The Feast of the Black Nazarene is the largest religious procession in the country, garnering nearly twelve million pilgrims yearly.
Taking place on every January 9, a life sized, centuries old wooden sculpture of Jesus bearing a cross is displayed through the streets of Quiapo. Barefoot attendees clad in red and gold frantically flock to the statue and attempt to touch it hopes of receiving its blessings of healing, protection, and good health. The procession can last up to 20 hours, with some devotees walking alongside it for the entirety of the parade!
The Feast of the Black Nazarene, or Translacíon, has its fair share of casualties due to the duration and scale of the event. A combination of heat, fatigue, or the danger of being trampled to death is not farfetched. The parade is spectacle one has to experience at least once in their lifetime.
Read more about Team OAP’s experience at The Feast of the Black Nazarene 2016 in this photo essay…
Marshals assigned to protect the statue from damage join thousands of devotees in prayer.
About 5,000 police officers were deployed for this year’s parade. Based on a report from The Red Cross, about 100 people fainted since the start of the procession.
While there are many police officers abound, they still pale in comparison 15 million attendees of this year’s feast. It’s always a good idea to bring only what you need: a bottle of water, money for souvenirs, drinks and snacks; a hat, a small handkerchief or towel, and a small bottle of sunscreen will suffice.
We highly recommend you wear lightweight clothing, as it tends to get quite humid and sticky when the streets start filling up.
Some participants walk barefoot as a sign of humility, emulating the suffering of Jesus Christ on his way to crucifixion at Mt. Calvary. It is believed that touching the statue will heal disease and other afflictions.
When the parade is in full swing, be wary of where you walk. You might step on peoples’ feet as you navigate the heart of the crowd.
Devotees wear red and gold printed shirts of Jesus Christ as a tribute to the colors of the original Nazarene’s embroidered robes.
If you are sartorially unprepared for the event, there are more than enough street vendors to buy your shirts from around the area.
Although The Feast is primarily a religious holiday, it is also a good business opportunity for street vendors whose daily profits can rocket up to 3 times the norm.
Some of the more common foods and drinks you can find during the feast are fish or squidballs, mini hotdogs, Kikiam (a sausage-like food consisting of various fish meat), Qwek-Qwek (battered and fried duck or quail eggs), Lomi (a Chinese-inspired egg noodle soup), Pares (braised beef and rice), coconut juice, water, Gulaman (a drink made with gelatin plus brown sugar), and a variety of soda. Many of these food items won’t cost you more than 100 pesos.
Families bring their own breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We suggest you bring your own snacks if your stomach is a little sensitive.
Because the event lacks garbage bins, many of the participants will litter their wrappers, plates, food waste, and cups around the area. We highly urge that you don’t participate in this practice.
About 30 truckloads of garbage was cleaned up a day after event, according to the MMDA.
There are street artists who will make you your own Nazareno shirt or towel through screen-printing!
Most of the souvenirs are emblazoned with solemn images of Christ.
Other artists opt for more sophisticated designs involving more than one color.
You can even grab your own wooden keepsake of the Nazareno.
Since the Black Nazarene is revered for its healing powers, you can also buy a bottle of “healing oil” not costing you more than a hundred pesos.
There are more standard souvenirs consisting of rosaries, religious amulets, pendants, and bracelets.
The devout patiently wait for the arrival of the Black Nazarene. There are those willing to endure the afternoon heat and humidity just to get a glimpse of the statue, which will appear much later into the night depending where you are in the parade route.
Team OAP was stationed at the all-steel San Sebastian Church, heralded as a national treasure among historians for withstanding centuries of calamities.
A handful of groups carry large banners representing their family names as a testament to their faith.
Some barangays join the parade with their own Nazareno to spread The Feast’s blessings. However, the original Nazareno statue is what most people are after.
It’s believed that rubbing the statue will transfer its miraculous powers onto the towel. Many Filipinos are superstitious; their faith is unfaltering even in the midst of poverty.
As noon creeps in, Hidalgo St. swells with people who wait to greet the Black Nazarene for the Dungaw.
“Dungaw”, meaning “to view”, was revived in 2014 after the discovery of religious documents. Essentially, it reenacts the 4th station of the cross where Mary meets Jesus before his crucifixion.
This figure is referred to as “Our Lady of Mt. Carmel”. It was brought to the Recollects by the Carmelite nuns from Mexico in 1617. Her body has been intact all these years, except for the ivory head, which was stolen some time ago.
In preparation for the arrival of the Nazarene, the statue makes a round at the courtyard before entering the church for the Dungaw.
Clergy and laypersons patiently wait for the Nazarene within the church.
Many chit chat with their families and friends, some wait in silent prayer, and others try to catch some sleep before the arrival of the Nazarene.
This poignant display of faith showed how unmoving the Filipinos are.
The crowd swells with anticipation and chant “Viva Señor!” as they twirl their towels in religious fervor as The Black Nazarene approaches.
The Black Nazarene finally arrives. It’s hard not to get swept up by the crowd’s passion.
From our view, it was not so clear due to the excited crowd. From the high stage, The Lady of Mt. Carmel peers over the sea of people to greet her son.
A solemn prayer is held as The Black Nazarene makes its last stop at Plaza Del Carmen.
The crowd overwhelmed the plaza with bodies swaying like a ferocious wave.
The Feast of the Black Nazarene is more than just a religious parade, but it is a display of pure religious devotion. Many of the Filipinos that attended identify with the sufferings of Christ and humbly walk with him as means of penance.
The parade is inspiring in its own way and Team OAP went home with a new perspective on the Catholic Faith.
Live an Awesome Life,
Sheila, Nico, Boom, and Sean of Team OAP
Disclosure: We wrote this article with our personal opinions and biases. Read Our Awesome Planet Complete Disclosure Policy here.
P.S. This is the first religious fiesta for the year that happens on a fixed date - every January 9.