All throughout Wednesday yesterday, many faithful of the Philippine Catholic Church in Metro Manila were enthralled by an annual religious procession that never fails to draw a crowd. This is the commemoration of the Traslacion of the Black Nazarene, an image of Jesus Christ carrying his cross that came to Manila from Mexico during the Spanish era. Many devotees of the Nazarene – whom the Archbishop of Manila defended as not being fanatics – thronged the icon’s journey back to Quiapo Church, praying for healing, help, or thanksgiving. The Traslacion, notorious for lasting almost a day on average, managed to shave off some travel time this year.
CNN Philippines reports that the procession of the Black Nazarene from the Quirino Grandstand in Intramuros (approximate site of its original shrine) to Quiapo Church ended one hour shorter than the previous years’ average running time of around 22 hours. Having begun its journey back to Quiapo at past 5 AM on Janaury 9, the Nazarene got back to its home at 2:25 AM the following day, Thursday January 10 or just over 21 hours. It was revealed by Metro Manila Chief of Police Guillermo Eleazar that this faster procession time was accomplished by altering the traditional procession route again.
Two streets in Manila that would normally be passed by the Black Nazarene were left out of the Traslacion route. Another factor for a shorter running time was a decision to have “stations” along the route where the image on its carosa would briefly stop for devotees to touch or have white towels rubbed on it. By not forcing the Nazarene to be in constant motion, causing devotees to move with it and thus slow it down, the procession actually managed to keep a timetable.
Even with these improvements, no Traslacion of the Nazarene would ever be without some problem or two. Already expected are the devotees who get hurt from the physical crush and the mental and emotional pressure of following the procession. The Philippine Red Cross reported that they provided medical assistance to some 1,613 devotees during the procession, out of the 2.5 million who actively participated. As the route of the Traslacion also ran alongside the Pasig River at times, the Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission (PRRC) had to raise the alarm when devotees were caught disposing their garbage in the usual pollutant fashion. The commission had to admonish devotees of the Nazarene to “Clean as You Go”.
The belief in the Black Nazarene having miraculous powers of healing is reinforced by an apostolic blessing on it by Pope Pius VII in 1880. This grants those who pray to the image plenary indulgence, that is the removal of temporal punishment for one’s sins.
Image courtesy of Philippine Star