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.
“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.
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.
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.
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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