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Feast of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo » Faith or Fanaticism?

"When I was a young boy, my father took me into the city to see a marching band. He said, "Son, when you grow up, would you be the saviour of the broken, the beaten and the damned?"
He said "Will you defeat them, your demons, and all the non believers, the plans that they have made? Because one day I'll leave you, a phantom to lead you in the summer, to join the black parade.
-“Welcome To The Black Parade,” My Chemical Romance –

It is a dangerous thing. Devotees clad in maroon, barefoot, spiritually euphoric and wild vie with each other for the honor of pulling the rope. The streets of Quiapo transformed into a raging sea of human bodies, waving banners of maroon and gold. Men climb over the others to wipe the black image with a white handkerchief or even kiss it. This is the Feast of the Black Nazarene – a puzzling devotion even to some Catholics.

January 9 marks the annual feast. The procession, being one of the major Catholic celebrations each year is regularly attended by millions of devotees, which usually lasts for 10 to 12 hours.
A day before the annual translacion of the Black Nazarene, which describes the procession of the image and commemorates its transfer from Intramuros to Quiapo church, millions of devotees are already preparing to participate in the event which is considered as the biggest festival in the Philippines.

Injuries, theft and stampede marred previous celebrations of the Feast of the Black Nazarene. In 2008, two people died and around 50 injured devotees were rushed to hospitals and makeshift clinics. Two deaths was also reported in 2010 with hundreds of devotees rushed for first aid treatment for various health conditions ranging from dizziness to foot injuries.

Quiapo Black Nazarene in Philippines

How it all started

Mexico didn’t conquer the Philippines like the Spaniards but it left its most visible and most emotionally resonant legacies to Filipinos, the Nuestro Padre Jesus Nazareno in Quiapo Church. It is over 400 years old and was first housed in a church inside Intramuros, until it was transferred to the Quiapo Church in 1787.

According to popular accounts, it arrived at the port of Cavite aboard a galleon from Acapulco, Mexico. An unusual feature of the image is its black color and the supposed miracle behind it, which transformed Quiapo into emotional core of Manila.

Folk tradition attributes the color of the Black Nazarene to a fire on the galleon carrying it, charring the image from its original fair tone into its present dark complexion, which many devotees considered as a miracle.

Was the Nazarene actually burned? In the research paper "The Burnt Christ: The Filipinization of a Mexican Icon," the author Fernando Zialcita reported that Narciso Maglaqui, a Filipino sculptor was commissioned by the parish to do a duplicate of the Black Nazarene to be brought out in procession, for the original was starting to crack from rough handling during the processions. According to Maglaqui, if the original had been burnt, the wood would have been like carbon. But the wood remains smooth.

Thus, the story about the tale of a fire is really a legend. Zialcita pointed out that an artifact, when imported, acquires new interpretation in another culture.

The Black Nazarene's power to do miracles 
It's power to do miracles is one of the main reasons why millions of devotees continue to attend the annual Feast of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo. So popular is the image, that even on Fridays and other days of the week, multitudes visit Quiapo Church to attend novena and holy mass.

For most devotees, who call themselves "Hijos del Señor Nazareno" (Sons of the Lord Nazarene), absolute devotion to their Catholic faith drives them to do whatever it takes to get as close to the Black Nazarene as they could, even if it could endanger their lives or physically hurt them.

Also, many of them believe that wiping a handkerchief to the image makes it a good luck charm. Some of them also believe it will have the power to heal, make them pass a licensure exam, pampaswerte (lucky charm), could be an anting-anting (amulet) or can protect them from kulam (witchcraft).
Death and injuries during the Black Parade

Image Source: Google Images
Hundreds of people gets hurt, many lose consciousness, and hundreds reported loss of valuable items. Death was also recorded on previous years.  

