The Black Nazarene
The Black Nazarene has many names. In Spanish it is called the Nuestro Padre Jesus Nazareno. In Filipino it is known as Mahal na Itim na Nazareno or Itim na Nazareno. But its formal name in English is “Our Father Jesus Nazarene”. The black Nazarene is wooden sculpture of Jesus Christ. It is a life-sized figure carrying the cross. Filipino Catholics believe the wooden figure to be possessed with miraculous nature.
In the beginning the Black Nazarene had a fair complexion. But because of a fire that burned the ship it was carried on, it turned black. Luckily, the sculpture survived. The sculptor of the image has always been unanimous. According to history, it was brought to Manila from Acapulco, Mexico via a galleon ship.
Originally, the Black Nazarene had an identical twin sculpture which was brought to Manila. This is found in the Intramuros district church records. It is said that the first one kept in Bagumbayan’s San Nicolas de Tolentino church before it was transferred to Intramuros. Unfortunately the Battle of Manila in 1945 destroyed this first image of the Black Nazarene when a bomb hit it. By then, the other sculpture was placed in the Quiapo church where some people thought it to be the original one. In the year 1650 Pope Innocent X gave his approval of the Black Nazarene for veneration as Sacramental. He also gave the permission to the Confraternity of the Most Holy Jesus Nazarene.
Filipino Catholics and those who relate to the Passion of Christ venerate the Black Nazarene. Most of them would relate their hardships to the struggles that were experienced by Jesus himself such the one presented in the image of the statue. Devotees clap their hands after the offering of mass at the shrine as a sign of homage.
Three processions take place each year when the Black Nazarene is taken out for veneration. The procession takes place on New Year’s Day, January 9 and Good Friday. January 9 processions commemorate the transferring of the Nazarene to Quiapo church. On that day, the image is carried out to the street in a carriage called the “andas” which means “to go forward” in Spanish. The devotees would walk barefoot and wear maroon colored clothes as an act of reminiscing Jesus when he went to Mount Calvary. The carriage is tied with a rope which men would pull. In the past only men were allowed to pull the ropes but recently female devotees joined in the act. The Catholics would touch the image hoping for a miracle to happen. Some people allegedly have even been reported to have had their diseases cured after contact with the Nazarene. Because of this, desperate devotees who can’t get near the statue would throw their towels at the guards requesting them to rub it on the image hoping that its miracles would rub in the cloth. The procession of the Black Nazarene on feast day is known to be a fatal one because of the heat, fatigue and the massive numbers of devotees reaching to millions.
Fortunately, when the number of devotees rose to 8 million, the route on the 9th January was altered to a much wider street located at the Quirino Grandstand in Rizal Park. This is also the first place where the Nazarene was enshrined. At the end of the day, the statue is returned to the church. In contrast to this veneration, the other two commemoration of the Black Nazarene on New Year’s Day and Good Friday is a solemn one.