Metro Manila, Philippines— The number of devotees participating in the Feast of the Black Nazarene reached more than six million, as the tradition returned after a three-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The image of the Black Nazarene left the Quirino Grandstand at Rizal Park around 4:45 a.m. on Tuesday and reached the Quiapo Church after nearly 15 hours at 7:44 p.m., making it the shortest Traslacion or grand procession recorded in the recent years.
The previous record was in 2016 when the procession took around 16 hours due to an early start and shorter route. But the procession in 2012 remains the longest in history after the image of the Black Nazarene took 22 hours to arrive at the church.
Based on the accumulative count from midnight to 8 p.m., the Quiapo Church said 6.1 million devotees took part in the festivities, with more than 3 million joining the procession.
But based on Philippine National Police’s estimates, PCol. Jean Fajardo, spokesperson, said around 3.3 million devotees participated in the highly anticipated event
Before the procession, Manila Archbishop Jose Cardinal Advincula Jr. presided over the Misa Mayor, the midnight mass, followed by the continuation of the vigil.
Light showers in Quiapo in the early morning turned roads muddy and greasy, but many continued to go on barefoot to show their devotion.
Devotees interviewed by CNN Philippines described the rains as a “blessing” and that their worship continued despite the weather.
“Super overwhelmed, kanina nga di ko alam biglang tumulo luha ko siguro sa sobrang saya, sa sobrang sabik no’ng nailabas na ulit ýong Poong Hesus Nazareno,” Rizza Batarina, 35, of Cavite, told CNN Philippines.
[Translation: I was super overwhelmed. Earlier, I didn’t know I shed a tear, maybe because of too much joy, too much excitement that the image of the Black Nazarene was let out for the Traslacion.]
The Manila government warned of light to moderate rainfall at 2 p.m. that may last up to two hours, as people anticipate the return of the venerated image to its home Quiapo Church.
Defying prohibition, Filipino Catholics climbed onto the andas or carriage during the Traslacion for a chance to touch the glass-encased Black Nazarene. Honor guards called Hijos del Nazareno tried to control the devotees to protect the relic.
A few hours later, organizers said that a Traslacion guiding rope snapped before the andas turned its way to Arlegui Street corner Quezon Boulevard. It then clarified that two ropes are still being pulled by devotees to move the andas carrying the image of the Black Nazarene.
“Dalawang lubid pa rin po ang gamit sa prusisyon. Ang kaliwang bahagi lang po nito umiksi dahilan sa pagkaputol, ito nga po ay sa bahagi ng Arlegui Street corner Quezon Boulevard,” a representative of Quiapo Church said.
[Translation: We are still using two ropes in our procession. The left part of the rope got short when it was cut while the image was on Arlegui Street corner Quezon Boulevard.]
The cut rope has been returned to the church, with authorities still investigating the incident.
Meanwhile, the Quiapo Church Command Post said this is not the first time that it happened. It added that this has no significant effect on the sanctity of the feast but this may affect the procession route flow.
Aside from Traslacion, many devotees awaited the “Dungaw” rite at the San Sebastian Basilica.
According to the San Sebastian Basilica Conservation and Development Foundation Inc., the Black Nazarene would make a brief stop at Plaza del Carmen, where the San Sebastian Basilica is located, for the ritual to meet the Nuestra Señora del Carmen de San Sebastian image.
At the Quiapo Church, hourly masses are being held on Tuesday from 12 a.m. to 11 p.m.
More than 300 people have sought medical assistance in this year’s celebration, according to the Philippine Red Cross.
The Traslacion usually lasts for 20 hours. But in January 2020, it only lasted for 16 hours and 35 minutes due to an early start, a shorter route, and tight security. The government started implementing months-long lockdowns in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Traslacion was canceled in 2021, 2022 ,and 2023.
In 2023, Quiapo Church replaced Traslacion with the “Walk of Faith” joined by around 88,000 people, according to Manila police.