Feast of the Black Nazarene

Katherine Visconti
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Teaser: 
Every January 9th, millions of Filipinos converge in Manila’s Quiapo district to celebrate the festival of the Black Nazarene...

Every January 9th, millions of Filipinos converge in Manila’s Quiapo district to celebrate the festival of the Black Nazarene. Devotees- barefoot as a sign of humility- jockey towards the more than 400-year-old brown Christ statue. It is said that the image was charred when a fire engulfed the ship carrying it from Mexico to the Philippines. It is a popular belief that on the day of the festival, the healing powers of the Nazarene will rub off on those who touch it.  Just grazing the rope pulling the statue's carriage is a triumph. Those who reach the statue often wipe a towel on it to throw into outstretched hands, waving eagerly from the crowd. The festival is often marked by hundreds of injuries and occasionally a fatality.

Many celebrations lead up to the formal feast day.  This recording captures the scene on January 7th as three thousand people come together to walk the procession route with their own life-size Nazarene statues. Vendors sell rosaries, colorful candles and (in the side allies) pills to induce abortion.  A concerned citizen shouts through a bullhorn- pay attention to your purses, thieves worship in Quiapo too. Stories about miraculous healings are commonplace. One mother cries recalling an unexpected seizure that stole her son's vision. She didn't have the funds to pay for a hospital visit so she prayed to the Nazarene. Her son’s sight was restored hours later. A man with one and a half legs thanks the Nazarene for helping him survive a serious car accident in 1980. A robed senior claiming to be Christ the King is surrounded by disciples. And a local TV reporter and a Princeton in Asia Fellow both record the scene.

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