The Overzealous Devotion to the Black Nazarene
By Apolinario Villalobos
Every year, I partially witness the transfer of the image of the Black Nazarene from Luneta to Quiapo Church. Partial because I just stay along Taft Avenue and follow until the procession reaches the Jones Bridge, then I go the other way towards the direction of Quiapo Church where a multitude of devotees are waiting.
As during the previous years, the Quiapo church authorities try their best to rectify the belief of the devotees that the January 9 is the fiesta of Quiapo which is wrong. The fiesta of Quiapo is June 24, as the district’s patron saint is St. John the Baptist. January 9 is the commemoration of the transfer of the image of the Black Nazarene from Intramuros to Quiapo, and not a fiesta.
Observable as usual, is the overzealous praying to the image which the church authorities are trying to discourage by explaining that it is not Jesus, but just his representation, hence, an image, so that such act is idolatrous. Devotees are also advised not to bring their children to the occasion. Also, those living along the route of the procession should refrain from holding drinking sprees on the street, thinking that the occasion is a “fiesta”. And worse, they also hold piῆata games using earthen pots, resulting to the scattering of potsherds all over the streets which are along the route of the procession of barefooted devotees. Unfortunately, all those calls are unheeded.
The kissing ritual and wiping of the image with hand towels on which is printed the face of the Black Nazarene are also among the overzealous acts of the devotees. The kissing ritual is held at the Luneta Grandstand and the wiping of the image is done along the route of the procession during which many wonder how the towels can be thrown back to their owners afterwards by members of the Hijos de Nazareno who are protecting the image which is firmly perched on the “andas”.
This year, a “miracle” can eventually bolster the faith of the devotees to the Black Nazarene. A long- distressed mother is reunited with his mentally-handicapped son, after so many years of separation. It is as if her son is pushed to her side during the melee that ensued. The mother almost failed to recognize her son whose features are slightly changed. But her maternal instinct told her that it is her son. Radio field reporters eagerly picked up the story with eagerness, and which overshadowed the death of a member of the “Hijos” due to a stroke that resulted from over exhaustion.
The Black Nazarene is among the most popular images with millions of devotees in the Philippines, most of whom are concentrated in Manila and its suburbs. What distract the high-strung devotion are those who act as if possessed if they notice cameras focused to them, as well as, the Jesus personifiers, complete with crown of “thorns”, and who meld themselves in the sea of ardent devotees.
Before I left the procession, I asked one “devotee” whose breath strongly smells of liquor, the reason for his devotion. To my question, he answered that he is asking the Black Nazarene to give him a chance in winning the lottery, even just for once….