The Hound of the Wolf

For the strength of Pack is in the Wolf, and the strength of Wolf is in the Pack -Rudyard Kipling

Friday, January 07, 2011

The Feast of the Black Nazarene

It was a tradition that during the first week of January that devout Filipino catholics pay homage to the Black Nazarene at Quaipo Church. The celebration is valuable not just from religious perspective but also from Philippine history's point view as well. For me, it represents one of the main weapons that the Spaniards used to conquer Las Islas Filipinas: inject religion and Christianize the Filipinos. European and some Hispanic (i.e. Mexico) Catholic nations are full of celebration commemorating the milestones of various patron saints.

History says that the Black Nazarene arrived in the Philipines through the galleon trade and was installed by the Augustinians at the Bagumbayan first before transferring it on Intramuros. During the late 18th century, it was transferred to its present location, the Quiapo Church in Manila. The dark image of the Black Nazarene was attributed to the fire that occurred in the ship carrying it.

Legions of devout Filipino Catholics, perhaps numbering in millions, troop to Quaipo during the celebration. Barefooted men and women can be seen from all street corners some even carrying wooden crosses to depict the sufferings of Christ. All devotees converge at the Quiapo church to do the ceremonial procession of the Black Nazarene. The statue is being carried on shoulders by a group of men (and maybe some women). What is amazing is how people compete (similar to boxing out it basketball) and push each other just to touch the Black Nazarene while some are wiping it with towels. It was believed that by touching the statue, one can be healed from diseases and in some, have more blessing from up above. Casualties are unavoidable despite the presence of the police and EMT.

Truly, the feast of the Black Nazarene show how deeply Catholic dogma is embedded into Filipino psyche. The outward showing of religiosity, on the other hand, will not increase one's chances of going to heaven though. Nor it will make one a sudden millionaire. In my honest opinion, faith (even as small as mustard seed: Matthew 17:20) and hardwork is the key!

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