Saturday, 11 January 2014

The Black Nazarene from the balcony on Hidalgo St.

a devotee
The feast of the Black Nazarene is the biggest and longest procession in the country celebrated every January 9 each year. I've heard so much about it so when Mia invited to witness the procession from the balcony of her husband's ancestral home in Quiapo, I immediately said 'yes'. She did warn us though that we may wait long, until midnight.

I was actually quite nervous. That morning on TV, the news reported to expect millions of devotees to join the procession. Honestly, I wasn't sure what to make out of the devotees.

I was told that a devotee performs a panata a sacred promise to do the pilgrimage in exchange for a miracle. This may come in the form of a cure from a health problem, economic aid and whatever they are praying hard for. Their panatas must have been answered since the devotees are growing and now numbering by the millions.

Come to think of it. this devotion is no different from what I have experienced. I am a devotee of the Mother of Perpetual Help in Baclaran. When I was diagnosed with spondylosis (cervical slipped disc) in 1999, my upper left side was paralyzed. It was difficult for me to move. I couldn't bend, twist and walked with difficulty. My left arm was immobilized and I could only do things with my right. I was in pain. My orthopedist advised that I undergo surgery otherwise he said the recovery will take more than a year. That's when I started going to Baclaran every Wednesday to do the novena. In fact, one night, a friend (Rina) convinced me to kneel from one end of the church to the altar to, so to speak, speed up things. Believe it or not, in three months time after doing the novena, I was free from pain relievers and could move.

our view from the balcony on Hidalgo St.
It must be the same faith that drive the devotees - of all ages - to walk barefoot all day during the procession and trample on everyone just to touch or wipe [with a towel] the image. Those that I call 'extremists', carry the wood of the carroje (carriage) or the rope attached to it.

We waited and waited for the procession. I would peek out of the balcony from time to time, to check what was happening, As the crowd swelled, it meant that the Black Nazarene was coming close.

The temperature outside was strangely getting heavy. Mind you, January is usually cold at night, There was also a mix smell of sweat and urine wafting through the air. It was becoming more chaotic outside. One time I checked, I counted  six people who fainted and were being taken away in stretchers by volunteer medics.

a woman trying to touch the image 
At around 10pm, some of the guests wanted to go home.  They attempted to leave only to double back since there was way too much people and they couldn't move past the block to get to their car.

Around midnight, we could hear people howling and shouting "viva, viva, viva.."  I rushed out to the window and was absolutely stunned when I saw the procession. There were two rows of people pulling the ropes and moving snakelike from side to side. I don't know how they can survive being pushed, pulled and squeezed. I thought that only woman I saw in the sea of men was going to get strangled by the rope.

The crowd would mimic the movement and was moving side to side as well. Meantime, there were devotees who were stepping on the devotees, trying to climb up the carroje to touch the image. I've never seen anything like it. It's more of fanaticism than a pilgrimage.

The procession passed Hidalgo St at 12:30 am and arrived at Quiapo Church, a few blocks away at 2 am. The procession took a total of 19-hours. Thank god there were no casualties but at least 1,686 were injured.

Video of the procession from the balcony on Hidalgo St.:

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