The 9th of January is considered to be one of the most spectacular religious events in the Philippine history. Because it is during this day, Filipinos celebrates the Feast of the Black Nazarene --- a day-long event and long-held practice of Filipino Catholics.
The Black Nazarene is famously noted for its devotees who walk the procession streets barefooted as to imitate Jesus Christ on his way to Mount Cavalry. It is a life-size, dark-colored wooden sculpture of Jesus Christ carrying a cross which is said to be miraculous by many of its Filipino devotees. Its statue was brought here in Manila by a Spanish priest way back 1607 aboard a ship. The ship then caught fire, burning the image and thus came to be known as the “Black Nazarene”. Though its image has been burnt, people still decided not just to preserve it but to honor it, as well. And ever since then, miraculous things have been experienced by those who touch its image.
The Black Nazarene is the patron saint of Quiapo, a small but well-known part in Manila. And its statue has been housed at Quiapo Church (Saint John de Baptist Church also known as Basilica of the Black Nazarene) since 1787. It is being brought out in procession during its feast day and on Good Friday. In 1998, a replica of the original Black Nazarene was first paraded due to the repeated damages on the statue. And nowadays, this replica is still being used in processions while the original image or statue is retained in the high altar of the church.
The celebration of the feast of the Black Nazarene starts when the door of the Quiapo Church opens and the image of the Black Nazarene is within sight. And for more than 200 years, the statue has been placed on a golden red carriage and pulled through the streets of Quiapo by male devotees clad in maroon. Million of devotees from different part of Luzon come to Quiapo to take part in the procession as a way of fulfilling a “panata” (vow) and also as a way of straightening their faith.
Devotees waive white flags and would even climb the carriage just to be able to have the chance to touch the image. Because people who have touched the image of the Black Nazarene is believed to have sometimes been healed of their diseases and perhaps even received miracles, as well. Other devotees throw towels or handkerchiefs to the male devotees guarding the image and ask them to rub it on the image in anticipation of carrying some of that power away with them.