Biggest happening in the media radar
Every year, as the new year opens, the media become so preoccupied with the Feast of the Black Nazarene that one would think nothing else was happening in the country.
Timing has a lot to do with it. During the holidays, people become so busy with the frenzy of gift-giving (and shopping), enjoying Yuletide meals and family get-togethers and even reunions with former classmates, workmates and acquaintances, and fulfilling religious obligations, that everyday concerns fade into the background. “News” as we understand it, from politics to crime to sports and lifestyle events lose their luster. It’s no accident that to fill all that blank space, newspapers devote countless column inches to “year-end” roundups seeking to compress 365 days’ worth of coverage into comprehensive analyses and predictions.
In the course of which we often forget to cover the quotidian happenings that occupy our attention. Besides, while resting from all the revelry of Christmas and New Year’s, people turn off their news antennae, seeking a few days’ respite from the news.
Which is why, on the first week of January, the biggest “happening” on the media radar is the Quiapo devotion. Nothing much is happening on the political front, although for a few days there the “term extension” champions and the fans of federalism tried to whip up public interest. The new taxes brought with them their share of dismaying developments, even if government spokespeople offered alternative interpretations of the “bigger tax cuts but higher prices” theme of TRAIN (Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion).
So instead, the media offer up the Black Nazarene.
By this time, we can recite the highlights of these days of devotion by heart, at least those highlights dictated by media coverage.
The huge crowds have always been the biggest draw, along with all the concerns such a fervid mammoth gathering raise: traffic congestion, security, physical safety, and keeping the fanaticism to a reasonable level.
When you think about it, the possible scenarios are the stuff of nightmares. The devotion and fervent desire to touch the image could very easily escalate into pandemonium and violence. People, especially children, could get lost or trampled in any panic situation. And anyone, terrorist or “lone wolf” lunatic, could trigger devastation on a massive scale. Even just setting off fireworks could lead to tragedy if authorities aren’t on alert and ready to move.
But even if no threats were forthcoming, the Black Nazarene devotion is itself a formidable event. The waves of humanity which rush forward upon catching sight of the image bobbing atop the devotees’ shoulders make for awesome testaments to faith and fanaticism. Watching the coverage from the comforts of one’s home, one is blown away by the sacrifices the faithful are willing to endure just to be “there,” in fulfillment of a lifelong vow or at a moment’s whim.
Indeed, understanding this annual phenomenon is a challenge to the non-believer, or to the believer whose faith does not rise to the heights of that of the devotee.
Maybe it is a failure on our part to “feel in our bones” the sense of love and trust that the Nazarene inspires. Its wood singed in the course of fire aboard the ship that brought it to our shores, the Black Nazarene was nonetheless intact when enshrined in Quiapo Church. Some analysts say that dark-complexioned Pinoys connected instantly with a religious image that resembled them physically. The numerous miracles—personal or public—attributed to the Nazarene’s intercession further cemented the devotion of believers.
Which is why millions scramble against the tide of humanity just to get near the statue, touch or kiss it, or even just have a kerchief or face towel swiped over it. They are all in search of a miracle, and among people driven to desperation by poverty, injustice, fear and uncertainty, or thankful for being granted a divine favor — enduring the hardships that come with the devotion is well worth the blessings of promised miracles and faith affirmed.
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