Today January 9, 2019, and every year on this day, hundreds of thousands of devotees of the Black Nazarene walk through the streets of Manila for the ritual of Traslación. It is a 20-hour long procession of the Black Nazarene statue with other rituals — from the various Mass celebrations to the displays of devotion to the Nazareno’s miraculous powers.
The procession of 9 January re-enacts a seemingly minor historical event, the 1787 solemn translation or transfer of the image from its original home, where Rizal Park is now located, to its present home in the basilica of Quiapo.
A picture of the Black Nazarene sculpted by an anonymous Mexican sculptor from mesquite wood arrived in Manila in the mid 1600s. During the liberation of Manila in World War II, the statue was partially destroyed in 1945. The Archdiocese of Manila commissioned a renowned Filipino santero or saint carver, Gener Manlaqui, with the original head to sculpt the replica of today.
Devotees line up at the pahalik ‘s grand stand, or ” kiss, ” the chance to kiss or touch the Black Nazarene ‘s cross or foot. They sometimes wipe the cross or foot with a cloth they keep and rub on or give to relatives who could not visit the Nazarene. The tissue touch is said to eventually lead to physical healing. Many groups or families also have copies of the sculpture of the Nazarene — some quite large — and many others. They are treated with great respect and often wiped with a tissue, but do not draw the same level of frenzy as the primary statue of Nazarene, which is also pulled in the procession.
The vigil is full of singing, dancing and plays on the stage. Inspirational talks by clergy and bishops encourage obscene or rebellious people, especially young people, to turn from bad habits and vices such as smoking, drugs, drinking and premarital sex, to become ardent Christ’s followers. Young people are encouraged to do apostolic-religious work, such as studying, preaching and teaching the Gospel, and feeding the city streets.
On 9 January, after a large morning mass, the Black Nazarene Translation procession begins from Rizal to Quiapo. The Black Nazarene is moved from the grandstand to a special wagon to begin the long, slow procession, which is almost dark. The most determined devotees walk the 6.5 km barefoot route from Rizal to the small basilica of Quiapo as a penance and an emulation of Jesus on the way to Golgotha. The act of walking barefoot is a vow of sacrifice and thanksgiving to Christ who carried the cross to barefoot Calvary.