The thoroughfares of the Philippine capital turned red, yellow, and maroon on Tuesday, January 9, as millions of fervent Catholic believers paid homage to the Black Nazarene. The centuries-old religious tradition was revived after a three-year hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic.
More than 6 million people crowded the 6-kilometer procession route from the Quirino Grandstand to the Quiapo Church in Manila, according to church officials. The turnout remained consistent with pre-pandemic years, with the longest recorded procession being in 2012 when the Black Nazarene took 22 hours to reach the church.
This year's Traslacion procession began at 4 a.m. and lasted 15 hours. Although it was peaceful, the Philippine Red Cross reported that hundreds of people needed medical attention for injuries.
The Philippines is a predominantly Catholic country in Asia, with about 80% of its total population of 110 million identifying as Roman Catholic - a religious legacy of more than 400 years since the Spanish colonial era.
The procession pays homage to the statue of the Black Nazarene, which many Filipinos believe has extraordinary healing powers when touched or when holding the attached rope connected to the main float, bringing blessings to them and their loved ones. This celebration, known as Traslacion, meaning "transfer," commemorates the transfer of the Black Nazarene to the Quiapo Church.
The origin of the Black Nazarene can be traced back to 1606 when the kneeling Jesus statue arrived in the Philippines from Mexico. In 1620, the first fraternity dedicated to the Black Nazarene was formed. In 1767, Christian leaders officially recognized the icon's popularity when it was transferred to the Quiapo Church, followed by its devotees.
The mystery of why the statue, which was carved in Mexico and brought to the Philippines in the early 17th century, became black remains unknown. However, according to Filipino pastor Mgr. Sabino Vengco, the explanation is that the statue's dark color extends to its core because it is made of mesquite wood. In this regard, church historian Pastor Emilio Edgardo Quilatan explained that the statue is made of mesquite wood, which tends to darken over time.
Source: CNN | Reuters