I arrived a little past 1000H and already, the streets around Quiapo were closed and teeming with people from all walks of life:
– male devotees wearing maroon shirts printed with the image of the Christ and, some, their Black Nazarene chapter where they belong, walking barefoot
– families and other devotees with replicas and statuettes of the famous icon, angels, the Blessed Virgin, placed atop pedicabs, tricycles, jeeps, trucks to elaborate carrozas were already lining up the streets and people touching or wiping these images with their handkerchiefs and towels, and some, throwing these to the man or woman or child beside the image atop trucks and when they get it back, making the sign of the cross and mumbling a prayer
– religious cults came. One even had their head dressed like the Christ with a crown on his head, sitting on a wooden throne surrounded by his followers, hand raised, eyes shut and sipping a cola to another wherein, this time, an old woman, holding a rock, that might be “miraculous” wearing a sash and a dress with multicolored polka dots talking, praying over to people who came to her and touching them with her rock
– media outfits with their OBVs broadcasting the event live to the nation and to the world, interviewing politicians, people in the street and at the same time, showing their feed to a widescreen across the church
– the ever present politicians that sometimes you wonder if they were there as a devotee or as a politician, hoping to rake in as much as pogi (brownie) points with the masses
– photographers gathered at the stage built up for the occassion at the side of Plaza Miranda, atop buildings, on ledges and on the ground, including me, prowling to record that KODAK moment, the people, the event
– all kinds of vendors selling candles, towels, food and drinks, barbie dolls, leis made of everlasting flowers, estampitas, scapulars and images of the Black Nazarene
– to the plain curious coming to the event for the heck of it.
1300H and I was already at Plaza Miranda, infront of the church and already male devotees, mostly barefoot were assembled, some sitting on the ground, waiting for the moment and others chatted. Suddenly, hands are raised, cheers echoed, some jumping when video cameras zoomed in and their faces, smiles, hands, handkerchiefs and jumps were shown in the wide screen. Chants of “FPJ! FPJ! FPJ!” then errupts and people among the crowd, gamely and sheepishly join. (Note: FPJ is the initials of the Opposition’s presidential bet last May who passed away last month, and is identified with the masses).Time ticked to 1400H and the crowd are already roused. Men are already standing, and some warning others who were wearing shoes to stay away or for women to go to the sides. Whistles are being blown, the announcer at the stage is crying out instructions but already drowned out by the crowds’ shouts, cheers, cries of “lubid, lubid, lubid” (rope) and “viva, viva, viva” and suddenly, the gates of the church are flung wide open and abaca rope stetches out to the people and the devotees fervently grab this.
The small carrozza bearing the 17th century image of the Black Nazarene starts its crawl as male devotees carry it on their shoulders. Firecrackers erupt and smoke spreads, smelling of pulbura. 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 jostle to climb up and touch the Christ.
“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 decades old route, people are now in a chaotic mode. Like a ripple in the water, pushing and shoving starts, emanating from the carrozza 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 are felled to the ground. More shrieks and cries. Some faint, borne out on someone’s shoulders to safety.
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 Maries. Private carrozzas 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.
After an hour or so, 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 that precedes the carrozza. 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.
As the carroza has passed the area I was in, and just like earlier at the plaza, normalcy returned. All is calm again.
This post originally written and posted 9 January 2005 at my other blog.