Wednesday, January 09, 2008

A Human Sea of Faith

The annual Black Nazarene festival filled the streets of Manila earlier today as the traditional "pious throng" converged to honor the ancient statue said to have healing powers.

For eight hours, the 16th century image -- brought from Mexico by Augustinian missionaries -- was processed around the capital's downtown on a cart pulled by maroon-clad men known as "debotos."

Though the festival's modern iteration commemorates the statue's move to its basilica-shrine in 1787, the "feast of the Nazarene" -- the nation's largest annual event of any sort -- was being marked for the 401st year.
The statue was brought to Manila by a Spanish priest in 1607 aboard a ship. The ship caught fire, burning the image and thus came to be known as the Black Nazarene. Though the image was burnt, the people decided to preserve and honor it. Since then, miraculous things have been reported to those who touch the image.

The celebration starts as the huge door of Quiapo Church opens and the image of the Black Nazarene is within sight. The ocean of devotees start to yell “Viva Señor” while some wave white towel high in the air along with the scripture of the Black Nazarene.

The statue is placed in a gilded carriage for the procession. As the procession starts, procession participants garbed in maroon tops grab two long ropes and pull it to make the carriage move. Many will attempt to touch the image while some throw their handkerchiefs and towels in the air. People who join in the procession walk barefooted as a sign of humility.

The devotion to the Black Nazarene is long time practice of the Filipino Catholics and they believe that through their faith with Jesus Christ, there will be peace and harmony among families, long life and good health among people, deliverance from all calamities and disasters, and prosperity, joy and love among nations.
Ceremonies began with a dawn Mass celebrated by Manila's Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales, with Filipino Vice-President Noli De Castro in attendance.

By the time the icon had returned to the church, two pilgrims were reported dead, with scores of others hospitalized from the crush.

AP/Aaron Favila