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Feast of the Black Nazarene | and The Tale of the White Nazarene | Quiapo Manila Philippines

Feast of the Black Nazarene, observed every 9th of January.

The Spaniards introduced the custom of celebrating fiestas in honor of patron saints. Usually, these rituals begin with a novena (or a nine-day mass or prayers) and culminates into a grand procession on the feast day. Besides patron saints, there are also images of Jesus Christ and Mary Mother of Jesus in the Philippines that draw millions of devotees during their annual celebrations. This affirms the Filipino belief on the presence of the divine on sacred images which can be considered as a vibrant reflection of Filipino Catholicism. 

The most popular celebration in honor of Jesus Christ is the feast of the Black Nazarene, a genuflecting image of Jesus bearing a cross. In observance of the traslación, or the sacred image’s journey from Bagumbayan (now Quirino Grand Stand) to Quiapo, a procession is celebrated annually every 9th of January. Traslación was initiated in 2009, although a procession around Quiapo was already in place since the early 19th century as evident in a painting by Jose Honorato Lozano in 1847. 

The procession would usually take a six to seven-kilometer route and would last for more than 20 hours. Devotees who join the traslación come from different parts of the country—and even the world— consisting of patrons coming from different age groups, gender, and socio-economic backgrounds. 

Miracles of the Black Nazarene to devotees are in different forms and are predominantly joined by male devotees in processions. Some are in the form of recovery of a relative from sickness, financial problems, passing of exams, acceptance in job applications, and assistance during difficult times. It is said more female devotees have participated in processions over the years due to their success at being able to find work overseas. 

The devotion to the Black Nazarene is also seen in different aspects – psychologically, it comforts devotees; socio-culturally, it reinforces the relationship between members of the family joining the procession and it serves a generational devotion started by the older members to younger ones; and economically, it is a source of livelihood to many. The feast of the Black Nazarene is not only seen as a spiritual event where devotees express their panata (religious vow) but more as a social one.

Panata is a distinct Filipino expression of faith and devotion to a higher being depicted in sacred images because of the belief in the presence of the divine in sacred objects and places. It is characterized by a personal vow to continue their faith and commitment in response to the love and protection that the image has granted them. There is a strong belief that requests will be granted through sacrifice and the continuous devotion to an image is a pledge of commitment to reciprocate the answered prayer. 

However, the degree of panata to the Black Nazarene varies. There are ten customary practices of devotion to the Black Nazarene which include: attending the novena, helping in carrying the huge wooden cross, joining the procession, walking on bended knees, wearing the maroon habit, kissing the feet of the poon or polychrome image, contributing money to the church, lighting candles, rendering church services, and involving oneself during fiesta activities.

As a result to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 celebration of the Feast of the Black Nazarene  will involve several changes. Daily masses can be viewed on social media platforms of the Archdiocese of Manila. The “pahalik” or the tradition of kissing the feet of the image of the Black Nazarene, is prohibited and instead replaced by “patanaw” where devotees can view the image. Lastly, the traslación will not push through to avoid mass gatherings. Instead, a replica of the Black Nazarene will be brought to different places in Metro Manila, Southern Luzon, and Northern Luzon. 

The NMP encourages devotees and everyone who are participating in the celebration to wear face coverings, including masks and shields, and practice social distancing.



Text and poster by the Ethnology Division

©The National Museum of the Philippines (2021)


The tale of the two Nazarenos

The Nazareno of Quiapo Church during a Traslación procession in the 1950’s.
Photo credits to Mr. Dennis Raymond Maturan

There was a time when there had been two venerated images of Señor Nazareno in Manila. Unknown to many at present, the Señor of Quiapo was not the only Nazareno that had existed and had drawn large following in Manila. In pre-war Manila, there also existed the Señor Nazareno in the church of the Recoletos in Intramuros dubbed as the “Nazareno ng Mayaman”. The one in Quiapo was then called “Nazareno ng Mahirap”. However, only the Quiapo image celebrates the Traslación every 9 January. The translacion is not to be confused with the Fiesta ng Quiapo which is every 24 June since the titular of Quiapo is San Juan Bautista. 

