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Davao City, Philippines

BETWEEN THE LINES: Kiss and touch the Black Nazarene at all costs

January 13, 2019 - Sunday 1:01 PM by Judy Quiros

Every year couple our neighbors Lando and Luciana make it a point to travel to Manila a few days before January 9 to join other devotees -- thousands of them -- in the procession of the Black Nazarene, a lifesize statue of Jesus suffering under the weight of the cross. The couple are now in their past 50s and they are blessed with good health. They were gifted with two children, one of whom now works and resides in Manila with his family. Come to think of it, they are seemingly in their sunset years and yet they still have the strength and patience to travel a long way to Manila to fulfill what we Filipinos traditionally call a panata or vow. Also, they are not that well-off, tending to a small store at home since Lando opted to retire early from his job in the government.

When I asked them about this, they responded with a smile that the Black Nazarene has been giving them the strength to carry on with their panata through the years. Lando is a stroke survivor. They strongly believe the good health and peaceful life they are now enjoying are the prize for their veneration to the Black Nazarene.

The procession usually takes 18 to 22 hours and even longer according to reports, given the hordes of people from all walks of life walking with the Black Nazarene in a 6.5-kilometer route around Manila streets towards the basilica in Quiapo.

Lando and Luciana are among the thousands of devotees painstakingly braving the searing heat or rain to celebrate the feast of the Black Nazarene, which no other religious celebration can match in terms of the number of devotees joining the procession. Aside from being miraculous, based on the testimonies of some of the devotees especially on healing and blessings, the number of devotees of the Black Nazarene is growing overwhelmingly with the devotion being passed on from generation to generation of every devotee family. It can be likened to a legacy passed to the heirs and succeeding heirs who consider it a spiritual treasure they vow to cherish till the end of their lives.

The devotees, though a number of them are physically unfit to join the long winding procession, are literally unmindful of the yearly reported injuries in the middle of a stampede. This kind of spirit present in the devotees is a miracle itself, bringing one to believe in the power of faith and eventually convincing one to join the pack. Naturally, the impact of the procession like traffic jams, injuries, and a few deaths irritates critics, who describe the procession as an exaggerated superstitious notion. But their criticisms are insignificant in a country dominated by millions of Catholics. To the outsiders, the panting of men and women at the procession may look chaotic and dangerous. However, the devotees who are in deep benediction during the entire procession find peace and spiritual restitution, most especially when they have touched and kissed the Black Nazarene in any way possible. For them, this yearly sacrifice, the kiss and the touch on the Black Nazarene, assure them of a beautiful and peaceful life ahead.

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