January 9, the day the Black Nazarene is annually paraded from Quirino Grandstand to its home at Quiapo Church. This year was the longest procession to date taking 22 hours for the Nazarene to reach the Church. The andas lost all its wheels and the only thing that kept it moving was the people pulling the rope. By 11 pm, the parish priest was begging the devotees to let the Nazarene return home and skip the planned route because of safety reasons. But the devotees reacted violently and refused to take shortcuts.
This was an exhausting 18-hour coverage. I was accompanied by my writing partner, Jerricho Reynaldo. We were at Quirino Grandstand at 6am for the start of the procession and proceeded to the National Museum to wait for the Nazarene to pass. By 4pm, we were at Quiapo Church to cover the festivities in Plaza Miranda. And from there, I went to the press area at the Quiapo Church and waited there for almost 9 hours. And in those 9 hours, I was forced to hear a total of 9 masses. It felt like hearing mass on repeat. Nearly drove me crazy. By 1am, I was really drained, no food and still no signs of the Nazarene, I decided to leave.
The procession was both an inspiring and tragic sight to see. I admire how great their devotion and how passionate they are of their faith to the Nazarene. It gave me chills when the procession started and people started being emotional, everyone was reaching for the Nazarene. However, I feel it sometimesborders on being ridiculous. People jumping to the andas of the Nazarene in the sea of people with the risk of injuries or worse, death. I saw how people can become wild, violent, and selfish for their faith just to get to touch the statue in a hope of a miracle in their lives. But I can’t judge them for their faith. I respect these people and the tradition. I may not understand why they do it but their faith may be the only thing they hold on to.