Early this morning, an epic religious trek across the streets of Metro Manila began all over again. From its starting point at the Quirino Grandstand, the Traslacion of the Black Nazarene once more made its slow and steady way back to its Minor Basilica, or Quiapo Church, with a throng of fervent devotees that are either praying for miraculous blessings, or performing thanksgiving for answered prayers. It is an incredible spectacle considering this Thursday was not the Nazarene’s feast day but merely the commemoration of its transfer to Quiapo from its former home in Intramuros.
Inquirer.net reports that it did not take very long after the start of the Traslacion of the Black Nazarene, just past 5 AM of January 9, for the scores of first aid volunteers from the Philippine National Red Cross to have some work to do on the scene. Within the initial hours these Red Cross personnel have reported providing first aid to 300 devotees along the procession route. This figure is similar to those that got medical attention at the start of the Traslacion in the years before. Cuts and bruises are the injuries of the day, although heatstroke also becomes a concern as the procession goes on into noon.
In addition to the medical concerns of the faithful as they follow the Black Nazarene back to Quiapo, there was also their security to consider, as thousands of officers from the Philippine National Police (PNP) were deployed the whole length of the Traslacion route, which was slightly altered from the traditional way due to several bridges being repaired. No specific security threats were highlighted during the procession preparations, although a suspected explosives expert aligned with Islamic terrorists in the country was caught by authorities in the Metro Manila area just weeks before the religious event.
The 2020 Traslacion also provided a splendid backdrop for some special occasions among the devotees of the Black Nazarene. A Twitter page providing updates on the procession back to Quiapo Church saw two 23-year-old Nazarene devotees pledge to a more permanent union, as Kim Yamat proposed to his girlfriend Mary Flores along the Traslacion route.
But the dangers to the followers of the Black Nazarene as well as the centuries-old icon itself have not abated. As the andas carrying the Nazarene was winding along Hidalgo Street in the alternate route, the wooden cross that the Christ figure was carrying broke one of its arms. And still the procession went on. Waiting at the Quiapo Church are a further 132,000 devotees, awaiting the over 2-million strong crowd that followed the procession. Time estimates for the Traslacion run from 15 to 16 hours, so considering the past 5 AM start, barring delays, the Nazarene should be at the Quiapo Church by around 8 to 9 PM tonight.
Image courtesy of Philippine Star