The Black Feast

Article by Sherwin Funa (Philippines)
Blog Correspondent of ASEAN-Korea Centre

Philippines is known for being a catholic country and a very important Christian event happening every 9th of January proves it, as the streets of Manila turns into an ocean of people. The celebration is recognized not only in the Philippines but in the whole world. It is considered as one of the biggest religious celebration where millions of people are participating, The Feast of the Black Nazarene.

The Black Nazarene is a life-size statue of Jesus Christ carrying a cross. Brought by an Agustinian Recollect priest of Acapulco Mexico to the Church of San Juan Bautista in Bagumbayan, Philippines on May 31, 1606. Originally, the statue has a fair complexion and turned black after a fire in the galleon vessel on its arrival in the Philippines. After the said incident, many Filipinos believed it to be miraculous. In 1608, the icon was moved to a bigger Recollect church of San Nicolas de Tolentino in Intramuros. On January 9, 1787 it was transferred to Basilica of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo, Manila where the image is still currently kept.

The January 9 celebration of the Black Nazarene commemorates the Translacion or the Transfer of image to Quiapo Church during the 17th century. The celebration reunites the people carrying different purpose and hopes. A lot of the devotees identify themselves with the passion of Jesus Christ. Devotees relate life struggles underwent by Jesus, as represented by the image. A lot find the image miraculous, and that is the reason why a lot of sick people or those who are praying for a sick family member participate in this event asking for healing and miracle.

The Black Nazarene is carried into the streets of Manila. Devotees are normally in maroon shirts and walk barefoot with the image as an act of penance and a sign of humility while yelling “Viva Senor”. Devotees hold the rope pulling the image’s carriage or traditionally called namamasan. During the procession, people are reaching for the rope and the image of the Black Nazarene. It was said that people who have touched these have been healed, cured from disease or received a miracle, but with millions of people wishing for that to happen it is almost close to impossible or if not, danger.

The 2012 Feast of the Black Nazarene is one of the biggest and the longest procession in the Philippine history. Recently, the parade took 22 hours to complete the route as planned from and back to the Quiapo church. It recorded close to 8 million devotees who joined the celebration. A lot really paved and made their way to touch the icon or even a pat of their handkerchief gave them the sense of security and hope.

It is nice to know that even up to know, the Christian Catholic faith is still alive with the Filipinos. This goes to any religion and any celebration of faith, it allows us to keep on going, believe and hope, but it is still up to us to make those dream a reality. A great way to start the year 2012!

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