The Nazareno in the time of ‘Yorme’
Will it be different this time? Will the yearly only-in-the-Philippines phenomenon that is the procession of the Black Nazarene that sees millions of sweaty, unshod Filipinos crashing into each other be tamer and cleaner (though not totally garbage-free, that’s for sure) today?
Whatever, today’s big event will be a sight to behold, indeed. Behold the ebb and flow and how it peaks, behold how the crowd becomes one orgiastic mass, one body, so to speak. Behold the people. Ecce populus, as the Romans might say. Let me quote from Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s meditation in “Hymn of the Universe”: “This restless multitude, confused or orderly, the immensity of which terrifies us: this ocean of humanity whose slow, monotonous wave-flows trouble the hearts even of those whose faith is most firm: it is to this deep that I thus desire all the fibres of my being should respond.” He was on “the steppes of Asia” at that time and never got to step on the populous urban jungle that is Manila, but his words are right for today’s feast.
Even before the Christmas season had ended with the Feast of the Epiphany, a mini-procession, as has been the custom, was already going on on Dec. 31, New Year’s Eve. If we go by the liturgical year’s commemorations, Jesus Christ has just been born, so to speak, and would shortly be bound for Egypt with his mother and foster father to flee from the despotic Herod, but here we are already seeing the beginnings of the torture the adult Jesus would be going through during Holy Week.
Filipinos and suffering are bedfellows.
I would be the last one to criticize the teeming masses’ raw display of faith in what they believe to be the miraculous Poong Hesus Nazareno, the blackened image of Jesus carrying his cross to Calvary. Surely, at some point in our lives, we have experienced or will experience being marooned in that place that lies between hope and despair. The devotees who risk life and limb and clamber up the carroza to touch the Nazareno are not unlike the bleeding woman in the Gospel who stalked Jesus so she could touch his cloak and be healed of her infirmity.
Year after year, armchair academics, theologians, behavioral scientists and the like would be invited to go on air for their analyses of the astonishing and desperate display of faith to be broadcast nationwide, even while the true believers speak simply about the miracles the Nazarene has wrought in their own lives.
So, will the traslacion (the procession which brings the Nazareno from the Rizal Park grandstand to its home that is the Basilica of St. John the Baptist in Quiapo) be less fervent because Manila mayor Isko Moreno (Yorme for short) has turned out to be a no-nonsense stickler for discipline, law and order? He has put into action his desire to resurrect the city and make it rise again from decades of neglect and lack of vision and verve (and lots of politics) among the former hizzoners.
Will the traslacion again be reviled as trash-lacion? Isn’t cleanliness next to godliness? We will know by the end of today or the morning after.
Today is no longer like the days of yore. There are security measures to be put in place. Thousands of policemen will be forming a human security shield, an official announcement said. There are rumors of a world war, fears about terrorist attacks, lone wolves out to seek prey. Crowds are prime targets. The bloodthirsty will stop at nothing. If they can do it in a cathedral, why not in the streets where millions gather? Not to be an alarmist, but there are reasons to feel unsafe because of this country’s alliances with prime targets whose enemies have a score to settle. But for the millions of devotees, that is not their concern.
O Hesus, Poong Nazareno!
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