The Heart Of A Devotee
Viva Señor Nazareno!
In the first week of January, the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene (more popularly known as Quiapo Church) along Quezon Boulevard, Manila becomes one of the busiest churches in the entire Philippines. This grandiose structure is home to the well-loved Black Nazarene or the Señor Nazareno, which came to the Philippines all the way from Mexico during the Spanish occupation of the country.
The patron saint’s festival is on January 9, and signals the beginning of a series of religious festivals all over the Philippines. Year in and year out, millions of devotees flock to the clogged and dirty streets of Quaipo to pay homage to their beloved patron saint.
Blocking Off Old Manila
If you’re planning a tour of Old Manila on the 9th of January, you better think of someplace else to go. Most of the major roads in the area are already blocked off for the millions of devotees who will walk in the wake of the Black Nazarene.
At the same time, this is one of the most long-winded parades you will ever see, taking as long as 12 hours or more to circle from the Church and back.
And don’t trust the official routes to be followed because the devotees will sometimes want to stick to the traditional route that they have been walking for decades.
There are novena masses held in honor of the Señor every Friday, but his feast day is the one occasion that ardent devotees can never pass up on. They will come to Quaipo and to the streets where the image will be paraded in droves or alone, wearing their signature maroon shirt. Most of the time, they walk from their homes barefoot to show their humility before the Señor and to thank him for wishes and prayers granted.
Never mind the soot, the press of thousands of bodies, the stink of sweat or the heat of the day—the devotees will do anything and everything they can to get as close as possible to the float of their revered Señor Nazareno.
After all, hasn’t the Black Nazarene shown its power over the centuries? The image arrived in 1606, carved by an anonymous Aztec carpenter, and has since been housed in two different churches. The Señor Nazareno has survived wars, fires, earthquakes and bombings throughout the years, never once being destroyed or broken.
Display Of The Black Nazarine
This long-time practice of the Filipinos does not show any signs of waning anytime soon. As the years pass, more and more individuals believe in the power of the Black Nazarene to grant even the most impossible wishes.
Old, young, rich and poor people—most of them males—have the single-minded goal to get touch the image or at least rub their handkerchiefs and towels on it.
The feast may be tinged with more than a little over-zealousness on the part of the devotees, who will climb over people’s heads or shoulder their way through the crowd or step on anybody’s feet. If you have no important business in the area, it is best to simply look for other places to explore on this day because it will most likely be just a bad experience for you.
But if you are looking for an up-close-and-personal adventure with one of the Philippine’s most popular religious festivals, you’re welcome to don your most comfortable clothes and join the crowd.