EVERY January 9, millions of people descend on Manila to join the mammoth procession in honor of the Black Nazarene. The devotees, many of them barefoot, pray for good health, peace, prosperity to family and country, and protection from dangers and calamities.
Clutching linen handkerchiefs or small towels, they line up for hours for the few seconds to touch the feet of the Black Nazarene and whisper their prayers and thanks for requests granted.
This year is no exception. As early as dawn Wednesday, the long line formed at the Quirino Grandstand where the image of the Nazarene was brought from Quiapo Church hours earlier.
Among those in the queue was Concepcion Daños. Daños said she became a Nazarene devotee after her daughter, who had been pronounced dead by doctors, came back to life.
She said that 43 years ago, her two-year-old daughter was hospitalized for an unknown disease.
“Tinanggalan na sya ng oxygen, dextrose tsaka mga apparatus (They removed her oxygen, dextrose and other life support connections,” she said.
Daños, 68, said her husband carried their lifeless daughter and prayed to God for a miracle.
She said her husband vowed before the Black Nazarene to go to church every Friday in exchange for their daughter’s life.
“After an hour, our daughter spoke and asked for water,” Daños said.
She said her daughter’s recovery surprised even the doctors.
Teresita Basabes, 71, started joining the procession when she was seven years old.
This year, Basabes made the trek from her hometown of Imus City in Cavite to Rizal Park where the procession will start. Arriving in Manila Wednesday morning, she planned to hold a vigil at the Luneta along with members of her family.
She attributes her good health to the intercession of the Black Nazarene.
“I have undergone three surgeries in my gallbladder, liver, and uterus. Now, my doctor wants to operate on my hernia,” Basabes said.
She said her faith in the Nazarene was sparked by her father, who would take her along when he joined the annual procession.
Jeffrey Gabayan, 31, of Manila became paralyzed from the waist down, but he refused his doctor’s advise for an operation on the spinal column.
In 2003 he began to pray to the Black Nazarene. “I was miraculously cured. I was able to walk and resumed my job as jeepney driver,” he told The Manila Times.
Couple Rogelio and Ferlita Ariola of Sapang Palay, San Jose del Monte, Bulacan, have been devotees of the Nazarene for several years.
“We want to thank the Black Nazarene for sending our daughter, Pergellica, 23, to South Korea where she is now a singer in one of the well-known clubs there,” Ferlita said.
Rogelio is a member of the Nuestro Padre Jesus Nazareno, one of the groups that help maintain peace and order during the procession.
Gina Aldeguer, 34, who hails from Tacloban City, said she decided to join the vigil for the Black Nazarene as a gesture of gratefulness for saving her entire family from the onslaught of Typhoon Yolanda last November.
Aldeguer works as domestic helper in Valenzuela City.
JAIME R. PILAPIL and JORGE F. ZAMORA