[the wooden statue that draws millions to the the streets of Quiapo has a devotion that is over three centuries old. image courtesy of Dennis Villegas]
Today, over two million devotees will make their way to the old Manila district of Quiapo where upon those narrow and labyrinthine streets a wooden image of Jesus Christ bearing the cross called the Black Nazarene or Poong Nazareno [Poon translates to "lord"] will be processed on what I personally claim to be the longest a religious image takes to complete an entire procession cycle.
If you are a Filipino and a Filipino Catholic for that matter, you know how these processions are expected to end from anywhere between eight to twelve hours after it begins at noon. The sea of people and devotees in bare feet pulling and tugging at the rope that goes before the carriage [called Carroza in the local Hispanized vernacular], and the motion that seems to explode in all directions as people try to hang on to the rope while moving the procession forward as some attempt to climb and touch the wooden image of Christ, are images immortal to this Feast.
A few years ago, The Barefoot Baklesa absent-mindedly headed to Quiapo on the actual feast day of the Black Nazarene, and he was unprepared for the sight he would behold. Coming down from Palanca Street did I realize that it was the famed day when once a year, that black wooden image would grace the streets of the old Manila district. Why is it black you ask?
Well, there are a few legends associated to the tint of the skin on the statue. Some say it was due to the fires that struck Quiapo Church in the 1700s and some time in the 1920s, others say it was due to the dark wood they carved the image out of, then there's that of the galleon that brought it here having been set fire to, or that one where the Black Nazarene was brought to the country with a Black Seated Christ Crowned with Thorns [Cristo de la Pacencia being the title of the iconography here] which was housed in the nearby church of San Sebastian, which perished in the fires of the war.
[one of the many replicas of the Black Nazarene makes its way through the streets of Quiapo; hundreds of such images usually follow the main image throughout the procession. photo courtesy of docarlonasol]
But, I'm getting carried away again...
I guess other that the fact that Quiapo is such a melting-pot worthy of Socio-Anthropological study where contrasting worlds seem to stand side by side with a magic all it's own, Quiapo was the place where I got jolted -so to speak- to a Genuine Spiritual State.
As I stood there frozen, the tail end of the explosive crowd that bore the the wooden image of Christ passing before me, at that moment, there was this humming silence as the crowd moved on; and for what seemed like an eternity crammed in mere seconds, I felt as if God himself had walked the Earth and just passed by in front of me... Still sends chills down my spine a few years on -also this is the first time I am writing about it.
I wish thee all the blessings that come with this day.
thus spake The Barefoot Baklesa
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