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POV: A “Pahalik sa Nazareno” experience

by Bryan Gadingan

A MAGNIFICENT religious celebration or sometimes called a phenomenon by many, the “Pahalik sa Nazareno” takes place annually in the heart of the Philippines, attracting millions of devoted Catholics to the streets of Manila. 

The devotion of the Black Nazarene, a dark-colored statue of Jesus Christ carrying the Cross with a long religious history, is central to this practice. And we, at republicasia are one with the Catholic faith for the #RepublicAsiaTraslacion2024. 

Photo Courtesy: republicasia

The act of kissing the beloved image, known as “Pahalik sa Nazareno,” expresses faith, devotion, and a strong connection between the faithful and the almighty.

With the traslacion returning to its tradition after a three-year sabbatical, and will be taking on the bustling streets of Manila alongside its millions of supporters. 

Like the thousands that braved the early morning or the sweltering heat, I took advantage of the opportunity to be one with the devotees and have a solemn experience of a lifetime.

A “Pahalik sa Nazareno” Experience 

At 4:30 a.m., I arrived at the LRT UN station in Kalaw, Taft. From there, I went straight to the Quirino Grandstand, where “Pahalik” was being hosted from January 6 to the 8th (today).

There were no queues before entering the Quirino Grandstand when I arrived after an estimated 10-minute walk, depending on your pace.

Photo Courtesy: republicasia

From then on, I was instructed to proceed directly to the grandstand in order to finally touch the revered image of the Black Nazarene. People from all walks of life and from generations before me were in line and passed by me, as I approached the image.

Before proceeding to the platform where the image is displayed, I was allowed to stroll by a sampaguita vendor who informed me that he had been there since 7 p.m. yesterday (Jan. 7), considering the large number of devotees expected to attend. 

As I approached the figure, I noticed a large number of police officers stationed at the lengthy barricades located throughout the Quirino Grandstand to safeguard the security of the believers.

Photo Courtesy: republicasia

I finally arrived at the Black Nazarene figure. Only the foot and the cross are available to be touched, therefore there is only a tiny window of time and space to do so. 

This year, the public is not permitted to kiss the statue, as part of health preventive measures.

Photo Courtesy: republicasia

It does give you a sense of relief after doing so. A sense of relief that all the loads you are carrying have been lifted from you, provided that it offers you the awareness that you have the divine guiding you as you travel.

At 6:18AM, the lines from the line I was on earlier are starting to get a little longer, as people are still attempting to catch up as today is the last day of the “Pahalik.”

A Conversation with the Devotees

Aside from touching the revered image of the Black Nazarene, I was able to engage in brief but substantial discussions with the devotees I met.

Evelyn Mendoza, a 68-year-old single mother of more than 30 years, has been a regular devotee at the “Pahalik” for over 20 

Photo Courtesy: republicasia

This, however, is a one-of-a-kind experience given that she celebrates her birthday on January 8, the same day as the “Pahalik” is held each year.

“Tuwing birthday ko yan, January 8, pa-birthday ko sa sarili ko. Taon-taon ‘yan walang paltos,” she said enthusiastically as she celebrated her birthday.

Given that she has been a single parent for nearly half of her life, she noted that her prayer revolves completely around the protection, health, and peace of mind of her and her family.

“As a single mom, ‘yung peace of mind, small and big nandyan lang siya. Never namin naranasan ‘yung maghirap, hindi ko naranasan ‘yung hirap na hirap na walang makain,” she explained.

Meanwhile, Romero and Miguela Ramos, 62 and 68, who have been married for nearly 50 years, have no other wish than to live a longer life together.

Photo Courtesy: republicasia

“Ang panalangin po namin diyan taon-taon ay mabigyan kami ng mahabang buhay at maayos na kalusugan, ligtas ang aking pamilya sa lahat ng travel na ginagawa namin sa buong isang taon,” the man said.

Every year, Romero and Miguela commemorate the feast of the Black Nazarene together. However, the husband has been a devotee since he was a 17-year-old youngster. 

“Nag-umpisa po akong magpasan diyan 17 years old ako. Kaya lang ngayon nagpo-prosisyon nalang ako, hindi ko na siya (Wife) sinasama kasi maraming tao,” he explained.

“Hindi natin maiiwasan magkaroon ng gulo, magkasiksikan, at magkatapakan. Ako kaya ko, pero siya hindi,” he added, explaining why he chooses to go along with the parade alone.

Photo Courtesy: republicasia

With the testimonials from all the devotees and my personal experience attending the “Pahalik,” it is clear that everyone has their own belief and treasures it above everything else.

The Pahalik sa Nazareno is a moving monument to the Filipino people’s unwavering faith. A ritual that transcends religious practice and has become a cultural phenomenon that connects millions in a common display of devotion. 

Kissing the Black Nazarene is a poignant reminder of the deep ties between the divine and humanity, as well as the enduring strength that faith brings in the face of adversity.

I for one am moved not just by the event, but the unwavering faith of every Filipino proves that we are all equal in the eyes of God, be it from generations before us, after us, no matter what class you are in. #RepublicAsiaTraslacion2024 



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