Driven by word of mouth of its miraculous interventions and amplified through mass media, the annual procession of Black Nazarene continues to attract a pious following among Filipino Catholics, an official of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) said Tuesday.
Fr. Jerome Secillano said the popularity of the centuries-old tradition grew over time and saw its attendance balloon to millions because it struck a chord for many Filipinos who say they have personal experiences with the cross-bearing statue of Jesus Christ.
"Ibang deboto kini-claim nila na nakatanggap sila ng mga milagro. Merong gumaling sa sakit. Merong nagkaroon ng trabaho. Merong umunlad ang negosyo. Merong naging maayos ang samahan sa kanilang pamilya," he said in an interview over DZMM.
"Many Filipinos believed itong Itim na Nazareno na kapag dinasalan mo, nakakatanggap sila ng biyaya, nagkakaroon ng milagro sa buhay nila."
The annual event is often derided for its intense display of faith amid injuries and even deaths among devotees in the kilometers-long procession. Secillano, however, was quick to defend the faithful who continue to revere the Black Nazarene.
"Hindi mo masasabing blind followers kasi very personal yung kanilang experience. Kapag tinatanong sila, meron talaga silang binabanggit na milagro. Hindi blind. Naramdaman nila. Naranasan nila mismo," the CBCP official said.
This year's Traslacion was attended by at least 2.5 million devotees and lasted for 22 hours, according to police.
Secillano, who serves as executive secretary of CBCP's Permanent Committee on Public Affairs, said young and old devotees alike endure a frenzied crowd and crammed streets to get near to the sacred image in a desire of good health and better livelihood, among others.
"Sa Traslacion, ang ginagawa ng mga deboto ay makalapit man lang doon sa Nazareno, kumbaga mahalikan nila, mahawakan ang lubid...'Yung lubid na yun, associated sa Poong Nazareno. Pati 'yung panyo ng mga deboto, kapag tinatapon nila, ipinupunas doon mismo sa imahen, there is a so-called association with something that is divine. 'Yun ang paniniwala nila," he said.
Though the Church has not reportedly launched a formal investigation into these supposed miraculous interventions of the Black Nazarene, Secillano said many devotees continue to profess to the public and pass down stories that it holds divine power.
Echoing the appeal of Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, he said devotion shouldn't only end after the Traslacion and instead urged the faithful to nurture a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ.
"Susundan natin si Hesus. Embrace natin si Hesus. Hindi lang ngayong Jan. 9, kundi all throughout," Secillano said.