Faith In The Black Nazarene

MANILA, Philippines - Filipino faith reaches a violent climax on January 9, when millions gather to pay homage to the Black Nazarene, the extraordinary sight I once witnessed at Plaza Miranda.

A solid mass of humanity awaits the image. Able-bodied men in white T-shirts are positioned in two long files, holding back with linked arms a multitude of men in maroon, devotees (mamamasan or shoulder-bearers) determined to help pull the image. The PA system warns bystanders to get out of the way, asks that mamamasan discard shoes and sandals, belts, buckles and keys as lethal weapons in the coming crush.

Church doors burst open and the Nazarene emerges on its carro, greeted by fireworks, a waving sea of lighted candles and pieces of white cloth, and thousands of throats shouting, ''Viva.''

A pair of thick abaca ropes some hundred meters long in large loops is tied to the carro, a stout bar on forward ends. The idea is for runners to rush up between the whites, playing the ropes out the length of Plaza Miranda towards Villalobos Street; for the whites to grab the ropes and be the first set of mamamasan (''unang salang'' or first-on-the-fire); and for whites to then yield the ropes to maroons and be procession marshals.

The scheme immediately goes awry as determined maroons surge forward in savage waves. The next 15-30 minutes are the most dangerous, when men are sometimes strangled by the flailing ropes or trampled in the melée. So coveted is the privilege of helping move the holy image.

Marshalls shove, shoulder, kick the fighting throng in place-meaning men packed along the ropes, tighter than sardines in a can, barely able to breathe and pressed in by others mightily trying to dislodge those already in place.

Most can stand the ordeal only briefly. The brute strength needed to come close to the carro or the ropes, even just to stay in place, is so great that many look half-conscious, propped up only by the press of other bodies. Anyone who wants out signals with an upraised arm (or a desperate look if he can't) and marshals yank him out by force. On their own, marshals drag out the flagging. Someone faints and is pushed up and out over heads and helped down at the crowd's edge. Anyone who slips under is lost, trampled by the feet of the relentless throng.

Like a monstrous writhing centipede, the procession lurches forward, swings left and then right on countless feet, stops, only to move again. Propelled by the uncontrolled momentum of its bearers, the carro of the Black Nazarene is flung hither and yon as the procession disappears from sight.

It is difficult not to be moved by the intense devotion, the faith of the mamamasan, many in their twenties. One wonders what great misfortune they have already overcome at that tender age, for what terrible sins they seek forgiveness, what unattainable goal they desire, what dire fate they pray to avoid, through the mercy of the Nazarene.

Comments are cordially invited, addressed to walalang@mb.com.ph.

Loading...

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • ToyotaPH continues it’s strong sales in February
    ToyotaPH continues it’s strong sales in February

    Toyota Motor Philippines (TMP) sustains its strong sales in its February performance. Toyota’s strong performance last month was due to the  high demand of the Vios, with sales of 2,012 units and of course the rest of Toyota’s line up such as the Fortuner, Innova, Wigo, Hilux, Avanza and Corolla Altis. Toyota’s luxury brand, Lexus, recorded 60 units last month. …

  • No apology, but Noy seeks understanding
    No apology, but Noy seeks understanding

    There was no apology, but President Aquino yesterday expressed regret, took “full responsibility” and appealed to the nation for “deepest understanding” for the Jan. 25 Mamasapano raid in which dozens died, including 44 police Special Action Force (SAF) commandos. “To every Filipino who has felt failure or has been hurt because of the events related to this operation, it is with abiding humility that I ask for your deepest understanding,” Aquino said in a speech before the 246 new graduates of …

  • MVP on endorsement: Thanks, I’m no politician
    MVP on endorsement: Thanks, I’m no politician

    Businessman Manuel V. Pangilinan is grateful for Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago’s praise and presidential endorsement, but says he is not a politician. In an interview on the sidelines of the launch of the search for The Outstanding Young Men (TOYM) of the Philippines 2015 Wednesday night, Pangilinan dismissed the idea of running for president in the 2016 elections. “I’m not a politician, I’m just an ordinary business person,” he added. Santiago endorsed Pangilinan as a presidential candidate …

  • No Lenten break in operations vs lawless groups – AFP
    No Lenten break in operations vs lawless groups – AFP

    The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is not suspending its offensive against the Abu Sayyaf, New People’s Army (NPA) and other lawless groups during the Holy Week, an official said yesterday. Lt. Col. Harold Cabunoc, AFP public affairs office chief, said the AFP leadership is leaving it up to area and division commanders whether to raise the alert status in preparation for the Holy Week. Those deployed in areas where there are ongoing law enforcement operations against terrorist groups …

  • Probe harassment vs human rights lawyer, CA orders AFP
    Probe harassment vs human rights lawyer, CA orders AFP

    The Court of Appeals (CA) has ordered the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to investigate a human rights lawyer’s claim of harassment, including surveillance, by several military officers. In a 22-page decision, the former Special Sixth Division of the appellate court granted the petition for writ of amparo and habeas data of Maria Catherine Dannug-Salucon. The CA ordered the AFP to identify the officers behind the surveillance and file charges against them. The CA ruling said …

  • Noy vows to dismantle bata-bata system in PNP
    Noy vows to dismantle bata-bata system in PNP

    President Aquino vowed yesterday to dismantle the culture of factionalism or the bata-bata system within the Philippine National Police as he continued the search for the next PNP chief. Speaking at the Philippine National Police Academy (PNPA) commencement exercises here, the President said the country needed solidarity among leaders and members of the police force so that the policemen would be effective protectors of Filipinos. “Our challenge to the next chief of our national police force: …

  • Envoy to expats: Retire, invest in Phl
    Envoy to expats: Retire, invest in Phl

    Retire and invest in real estate in the Philippines, especially now that the country has made it to the top 10 retirement destinations in the world. This is the message being spread by the Philippine embassy in Washington, with Ambassador Jose Cuisia Jr. leading the refrain in meetings with various Filipino-American communities in the US. In his talks, Cuisia said that an affordable cost of living as well as warm climate and people are just some of the things that make the Philippines a top …

  • PNPA spotlight falls on Ampatuan grandson
    PNPA spotlight falls on Ampatuan grandson

    The stigma of being a namesake of the principal suspect in the 2009 Maguindanao massacre did not prevent Cadet First Class Andal Ampatuan III from entering and graduating from the Philippine National Police Academy (PNPA). Ampatuan III, now with a rank of police inspector, is a grandson of former Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. The younger Ampatuan was among the 246 graduates of the PNPA “Lakandula” Class of 2015. Ampatuan III’s mother is Bai Rebecca Ampatuan, a daughter of the …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options