The Black Nazarene icon was brought back to its home in Quiapo Church in Manila before the break of dawn on Thursday after 21 hours, marking the end of one of the biggest religious activities in the country, the “Traslacion.”
The “andas” or the carriage bearing the statue of a suffering Jesus Christ reached the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene, more commonly known as the Quiapo Church, at 2:21 a.m., which was about half an hour earlier than last year’s arrival, according to Manila Police District Director Vicente Danao Jr.
The image stopped outside the San Sebastian Church in Manila for the traditional “Dungaw” or the Blessed Mother’s encounter with his son Jesus Christ, who was en route to Calvary, where He was crucified.
The Traslacion, a procession for the journey back to the Quiapo Church of the revered icon that wove through Manila’s roads and streets, began at 5:15 a.m. at the Quirino Grandstand in Manila’s Rizal Park (Luneta) on Wednesday.
It left the grandstand after an overnight vigil by the Catholic faithful and a concelebrated Mass led by Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, the archbishop of Manila.
Fr. Douglas Badong, parochial vicar of the Quiapo Church, led the recitation of both the morning prayer and the Nazarene devotee’s pledge to calm the crowd of barefoot, towel-holding, maroon-and-mustard clad men and women eager to touch the image that they believe could grant them favors.
According to police estimates, about 1.35 million devotees joined the procession from start to finish, a centuries-old practice that is deemed to be miraculous, which figure Msgr. Hernando Coronel, Quiapo Church rector, described as a “conservative” ballpark figure.
Coronel pointed out that there were no reported untoward incidents.
Authorities recorded no casualties as well as a lower number of injuries in this year’s Feast of the Black Nazarene celebration from December 31 to January 9 compared to commemorations in previous years.
Last year, a former jail guard died after suffering from a heart attack during the Traslacion.
Coronel said this year’s procession was “orderly, safe and meaningful.”
“There were many testimonies, discourses on people’s experiences about Jesus Christ the Nazarene. There were more Traslacions in provinces, and for the first time, in the United Arab Emirates,” he added.
Badong, parochial, cited help and services extended by more people, including security and medical personnel and “hijos del Nazareno” or children of the Nazarene who stop devotees from clambering up the andas to touch the image and wipe their towels on the 17th century statue.
Coronel credited the introduction of more prayer stations set up along the 6.1-km processional route of the Traslacion and longer hours for the Pahalik, the act of kissing the feet of the Nazarene, which is another religious tradition considered to produce miracles, paving the way for the flock to venerate the image without joining the parade.
The dawn-to-midnight procession of the Black Nazarene used to be more chaotic in the past as devotees jostled and climbed up the carriage, in a show of religious passion.
No casualty was recorded in this year’s “generally peaceful” Traslacion, according to the Philippine National Police chief, Director General Oscar Albayalde.
“Fortunately as of this morning [of Thursday], we have no report of any casualty or death,” he said in a news briefing.
Albayalde said 714 devotees sustained minor injuries.
These devotees mostly got dizzy and fainted, with some suffering lacerations and fractures from the heavy crowd and hot weather, according to the National Capital Region Police Office.
WITH REPORT FROM ROY NARRA