WHILE thousands of devotees stood with their feet to line up for this year’s Pagpupugay and join the Walk of Faith procession, Gerald Jaime of Navotas City stood with his pair of crutches to walk his faith on Sunday, January 8.
Jaime was among the 20,895 devotees who endured the long lanes to touch and wipe the image of the Black Nazarene on the first day of Pagpupugay. He was also one of the 88,000 faithful who joined the Walk of Faith procession from Quirino Grandstand to Quiapo Church.
He started lining up for the Pagpupugay at 6 p.m., and luckily, persons with disabilities have separate lanes as they pay their respect to the image.
According to Nazareno 2023 adviser Alex Irasga, the Pagpupugay and Walk of Faith replaced the customary Pahalik (kissing of the image of the Black Nazarene) and Traslación (solemn transfer of the Black Nazarene image) as a way to curb the spread of COVID-19 infections during the religious activities intended for the feast.
This is also the first time after three years that the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene is holding a procession for the image.
Jaime, barefooted and with only a bag of food given by concerned devotees, braved the streets of the metro with his pair of crutches as he traveled alone from Navotas City to Quirino Grandstand to fulfill his yearly panata (religious vow) to the Black Nazarene.
“I am not afraid to walk [with crutches] because I know He (Black Nazarene) is with me,” Jaime told republicasia in Filipino.
“I vow to walk as a sacrifice because [with the celebration of Black Nazarene,] the world is part of His miracles, the Black Nazarene will save us,” he said.
Jaime has been a devotee of the Black Nazarene for 30 years now. Every year, he persistently attends all the religious events for the Black Nazarene, even without footwear to protect his feet from the scorching heat of the sun during the traditional procession.
According to Jaime, his disability never hindered him from following his annual panata despite his family being unsupportive of his devotion.
“My disability is not an obstacle for me to pay tribute even if my family is not in favor [of me going to Traslación],” he said.
He added that despite the restrictions brought upon by the COVID-19 pandemic, it did not stop him from giving his deference to the image.
Jaime also showed a personalized Black Nazarene headdress that his friend had crafted for him. The headdress, which means “pagpapatuloy” (continuity) is the symbol of his undying faith in the image.
“The Nazarene is there for us, so just go on [in life],” he said.
The hat was made of recycled wood cabinet and was shown to be a replica of the Black Nazarene’s andas (carrier). It also has two rosaries wrapped around the andas with the Catholic Church’s two significant colors: yellow, which symbolizes faith and glory, and violet, for penance, preparation, and sacrifice.
Jaime is also fasting for three weeks in preparation for the feast of the Black Nazarene, which he calls his “promise” to the kneeling Jesus Christ.
When asked about his prayers to the image during the pagpupugay, he said, “I pray for the whole world to be saved; I have no more prayers for myself,” said Jaime.
“I pray to the Nazarene: Father, get rid of this COVID.”
At a young age, Jaime suffered from Polio, which left him having a flail right foot and speech problems.
There were times that Jaime thought of giving up since he’s struggling with his disability and the people that cared for him perished in just one year.
Jaime’s younger sister died from lung problems, his grandmother died from tract infections, and his mother from heart complications.
“When they died, I told myself: I want to give up because I lost three [loved ones in one year]; but every time I think of ending things, they always tell me not to lose hope because the Nazarene is there for me,” he said.
With his faith in the Black Nazarene and the untimely passing of his loved ones, Jaime said he remains uncertain whether he is going to heaven or hell when he dies. But he will keep his passion and panata to the Black Nazarene until he can in order to walk his faith – even if he only has his crutches to profess his devotion to the world.
Banner Photo: Jericho Zafra