Devotees Celebrate The Black Nazarene Amid The Pandemic

The local government of Manila had previously canceled the Traslación on January 9

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George Buid
George Buid
An independent photojournalist of the Philippines capturing life as it passes by. He contributes to different news outlet and press publications.

PHILIPPINES. Manila: The pandemic couldn’t stop the devotees of the Black Nazarene from paying tribute on its feast day. The local government of Manila had previously canceled the Traslación on January 9. However, instead of that the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene (or Quiapo Church) held masses on the feast day.

The Black Nazarene is the life-size image of Jesus kneeling and carrying a cross on his right shoulder. They say the religious statue of the dark-skinned Jesus carrying the cross gives a ‘blessing of luck’. Interestingly, very few people are familiar with the fact that the image of Jesus was crafted and shipped from Mexico.

Devotees pull the ropes of the Andas (Spanish “move forward”) or palanquins, where the Black Nazarene sits on, as it moves on Ayala Bridge on 9 Jan. 2021. / Photo Credit: George Buid

The history of the Traslación

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Annually, devotees of the Black Nazarene flock to Manila City for the solemn transfer, or Traslación, from the Quirino Grandstand in Rizal Park to the Quiapo Church. This tradition commemorates the donation of the Order of Augustinian Recollects of this holy statue transferred to Church of the Camisa (one of the original names of Quiapo Church) through a procession now called Traslación in 1787. However, the holy statue used in Traslación is a replica where the original image sits on the main altar of the Quiapo Church.

A Mexican sculptor crafted the image of Jesus Christ with a cross from mesquite wood, thus it was named the Black Nazarene. This image enshrined in San Juan Bautista Church, before the church destruction in 1762, in Rizal park was owned by Augustinian Recollects. Later, they donated a copy to Quiapo Church through a procession called Traslación on 9 Jan. 1787. Now, devotees have made an annual tradition to touch it to receive its blessings and good fortune.

Police officers lined up for briefing before they take their post around Quiapo on 9 Jan. 2021. / Photo Credit: George Buid

Faith prevails over the pandemic

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Last year, about three million people flocked to the newly designated route of the Traslación of the Black Nazarene. The religious statue leaves the Quirino Grandstand in Rizal Park at 4:10 AM traveled to Quiapo Church for 16 hours and 35 minutes. The first case of COVID-19 patient confined in San Lazaro Hospital in Manila City on January 20, days after the Traslación.

Mayor Francisco Domagoso had signed an Executive Order to cancel the Traslación because of the COVID-19 pandemic in October 2020. The Executive Order includes the All Saints Day with Feast of the Black Nazarene that no Traslación will occur. However, the Quiapo Church and Manila City government perceived that devotees are persistent in visiting the holy image at any cost.

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Therefore, the local government and the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene discussed an action plan weeks before January 9. The church held masses for thousands of devotees that come to visit the religious statue. Around 7,000 police officers who are assigned around the area will impose COVID-19 health protocols and secure the area.

Devotees of the Black Nazarene gathered on Quezon Boulevard observing COVID-19 health protocols just outside Quiapo Church on 9 Jan. 2021. / Photo Credit: George Buid

The health protocol allows the church to hold 30 percent capacity of its total capacity, which amounts to around 400 devotees. However, the devotees outside can attend the 15 masses with LED walls and an audio system. However, children and the elderly over 65 years old are advised to participate from their homes.

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