Lost in ‘Traslacion’
When I think about my childhood, I remember not just the endless interactions I had with my playmates, or the dreams I once told myself that I should surmount someday. I’m reminded of the festivities and celebrations of the Catholic traditions I once embraced, including the colorful “Traslacion.”
Dressed in scarlet t-shirts printed with the suffering image of Jesus Christ, high-spirited men in my old neighborhood talked about how they planned to get closer to the “Poon” during the Traslacion — the annual ceremonial transfer of the black image of Jesus Christ from San Nicolas de Tolentino in Intramuros to the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo in Manila.
“You should be the lead since you’re the strongest,” one of them said. “What if we line up this way?” another one added. “Will this work?”
It was intense. It was as if they were seasoned gladiators going to war, except that they chose not to bring anything with them. Yes, no slippers and shoes on. Their only weapon was their intense belief, their armor their prayers.
I expressed my desire to join the crowd, but I was turned down right away. I was only 7 years old, and a proud Catholic.
On the day of the festivity itself, the footage of the coverage shown on our TV disturbed me. A cavalcade of devotees wiping the cross or foot of the image with cloth. Shouts and cries. Some people succumbing to difficulty breathing, even to heart attack. Stretchers in the middle of the crowd. Casualties. Death.
Chaos was all over. Everybody wanted to have a grip of the cord of the Black Nazarene, and to ultimately reach the graven image that was seen as the representation of God on earth. I found myself asking: Is this what my Catholic faith looks like? Is this what God wants to happen?
If we look at the Traslacion data over the years, hundreds get hurt every time it happens. There are casualties even. Can you imagine the total number of casualties the event has incurred since its inception?
In Deuteronomy 5:7-9 (King James Version), it says: “Thou shalt have none other gods before me. Thou shalt not make thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the waters beneath the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me.”
If the main basis of the Catholic faith is the Bible, why then does it continuously transgress such commandment? Clearly, the Black Nazarene is a graven image or an idol as described by the holy scriptures.
Filipinos have the right to observe religion as protected by the Constitution. But in the end, we should, as a society, not close our eyes to practices that look out of control. We should continue to search for a better way to do things while respecting human diversity and differences. At the very least, can’t the leadership of Traslacion impose guidelines so devotees can have a safer experience?
A merciful, kind and loving God does not require that one loses oneself and physically suffer. To preserve life—to ensure that the barefooted Black Nazarene devotees dressed in scarlet shirts don’t die while professing their love and devotion to their faith—is not just a national duty, but also a testament that we empathize and care about them.
* * *
Benre J. Zenarosa, 29, is a former Catholic.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.