It is an unfathomable feeling that a word can’t give good reason for. Not even a scientific rationalization can suffice such human display of faith. This is especially true when such religious belief has been practiced for generations. And its growing intensity is a confirmation that faith is alive and thriving—as in the case of the annual traslacion of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo.
For this year, the religious activity lasted for more than 22 hours, considered as one of the longest processions in recent history with an estimated 3.5 million devotees participating in the procession.
A reenactment of the transfer of the image from Intramuros to the Quiapo Church in 1787, traslacion is one of the country's popular religious events, paying homage to the image of a dark skinned Jesus Christ in maroon and gold vestments carrying a cross.
Particularly among the faithful, the act of walking barefoot is a panata or vow of sacrifice and thanksgiving to mimic Christ who carried the cross to Calvary barefoot. In today’s world, this is a great sacrifice, especially for one who is not used to walking for hours. One has to endure the heat, pain, and inconveniences—as one would want to experience what our Savior has done in saving the entire humanity.
The long-hour procession symbolizes our unwavering devotion. Despite the obstacles, we remain steadfast in our aim for survival, healing, and upliftment. And the longer it would take, the more strength that we gain from others, as actualize by the growing number of devotees as the procession draws to its end. Our faith has never waned.
And as I see this year’s traslacion, there were many young people who joined. This just shows an assured continuance and following of this religious practice. Their stamina, on top of their devotion, would ensure the future generation of the growing devotion to the Black Nazarene. Even prior to the procession, they have actively participated in the vigil that is filled with singing, dancing, and stage plays. Inspirational talks by clergy and bishops encourage impious or wayward people to turn from bad habits and vices such as smoking, drugs, drinking, and pre-marital sex, to become ardent followers of Christ. They are likewise encouraged to engage in apostolic-religious work like studying, preaching and teaching the gospel, and feeding street people.
The vigil and procession are characterized by both patience and urgency, a manner of taking things directly to Jesus walking among them, yet doing so in their own fashion. Tracing the long history of such religious practice, the long decades of corruption and persistent dirty politicking in the Philippines had caused enormous poverty, abuses and sufferings among its populace, and contributed to the sense of needing to turn directly to God for relief. Generally, we are patient, tolerant and forbearing people. We can take so many abuses and sufferings just like Jesus did during his passion, crucifixion, and death on the cross. Similarly, we show how we can identify by enduring a procession.
Such display of faith, to a large extent, becomes adverse when it would lead to injuries and deaths among faithful. This has become the picture in every procession marring the devoutness of the practice. There is a complete contrast to the solemn procession of the Senior Sto. Niño. Its solemnity even extends to the fluvial procession and other religious activities. And such solemnity does not diminish such fervor among the Cebuanos and the faithful from other islands and even across the globe.
My fervent prayer is that such passionate faith would translate to genuine good deeds toward fellowmen. Our strong faith would hopefully intensify our commitment to be of service through our deep and altruistic concern for others. And truly we can say that such faith has found its real essence.