Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Feast Day of the Black Nazarene

It started to rain lightly early in the afternoon. It stopped but the sky was still cloudy and there was drizzle. A heavy rain might mar the celebration of the feast day of the Black Nazarene on January 9, 2013 in Cagayan de Oro City. Although the sky was cloudy, the rain did not fall from the start of the procession at about 3 p.m. until its conclusion at about 7 p.m. The procession started at Lapasan and went through the main thoroughfares of Cagayan de Oro City. Its final d destination was the Jesus Nazareno Parish Church at C.M. Avenue. Police authority estimated that there were about 50,000 people who attended the procession.

The occasion started with a mass at 6 a.m. Shortly thereafter, the statue of the Black Nazarene was brought to Lapasan where the procession started. On the road, the carriage carrying the Nazarene were surrounded by police neophytes who were locking arms  to prevent commotion that might happen as a result of people jostling into the carriage to touch the Nazarene.   

On the carriage was the statue of dark-skinned Jesus Christ on bended knee carrying a life size wooden cross with gold-plated brass ornamentation on its tips. He was clad in a maroon tunic with gold threads. On his forehead is a crown of thorn and over his head are three clusters of rays symbolizing the Holy Trinity. 

Some of the devotees were carrying along with them statuettes of the infant Jesus as they followed the procession headed by the carriage of the Black Nazarene. People along the streets were tossing small face towels to the four escorts on the carriage where the Nazarene was on. The escorts then wiped those towels on the Nazarene, and after they did they tossed back the towels to return them to their owners. 

Occasionally, the carriage made brief stops so that the four escorts would be able catch towels. During those instances the devotees who were in the procession were shouting “Viva SeƱor Jesus Nazareno!” and waiving their small towels or banners. The faithful believes that the towels that are touched to the Black Nazarene will have miraculous healing power.

The number of people who attended the procession swelled as more and more people who were waiting along the street joined it as the carriage bearing the Black Nazarene made its way along its routes. In addition, many more devotees were waiting at the final destination of the Black Nazarene at the Jesus Nazareno Parish Church which was the terminal point of the procession. Monsignor Rey Monsanto announced that there was no more mass that evening, but the devotees would be allowed in the church and the statue would be available until early morning for those who wanted to touch it.

The festivity in Cagayan de Oro is similar to that in Quiapo, Manila, where it was originally held. The feast in the city started after the Archdiocese of Manila sent a replica of the statue of the Black Nazarene to the city. It is only Manila and Cagayan de Oro which celebrate this kind of occasion in the Philippines.

Many Catholic devotees from many parts of the Philippines go to Quiapo, Manila to attend the procession in honor of the Black Nazarene because they believe that being able to make a physical contact with it can make their wishes come true or have their prayers answered. Catholic devotees of Cagayan de Oro think that having a similar statue of the Nazarene in their city is a blessing because it will give them and the other people in the neighboring places the opportunity to celebrate the feast day without going all the way to Manila.

The original statue of the Nazarene is believed to have come from Mexico via the Galleon Trade during the Spanish colonial era. The original sculpture is said to have a fair complexion. But it was burned when the ship carrying it was in route to the Philippines; hence its black color.