Madness at the Nazarene feast in Quiapo, Manila

Categories Experiences, Places

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The carroza bearing a replica of the 17th century image of the Black Nazarene which was brought from Mexico in 1607.

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Time ticked to 1400H and the crowd, filling all available spaces in Plaza Miranda in Quiapo, Manila, are already roused. Men are already standing while some are warning others who were wearing shoes to stay away or for women to go to the sides. Whistles are blown, the announcer at the stage is crying out instructions but already drowned out by the crowds’ chants of “lubid, lubid, lubid” (“rope, rope, rope”) and “viva, viva, viva.

Suddenly, the gates of the church are flung wide open and the pair of abaca ropes stretches out to the sea of people where it is grabbed by the devotees. The small carroza bearing the 17th century image of the Black Nazarene starts its crawl as the devotees pull. Firecrackers erupt and smoke spreads, smelling of pulbura (gunpowder). Towels and handkerchiefs are thrown to the image while men atop the carroza wipes the statue and throws it back. Some men and women are ready to give an arm or a leg in order to jostle, climb up and touch the Christ.

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Male devotees dominate this chaotic event. Here, they tug at the rope connected to the carroza.

Viva, viva, viva…” is again chanted, this time louder and with much fervor. As the carroza is crawling out at a snail’s pace, tracing its centuries old route, people are now in a chaotic mode. Like a ripple in the water, pushing and shoving starts, emanating from where the image is borne and reaching the sides of the Plaza. Cries and shrieks are heard but then drowned out by the vivas. Slippers and shoes are parted from their owners. Feet are stomped and bruised. People fell to the ground. More shrieks and cries. Some faint, but the madness just ensues.

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A member of one of the many cults that congregate during the feast of the Black Nazarene dressed as Christ the King.

As the carroza leaves the plaza and then the chaos starts to ebb. Men, women and children bearing candles can now be found. Old women clutching rosaries and mumbling Hail Mary’s. Private carrozas now follow and the plaza is in a somber mood. People are eating. Vendors are roving around and a media crew is interviewing people. The religious sects are singing, praying. All is calm.

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The vice president of the country doing his yearly panata or sacred promise being protected from the crowd.

After a few hours, vivas can again be heard. People are chanting, raising hands, clapping. The pushing and shoving starts again as the carrozza is starting its way back to the church after turning from a side street. Some are rushing or scrambling out. Some going nearer and took a hold of the rope. More chaos. Even the vice president of the country, a devotee, was rushed to the side of the road surrounded by bodyguards, soaking wet with perspiration and ruddy.

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Having accomplished his sacred vow, he rests.

After the push and pull, after the shrieks of Viva! and after the event is done, this male devotee, dead tired, finds a spot to rest and feel at peace. At the same time, he might probably be thinking: “Next year…”

All is calm again.

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Estan Cabigas is freelance photographer, blogger and writer based in Makati City, the Philippines. A true blue Cebuano, he makes stunning images and meaningful photo stories. His work has been published in local and international publications including National Geographic Magazine, Geo (Germany), Sunday Times Magazine (London).

He is also a peripatetic traveler and has traveled to all 81 Philippines provinces. Open for work, collaborations and inquiries for site features.

15 thoughts on “Madness at the Nazarene feast in Quiapo, Manila

  1. One of my favorite events of the year!

    That guy in your third picture is always dressed like that. He is a regular of Quiapo Church.
    Nice guy by the way. He was a rich businessman in the time of Marcos (he was a scrap dealer).
    Nowadays he hardly makes a living.
    A very interesting character.

    Is it just me or your pictures are a bit on the blue side? It might be my monitor after all. I get quite frustrated lately by those color differences on different monitors.

  2. sidney, it might be your monitor. I process my photos using a calibrated monitor.

    this guy is sure interesting. behind that costume is a story. hmmm, maybe he will be a good subject for a documentary 🙂

  3. Seeing this, compared to my peanuts experience on Sinulog, is nothing but chaos. I would try my luck photographing these scenes someday. I would like to try the Pampanga events also during the Holy Week. From what I have seen in your Flickr, they’re really disturbing. Glad you survived watching the gore. 🙂

    Your photography is very engaging. Thanks for the share, man!

  4. thanx for the visit guys.

    clee, I particularly don’t like the Pampanga, especially Cutod event as its more like a stage show for tourists. For the authentic ones, you should try Infanta or even in the streets of Metro Manila.

  5. I have to think this over if I’ll be going on Saturday. It’s the madness and the energy in the middle of the procession that I’m seeking but it feels like I’m not yet ready for this scenario.

  6. i was here during that time i was one of the person who joined and grabbed the ropes of the black nazarene, i started walking with my bare feet around 6am and started to SALANG at around 9am/ salang means you’ll be pushing your self to get closer to the ropes and grab to it and put it in your shoulder when you have chance,when your on the ropes already its quite amazing feeling that your all in one ropes like brother’s and sister’s and all of the sadden we were all singing the AMANAMIN , if you want to get off the ropes you just need to rise you hand and one of the crowd will take your hand and help you out/its really amazing to be part of this religious event..when the nazarene reach the quipo it will dance for few minutes before it enters the church, this event lasted for almost midnight around 11:30pm i was there, i came with my bare feet and i went home still with my 2 feet alone.. i was so happy even though i was dead tired..

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