On Good Friday, New Year’s Day and January 9, the procession of the Black Nazarene is annually done in the Philippines.
The event is attended by millions of devotees particularly on January 9 of each year where the barefoot devotees flock to the streets of the city of Manila in the Philippines to attend the Feast of the Black Nazarene. In 2013, an estimated 500,000 devotees walked barefoot during the procession from about 9 million who attended coming from the religious and faithful, and with many foreign tourists also witnessing the occasion. Because of the large number of attendees and international recognition to this religious activity in the Philippines, the city of Manila proposes to make January 9 an international day of pilgrimage.
The Black Nazarene is a life- sized dark wooden sculpture of Jesus Christ dressed in a maroon tunic and carrying a wooden cross on one shoulder. The statue of the Black Nazarene is placed on a carriage or a “carroza” while traversing the assigned processional route along the streets of Quiapo district in Manila. Many devotees claimed they received miracles from their annual sacrifice or “panata” to Señor Nazareno .
The January 9 Feast of the Black Nazarene is the much anticipated Catholic tradition amongst the three occasions based on the number of attendees and the attention it has given not only by the Filipino devotees s but by the international communities. The statue of the Black Nazarene is brought out for public veneration from the Quiapo church early morning to commemorate the transfer or “traslacion” of the image to the Minor Basilica. In present time, the statue is brought out of the Quiapo church at an earlier date to a location such as Quirino Grandstand in Luneta Park where the procession will start. Classes in schools near Quiapo, Manila are suspended so that the festivities may not be an obstruction to students while allowing more people a chance to participate in the celebration.
As a tradition, the statue of the Black Nazarene is mounted on a reinforced carroza or carriage and wheeled out from the Quiapo church or an assigned landmark while surrounded by devotees dressed in maroon shirts at a designated time, usually in the morning. Most of these devotees walk barefoot as a sign of penance and to re-enact Jesus on his way to Golgotha.
Two thick and sturdy ropes secured to the statue and the carriage is pulled by the devotees or the bearers from the church or the landmark and through the assigned streets where a million devotees including women are on the standby. The awaiting devotees on the streets throw either towels or handkerchiefs or any clothing towards the yellow clad marshals escorting the Black Nazarene. The marshals wipe the clothing on the statue and throw back the clothing to its owner. Some devotees on the ground are even carried into the carriage to the statue to personally touch it and wipe their towel or handkerchiefs to the statue. After doing the ritual, the devotee is carefully carried and sent back to the streets.
The day of the Feast of the Black Nazarene is an overwhelming and touching sight of the spiritual devotion to Jesus Christ by many Catholics in the country.