procession Kagay-anons have been practicing for a decade would be followed through tomorrow and for the years to come.
De Guzman, N. (2019, January 9). Black Nazarene: The Tale of Traslacion. Esquire. Retrieved on 2020, January 8 on esquiremag.ph
Gonsalves, A. (n.d). Understanding the Fierce Devotion Behind the Black Nazarene. Quiapo Church Online. Retrieved on 2020, January 8 on quiapochurch.com
Vatican News. (2019, January 9). Thousands of Filipinos join Black Nazarene procession in Manila. Retrieved on 2020, January 8 on vaticannews.va