(* it should be noted that these monickers were only coined by writers to describe the cult of followers of each image. The church did not implement any scheme of segregation amongst the devotees of the Señor Nazareno)

The Nazareno image of the Augustinian Recollect Friars in Intramuros prior to WWII. This image is a different image apart from the Nazareno of Quiapo. The Señor of Intramuros perished during WWII

Photo credits to the Recoletos Archives

The devotion to the Señor Nazareno was pioneered by the Augustinian Recollects. The friars first arrived in the Philippines in 1606. A set of devotional images pertaining to the passion of Christ was brought by the friars from Mexico some time in the early 17th century, although there are no record as to when these revered images have exactly arrived. This set of devotional images are common in Spain and Latin American territories and were traditionally being brought out on procession every Palm Sunday within Intramuros. An antique image of Christ carrying the cross was the most prominent devotional image among the Recoletos set, known as the Señor Nazareno.

The Cofradia de Jesus Nazareno under the patronage of Santa Lucia was established at the Recoletos Church Intramuros in 1621. They were tasked to propagate the devotion to the image of the suffering Christ. The Señor was most probably installed in the church of the Recollects on or before the Cofradia was established, putting the date of the arrival of the Señor between 1606-1621. Pope Innocent X gave a papal recognition to the brotherhood on 20 April 1651. The image of Señor Nazareno occupied a specially dedicated altar the the lateral side of San Nicolas Recoletos Church Intramuros, and its Friday devotions were well-attended. The Señor Nazareno of Intramuros enjoyed a multitude of devotees throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, both from the upper class and lower class of spanish Manila.

Oral traditions account that aside from the revered Señor Nazareno image enshrined in the lateral altar of San Nicolas Recoletos church, there was also another Señor Nazareno image in its sacristy. The date and origins of the sacristy image of the Señor is unknown. It was that same sacristy image that the Archbishop Basilio Sancho de Santas Justa y Rufina had ordered to be transferred in 1787 to the church of San Juan Bautista in Quiapo. The former sacristy image of the Señor Nazareno then began to draw a following of its own from the masses after being transferred to Quiapo. The Intramuros image on the other hand, steadily drew the following of genteel crowd of Damas y Caballeros. But both were greatly revered every Friday. While the Intramuros image is garbed in red velvet robes embroidered with spanish gold threads and had worn silver sandals and bound by silver chains, the Nazareno of Quiapo appeared to be a lot simpler. 

To commemorate the transfer from Intramuros, the residents of Quiapo hold an annual procession of the Señor called “Traslación” every 9 January, the day that the image was entrusted to their care in 1787. It used to be a solemn procession until late 60’s, after which it became rowdier as years go by. The original image of the Recoletos was destroyed during the liberation of Manila in 1945 along with the church of San Nicolas in Intramuros. The Quiapo image, spared by the fires in Quiapo after being kept in the Nakpil residence, continues to be the object of popular devotion not just of Manileños but of the whole Filipinos as well. And yes, the traslacion used to be a solemn procession back in the days, and not a riot that we are accustomed to.

The first photo is the Quiapo Nazareno during a Traslacion procession in the 1950’s. The second photo is of the original Intramuros Nazareno that arrived in the early 17th century and was destroyed in 1945. Their striking difference is the direction where they look. The Quiapo Nazareno is looking straight towards up, while the original Nazareno of the Recoletos is looking towards left.



Myths and Miracles of the Nazareno de Quiapo by Morallo and Zulueta 

Romanillos rebuts ‘Myths and Miracles of the Nazareno de Quiapo’

Almanac for Manileños by Nick Joaquin 

History of the church of Quiapo from its official website

Special thanks to Mr. Kevino Evangelista de Guzmán

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