Mass Black Nazarene parade returns to Manila after Covid-19 break

Almost 1 million people, according to organizers’ initial estimate, were participating Tuesday in the Black Nazarene procession in the streets of Manila, Philippines for the first time since this massive event was held after the pandemic.

Masses were partaking from the early morning through the capital’s streets in the long march of the statue of Christ, mounted on a float and – for the first time – protected by a case, in one of the world’s largest displays of religious devotion.

It is normally a chaotic and claustrophobic procession that can last between 18 hours and 22 hours and where many walk barefoot and try to touch the figure or rub it with a towel believing it grants good luck and cures illness.

The parade is often dangerous and often causes some participants to faint or sustain injuries.

Authorities deployed some 15,200 police officers for security and health care posts along the route for the event, which routinely lasts several hours due to the slow movement of the float among the flood of people around it.

The carving, which dates back to the 16th century, the first of more than three centuries of Spanish colonization of the Philippines, arrived in Manila on May 31, 1606 on a galleon from Acapulco and, according to legend, caught fire near the archipelago.

The heat of the flames gave the Christ its characteristic dark color, according to popular belief in the country, although another version attributes this distinction to the fact that the author, a Mexican artisan, wanted to imprint the statue with his same skin tone.

The procession was canceled between 2021 and 2023 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, although there were already large crowds last year during the mass celebrated for the commemoration.

The Philippines is, along with Timor Leste, the only country in Asia where the majority of its population professes Catholicism.

By usmana kousar