No Traslacion, No Problem: The Faith of Two Nazareno Devotees

Updated: Jan 10

by Kevin Joshua B. Cosme

Photo by John Paul Gonzalo (January 8, 2020)

Believer or skeptic, no one can deny the immensity of the religious and sociological phenomenon that is the devotion to the Black Nazarene. No other recurring event draws millions of Filipino devotees together like the annual Traslacion, or transfer of the image of Nuestro Padre Jesus Nazareno from Quirino Grandstand to Quiapo Church.

The Traslacion happens on January 9, the commemoration of the icon's year 1787 transfer from Intramuros to Quiapo Church, also known as the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene, where it has remained enshrined ever since.

Technically, January 9 is not the feast of the Black Nazarene but Good Friday.

Given the present quarantine conditions the Traslacion for this year has been cancelled. Instead, the image of the Black Nazarene has been making rounds in different churches and places of devotion in the days leading up to January 9.

On the day itself, 15 Masses will be celebrated to accommodate as many of the devotees as possible, following the government mandate to keep the number of attendees at 30% church capacity.

Photo by John Paul Gonzalo (January 8, 2020)

It may be difficult for non-adherents to understand the fervor of the devotees of the Poong Nazareno. I would know, since I am not a devotee myself and was only introduced to this reality when I entered the seminary.

However, my regard for it changed when I saw for myself the millions of people who had gathered at the Quirino Grandstand for the Traslacion. I had never before seen a display of faith on such a massive scale.

It was well into the night but there was an excitement in the air that was almost palpable. Devotional merchandise littered the streets. People patiently stood in line as far as the eye could see, waiting for their brief turn kiss the image of the Poon, wipe their handkerchiefs or towels, and whisper their fervent request. It was deeply moving.

And yet for all that, I still feel like an outsider looking in. So on the occasion of this year’s supposed procession, I interviewed two actual devotees and asked them to share their experiences of faith and to express their sentiments about the cancellation of this year’s Traslacion.

It Starts with the Family

Angelo Dizon is a 42-year-old resident of Muntinlupa City. He is an active minister and volunteer worker at his parish, the Diocesan Shrine of Our Lady of the Abandoned in Muntinlupa City.

Mr. Angelo Dizon with a mobile replica of the Black Nazarene

Angelo’s devotion to the Black Nazarene started young, when his grandmother introduced him to the miraculous image. As a grown up, he would pass by Quiapo Church whenever he had business in Manila, at times visiting the church two or three times a month.

In the year 2011, he started to feel pain in his abdominal area. He thought it was a mere stomach ailment, but it turned out to be kidney stones. “Ako po’y isang mahirap na mamayan lang at hindi permanente ang trabaho, so sa Kaniya ako kumapit at kumuha ng lakas” (“I am poor and without permanent employment, so I held on to Him as my source of strength.”)

Thanks to a combination of faith in the Black Nazarene and natural processes like doing water therapy, taking herbal medicines, and avoiding meat, the pain in his abdomen subsided and his kidney stones disappeared completely after a year. He attributes his healing to the Lord Jesus, whom He says is the true Healer. “Si Lord ang nagpagaling sa akin,” (“It is the Lord who healed me”), he declares.

He now feels driven to share his experience with others, having avoided going under the knife which would have costed him P120,000 to P150,000. “Saan po ako kukuha ng ganoong kalaking pera? Samantalang sa pamamagitan ng panalangin, pagtitiwala, paggawa ng mabuti sa kapwa, at pagsisisi sa mga kasalanan ko, answered ang prayer ko” (“Where do I get that much money? Still, by means of prayer, faith, doing good to others, and repenting of my sins, my prayer was answered.”).

It would have been his fourth Traslacion this year if it weren’t for the pandemic. He recounts seeing the faith of all those who would join the procession: men and women, young and old, poor and wealthy. He was happy to pray for them all.

Fr. Douglas Badong of Quiapo Church reaches out to devotees.

Photo by John Paul Gonzalo (January 8, 2020)

Although a devotee, he says it’s okay that the Traslacion isn’t pushing through because everyone has to stay safe. If the coronavirus hits you and your time has come, he observes, there’s really nothing you can do about it and no amount of medical attention is going to make a difference. When it’s your time, it’s your time.

Alternatively, he says we can just practice physical distancing. There are also numerous ways of expressing devotion to the Black Nazarene, like taking it online or going on a different day than the Traslacion.

He advises believers to share their faith with others, among other things so that those whose faith have grown cold may be brought back to the Lord.

Another Witness