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Black Nazarene procession: Broken wheels and strong will

Text and photos by VINCENT GO

IT was the longest procession to date in the history of Quiapo Church’s centuries-old Black Nazarene.

It took almost 22 hours for the life-size wooden sculpture of a dark-colored Jesus carrying the cross to return to church after leaving the Quirino Grandstand at the Rizal Park Monday morning.  It was already quarter past 5 a.m. of Tuesday when it entered Quiapo Church as millions of devotees who believe the icon to be miraculous participated in the annual feast of the Black Nazarene.

Early on the procession, two of the wheels of the carriage bearing the sculpture sustained damage from the sheer weight of the crowd trying to climb it to get a chance to touch the Black Nazarene. Two more wheels gave way as the procession approached Manila City Hall.

Eager crowds that were waiting along the route of the procession started to proceed to where the carriage broke down. This also prompted Msgr. Jose Clemente Ignacio, the parish priest, to proceed to the site himself to oversee the situation.

The procession continued late in the afternoon with devotees pushing and pulling hard on the damaged carriage.

As the Black Nazarene neared Villalobos Street in Quiapo late into the night, procession organizers pleaded with the crowd to cut the procession short and end it there. But insistent devotees did not want any of it and insisted that the procession must continue with its original route.

Hundreds were injured, suffering from slight cuts, dehydration and exhaustion, but no deaths were reported.

The procession was generally peaceful despite a call on Sunday from President Benigno Aquino III to stay away from it because of an earlier terrorist threat report.

The reported threat prompted telecommunication service providers to black out service to a large portion of Manila along the procession route, disabling the use of mobile phones and similar electronic devices for fear that they could be used as a triggering device.