Here is a list of estimated number of devotees injured every year based on the data gathered as reported in the news:
  • 2004 – A man died while dozens were hurt after thousands of devotees scrambled to touch the 200-year-old image during the procession. At least 20 suffered cuts in different parts of the body out of the 100 devotees treated, according to the Western Police District-Tactical Operation Center.
  • 2005 – The Fire Emergency and Paramedic Assistance Group tallied 16 injuries while an operations officer of the Quiapo Church reported 47 people wounded. There were no recorded deaths.
  • 2006 – Two male devotees died while 15 others sustained injuries, according to the Philippine General Hospital. Four suffered from hypertension while 11 suffered bruises. The Manila Police District recorded 1,000 injured devotees.
  • 2007 – The number of injured persons dropped to 284, according to the MPD. There were no fatalities recorded.
  • 2008 – Two people died of heart attack and 50 others were hurt in the mad scramble of devotees jostling to touch the Black Nazarene.
  • 2009 – At least 227 people were treated for afflictions including exhaustion, dehydration and hypertension, including a pregnant woman, according to the Philippine Red Cross (PRC).
  • 2010 – Two people died and more than 450 were hurt in the crush of some two million devotees who took part in the procession, according to the PRC.
  • 2011 – A total of 560 devotees sustained injuries including lacerations, abdominal pain, sprain, headache, dizziness, difficulty in breathing, hypertension and back pain during the procession that started at the Quirino Grandstand in Rizal Park.
  •  2012 - At least 1,000 devotees have been injured during the 22-hour procession, so far the longest in the procession's history. The Manila Police District estimated that a total of about 8.5 million participated during the event. President Benigno Aquino III warned that authorities had uncovered a plot to attack the event, potentially with a mobile phone-triggered bomb. Telecommunications companies were ordered to shut off cellphone signals in areas where the procession of the Feast of the Black Nazarene will pass.
  • 2013 - drew an estimated nine million devotees and was several hours shorter than 2012 staging. the Philippine Red Cross had treated around 1,400 people on-site for high blood pressure, dizziness, chest pains, breathing problems, vomiting and minor injuries due to the sheer crush of devotees trying to touch the image or at least the ropes used to pull it along.
                 - Black Nazarene devotees swell into private property, cause commotion

Dying for folly

"Dying for folly," was how the Manila Standard editorialized the death of the Black Nazarene devotees during the procession in Quiapo and more criticisms were heard over national radio and TV. 

We can see that during the procession of the Black Nazarene "Faith" is stretched too much in superstitiously wiping towels on the Nazarene statue in supplication for some material blessings even at the cost of ones life.

Therefore, we might ask why do this at all?

I always believe that religion or faith is an intimate personal matter that should not be discussed. Thus, I cannot extend this into the area of my own personal beliefs - we must all hold on to a value that says, all peoples cultures and religions should be respected. 

So I now leave the question to you my dear opinionated visitors;

Is the procession of the Feast of the Black Nazarene a true expression of Filipino faith or just plain foolishness and fanaticism?

» Kwok, Abigail , Morales, Izah . 2010. "2 deaths mar Nazarene procession" First Posted 07:45:00 01/09/2010. (Retrieved: 08 January 2012)
» "Red Cross Safety Tips for the devotees of the Black Nazarene" Philippine Red Cross. (Retrieved: 08 January 2012)
» "Dying for folly" Manila Standard Editorial. (Retrieved:08 January 2012)
» "Black Nazarene" Wikipedia Entry (Retrieved:08 January 2012)
» Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene. Quiapo Church official website
» Nepomuceno, Jane Aubrey. 2010. "Who is the Black Nazarene?" Take a look at the Black Nazarene's own history. Manila Bulletin. (Retrieved:08 January 2012)
» Pagulong, Charmie Joy. 2012. "Timeline: Deaths, injuries during Quiapo procession" The Philippine Star. (Retrieved:08 January 2012)
» Zialzita, Fernando N. "The Burnt Christ: The Filipinization of a Mexican Icon" Draft Copy. (Retrieved:08 January 2012)
» "Nazarene procession ends after 22 hours" Posted: 01/10/2012 7:21 AM (Retrieved:10 January 2012)
» “Millions defy terror alert” Philippine Daily Inquirer. Posted: 12:23 am | Tuesday, January 10th, 2012 (Retrieved:10 January 2012)
» Erika Sauler, Jaymee T. Gamil, Philip Tubeza. "Nazarene rites ‘faster, more orderly" Philippine Daily Inquirer. Posted: (Retrieved:10 January 2013)    
» Photo Disclaimer: Photo of the Black Nazarene Procession 3rd image: Please contact blog admin if you are the owner of the photo for proper citation.     

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