Ever since my father passed away in May 2005, I vowed to continue his devotion to Padre Jesus Nazareno. When he was younger he used to join the procession however as he aged, it was obvious it will be difficult to join the “maddening crowd” so he went to Quiapo Church late at night. This is what I had been doing the past several years. When my parents were still alive, we used to visit the Quiapo Church after our first saturday mass at the Remedios Church.
Every January 9, devotees converge at the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene to commemorate the translacion, or transfer of the image from the second Recollect Church in Intramuros to its current location in 1787. However in the recent years, the organisers and the Manila Archdiocese deemed it best to celebrate the early morning mass in a bigger venue, at the Grandstand in Rizal Park. Many of my friends attended the morning mass however I still preferred to go to the Church in the evening and hopefully welcome the entrance of the the procession.
This year, I learned that it was the biggest crowd which attended the Mass in Luneta numbering to close to 12M, which was practically the population of most of metro manila. I read in the newspapers that at least 3M joined the procession.
When I left home around 7pm I learned from the Radio news that the procession may arrive at the Church around midnight. I then decided to take some snack first in Makati to kill time. I left for Manila around 10pm instead of the usual 9pm hoping I will not wait that long and my car can get through nearer the Church.
In the past, when I arrived near the vicinity of the Church, (I still needed to walk a few hundred meters because the area near the church is filled with crowds and food kiosks), I somehow was able to get inside the church grounds despite the thousands of people outside. For me that was always a great miracle cause I detest inching my way around the crowds. This year the crowd at past 11pm seem to be a lot more than the previous feasts. They were strict with lines to go in and kiss the statue. Marshalls and ropes were around the church entrances. I was talking to God and saying I am kind of embarrassed to ask Him to find me a way to get in because He always did for almost 8 years now.
Well, in a few minutes, He answered my prayer. I managed to get in! I however realised that I missed the last Mass because I purposely arrived late. In the past years I know the last Mass was at 8pm however somehow whenever I arrive a new mass is celebrated.
When I was inside the Church at around 1130pm and was able to land in front of the altar, a bell rang, and I saw a priest come out meaning, another Mass will be said! I had goose bumps. I knew the Lord did not want me to miss a Mass in Quiapo on that special day. Can you imagine a mass close to midnight? I call that Grace from the Lord.
After the mass, we heard some fireworks so the crowd started to Cheer “Viva” thinking the procession is about to enter the Church, however it was still delayed and the priest decided to expose the Blessed Sacrament. For a while, I chuckled at what the priest was saying because the people kept turning their heads at the back of the Church anticipating the entry of Jesus Padre Nazareno. The priest told the crowd to look in front because Jesus Padre Nazareno is in the exposed Eucharist not at the back 🙂
Another half hour has passed then I see uniformed marshals occupying the front of the church. They must have joined part of the procession for they were all barefooted. Much later, the parish priest went up the podium and announced to the crowd not to stay near the cord in front because once the procession crowd enters they maybe trampled. The church was packed. We were like sardines but comfortable enough specially when they did not yet turn off the electric fans.
When the procession entered about past 1am, only then did I realise what the parish priest meant. The procession crowd, mostly men (or all men inside the church) was like a herd of elephants when they came in. It was a rush of thousands! (Imagine a few hundred thousands entering the church with a capacity of only around 3k!) In other words, the thin divider at the front is useless. I got the scare of my life and armed with presence of mind, tried to inch my way inside the front pew so as not to be trampled on.
I keep getting amazed at the devotion and faith of the people. I will not question their so called fanaticism and belief because each of us has his own way to do this. Even some popular government officials and celebrities join the procession, walking barefoot. Perhaps I will not be able to do this however I continue to visit Jesus Padre Nazareno each January 9 and I know He continues to bless me.
A friend of mine once asked what favour I was asking for when I brave the crowds in Quiapo and I said nothing. I continue the devotion of my late dad and I know deep inside He is miraculous and I just feel good each time I am able to do this.
For those not familiar with this devotion, let me quote from an online post :
You will be able to witness men dressed in maroon shirts who believe that through pulling the carriage of the Nazarene, blessing will come and their individual prayers be granted. These people are walks in barefoot will marching to the procession showing their humility to the Nazarene. Thousands of people likewise wave their white handkerchiefs as the Nazarene begins to move. Some also throw their white towels to wipe them on the statue. You will notice that people riding the carriage will wipe these white handkerchiefs and towels to the Nazarene and throw it back to the person who owns it. These devotees believe that the towel can perform miracle for time in times when they need miracles. Moreover, many businesspersons state that as soon as the Nazarene passes their business areas, it brings good luck for them.
There are sayings that the original Black Nazarene color is made from ivory and not black. It just turned into black right after its burning inside the vessel when a priest from Spain carried it back to Philippines.
The Black Nazarene powers to do miracles can be one of the main reasons why thousands of people continue to praise him. The more you try to connect with him the better your faith will develop and become stronger.
I tried to put together some photos and videos I took during my visit in the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene (Quiapo Church). Nothing really perfect because iMovie was upgraded so I was grappling with the features: