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Millions swarm Black Jesus statue in the Philippines in one of the world’s largest displays of religious devotion

As the Black Nazarene or Black Jesus of Nazareth made its way through the parade route, the crowd swelled into the millions, in what has been called by some news outlets as one of the world’s biggest displays of religious devotion.

  • 4 months ago
  • February 9, 2024
5 min read
Followers of the Black Nazarene or Black Jesus in the Philippines desperately try to touch the shelter carrying the statue amidst the crowd of millions of devotees. | Photo courtesy George Buid Followers of the Black Nazarene or Black Jesus in the Philippines desperately try to touch the shelter carrying the statue amidst the crowd of millions of devotees. | Photo courtesy George Buid
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MANILA, Philippines ꟷ Today’s photo gallery comes from George Buid. Buid works as an independent journalist and photographer from the Philippines. He focuses on capturing stories of everyday individuals, communities, and culture. This gallery features the Black Nazarene Procession on January 9, 2024, in Manila. Typically, the parade runs annually but went dormant during the COVID-19 Pandemic. The parade’s emergence this year attracted millions. Devotees of the Black Nazarene arrived with zeal, eager to touch or get near Black Jesus.

At about 4:45 am, the Black Nazarene began the “Holy Transfer,” moving through the capital of the Philippines from the church of St. Nicola da Tolentino to the parish of Quiapo. In the first two hours, thousands of devotees lined up to look upon the statue or attempt to touch the rope or the minor basilica housing it. Followers of the Black Nazarene believe doing so brings miracles and prosperity.

As the Black Nazarene or Black Jesus of Nazareth made its way through the parade route, the crowd swelled into the millions. Some news outlets called the event one of the world’s biggest displays of religious devotion. The Philippines Statistics Authority 2023 report states that nearly four-fifths or 78.8 percent of Filipinos identify as Roman Catholic.

According to Fr. Hans Magdurulang, spokesperson for the 2024 edition of the Black Nazarene, many of the attendees arrive barefoot to display their piety and zeal for their faith. According to historical records, a Spanish Augustinian priest brough the statue of Black Jesus to the Philippines in 1607 on a ship from Mexico. Historians say the boat caught fire, but the icon miraculously survived, turning the statue black. The procession commemorates the first transfer of the statue on January 9, 1767.

Crowd pushes to touch the statue of the Black Nazarene

As the crowd grew, people began to push in to touch the basilica and climb on it, leading to tousles between attendees and also with authorities on scene. Some news reports indicated that guards of the float had to push some unruly devotees to the ground to protect the glass encasement.

At one point, the rope attached to the basilica broke. This, and the frenzy to touch Black Jesus, led to numerous injuries through the day. Paramedics on scene rushed some attendees out for medical attention. Yet, the flock remained undeterred as the procession moved through the seven-kilometer march.

Exhausted followers lay on the ground for rest throughout the day. First aid stations located along the route offered some relief. Meanwhile, members of the coastguard stood near the Pasig River and the Quezon Bridge to monitor activities there.

Devoted followers traverse route for 16 hours into the night

Reports varied on the number of attendees. An estimated two million people joined the procession according to the Vatican. Meanwhile, CNN reported a final tally of six million attendees. Church officials said that due to the massive crowd, it took 15 hours for the basilica to travel the total route.

Women, children, and others carried representative images of Black Jesus with them as a symbol of their faith. The original life-size statue remains at the National Shrine at Quiapo Church and they use a replica in the parade. The parish owns four life-size replicas. People sell smaller statues in the streets around the church.

As the sun set, the crowd continued to follow the Black Nazarene through the streets of Manila to its final destination.

All photos courtesy of George Buid.

Read more stories from the Philippines at Orato World.

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