CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/10 Jan.) — Thousands of devotees joined the Black Nazarene procession that snaked around major streets in Cagayan de Oro City late Thursday afternoon, marking the growth of the annual feast as a major religious event in the region.
Hundreds of policemen formed a tight ring around the Black Nazarene and the yellow-clad barefoot marshals separating the thousands of devotees who followed the procession.
Chief Inspector Lemuel Gonda, operations chief of the Cagayan de Oro police said more than 10,000 people joined at the start of the procession, but the crowd grew as it passed the streets leading to the Nazareno parish, its destination.
“The crowd just grew bigger especially after the offices closed at around 5pm. This religious event is getting bigger and bigger every year,” Gonda said.
The Black Nazarene procession started in Cagayan de Oro only in 2009 after the Quiapo church gave the Nazareno parish here a replica of the icon.
Though the marshals who guard the statue also wear yellow and go barefoot like their counterparts in Quiapo, the Black Nazarene procession in the city is a much tamer version of that in Quiapo.
Local devotees yell “Viva Nazareno” and wave white and maroon handkerchiefs and towels to honor the replica of the centuries-old statue of a suffering Christ.
But the conduct of the procession is not unruly, as the Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro frowns on fanaticism.
“Our devotion to the Black Nazarene should start with the atonement of our sins,” Monsignor Elmer Abacahin of the Cagayan de Oro archdiocese said.
But the story of the Black Nazarene in Cagayan de Oro would not have happened if church officials in the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo did not overturn its earlier decision not to give a replica.
Monsignor Rey Manuel Monsanto said Quiapo church officials agreed to give a replica of the Black Nazarene to the Nazareno parish in Cagayan de Oro in 2008.
Monsanto said the church officials earlier told them they will give the replica to the Nazareno parish, where he was the parish priest at that time.
He said earlier his parish asked the Quiapo church if they had spare vestments since they have the same patron saint, the Black Nazarene.
“First, the church officials said they would donate some vestments to us. Then they added that they would also give us the replica,” he added.
An elated Monsanto announced it during the Christmas Mass at the Nazareno parish on Dec. 16, 2008.
But Quiapo church officials later rescinded their offer to donate the replica in a text message two days after, he said.
He said his parishioners were taken aback but accepted the news that they would not be having the religious icon.
But before the week ended, Monsanto said he received another text message from Monsignor Jose Clemente of the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene that they will proceed with the donation.
“For me, it was a miracle. For us to have the replica without incurring any expenses was a miracle. The flurry of text messages was just so intense,” he said.
Monsanto said a year after he asked some Quiapo church officials why they overturned their decision.
“They told me that they were not able to sleep at night. It was as if the Black Nazarene really wanted to come here in Mindanao,” he said.
The replica of the Black Nazarene arrived here in January 2009 aboard a Philippine Air Force C130 plane just in time for the procession.
The religious icon was first housed at the St. Augustine Cathedral in Cagayan de Oro and in a procession, transferred to the Nazareno church in Barangay Lapasan.
“What thousands of devotees in Manila do not know is the religious icon they revere, is not the real replica of the Black Nazarene. The real ‘callejeron’ is in the Nazareno parish,” Monsanto said.
The life-sized, dark-skinned wooden sculpture of the Black Nazarene is held to be miraculous by thousands of Filipino devotees in this prominently Catholic country in Asia. (Froilan Gallardo/MindaNews)