Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Zealots scramble for statue in Manila hoping for miracle

Zealots scramble for statue in Manila hoping for miracle

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Devotees carry the statue of the Black Nazarene to the carriage at the start of the annual religious procession in Manila on Wednesday. NOEL CELIS/AFP

Zealots scramble for statue in Manila hoping for miracle

Throngs of believers flung themselves at a historic statue of Jesus Christ as it was paraded through the Philippine capital on Wednesday in an annual festival that is one of the world’s biggest shows of Catholic zeal.

Many in the heaving crowd of men and women, which police said numbered more than a million, believe touching the Black Nazarene or being in its presence can heal the sick or grant good fortune.

Devotees massed before dawn to catch a glimpse of the life-sized statue as it was wheeled on a metal float along a 7km route through Manila’s narrow streets by a crew tugging thick ropes.

“I survived a stroke because of him [God]. I will do this every year until I am 100 years old,” said 70-year-old Joaquin Bordado, who has attended the procession for decades.

“God ordered me to do this and I feel no exhaustion,” he added, wearing an ankle-length robe and crown of barbed wire.

Around him people chanted “Viva Nazareno!” (Long live Nazarene!), cheered and jostled for a glimpse of, or selfie with, the cross-bearing statue, cloaked in a maroon robe and topped with a crown of thorns.

‘A rhythm of peace’

Believers, barefoot as a sign of penitence, scramble over one another to touch towels to the icon which is named for its charred appearance.

It is believed to have survived a fire in the 17th century while en route to the Philippines, which became Asia’s bastion of Catholicism under 400 years as a Spanish colony.

Philippine police chief Oscar Albayalde said he deployed more than 7,000 officers to guard the event, while mobile phone networks were cut off as precaution against remotely detonated bombs.

Authorities did not report any specific threat to the procession, but the nation is home to several active insurgencies that have carried out attacks on civilians.

By early afternoon, nearly halfway into the typically 20-hour procession, the Red Cross had already treated nearly 220 patients for cuts, dizziness, bruises and sprains. Every year hundreds are hurt and a few deaths are not unusual.

“It is so dangerous to join the procession. If you see people charging forward, this makes me nervous,” said 21-year-old college student Angelica Alcantara.

“Many young people do this for fun but this is about your faith in God,” she added.

Critics say the procession is a mish-mash of superstition and unnecessary risk for the people who flock to it each year.

But Church officials say the practice is a vibrant expression of faith in a nation of 105 million that is overwhelmingly Christian. They include more than 80 million Catholics.

“If you are an outsider, you will not hear, see or feel that faith. You will only see a very unruly or chaotic situation,” said Father Danichi Hui, a priest at the procession’s destination, Quiapo church.

“But inside there is a rhythm of peace. There is a serenity,” he said.

MOST VIEWED

  • ‘Life goes on’ if Cambodia loses Everything But Arms

    Cambodia's business sector is exploring ways to mitigate any fallout from a possible loss of access to the EU’s Everything But Arms (EBA) agreement as talks continue before the 28-member bloc makes a final decision. The EU monitoring process is set to conclude in

  • Nesat beach: A magnet drawing tourists to the Kingdom’s coastline

    A white sandy beach lined by countless coconut trees awaits travellers off Cambodia’s southwest coast in Koh Kong province’s Srae Ambel district, about 170km from Phnom Penh. Over the past few years Nesat beach – a name inspired by a nearby fishing village – has

  • PM: Workers must train for Industry 4.0

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has urged the Kingdom’s workforce to seek more technical training and strengthen their skills if they are to avoid job losses resulting from the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Hun Sen said the fourth industrial revolution is like a double-edged sword that

  • Huawei applies for OS trademark in Cambodia

    China's Huawei Technologies Co has applied to trademark the “Hongmeng” operating system (OS) in a number of countries including Cambodia in a bid to launch its homegrown operating system as a replacement for the Android OS, Reuters has reported. Huawei has applied to trademark the “