Yesterday was January 9. Yesterday, in Manila was the festival of The Black Nazarene. The Black Nazarene is a statue of Jesus, kneeling with the cross on his back with Jesus depicted as a black man. You can see the whole festival here.
The video was taken last year but yesterday's affair was no different. Yesterday 2.5 million Filipinos went on pilgrimage to where this statue of Jesus is paraded, in the RC Church of Quiapo, Manila. Yesterday 2 people died. Considering there were 2.5M people who came, forgive me for saying, this was not a bad turn of events, many more could have died!
Why do people go to this festival, risking their lives, even though one can see The Black Nazarene everyday in the Church of Quiapo, any time? Well, they believe that it has to be on this festival day (and mind you not on another day) for this is the day of honoring The Black Nazarene, that is its anniversary. Thus, if you want a blessing, you must turn up on that day at the Quiapo (RC) church, then you can hope for blessings or graces from Jesus to happen. These might be healing of the body or the realization of some private wishes or dreams, perhaps a good year of prosperity or so etc etc. The people believe that by just being able to look at the face of The Black Nazarene as it is paraded will get them blessings from Jesus. Even better if one gets to touch the carriage or even touch the statue itself, that will really ensure graces or favor from Jesus. Some can not get any nearer, so, as an act of faith, they throw their towels to the carriage in the hope that it might reach and gets to touch the statue itself. That will give them comfort that what is required for a blessing has been met.
It does happen as some testify of healing and good fortune. Even the Vice-President of the country goes to this festival because for the last decades (I think I heard from the news he has been going since 1989) now, he has received good turn of events or good outcomes for his life. I think it goes like this: you make a vow to The Black Nazarene (turn up for the anniversary) and in return you can expect a blessing.
Already, today in Manila, devotees are ensuring that the festival will continued in the next generation. Today boys as young as age 3 are now being trained to make vows and be a devotee of The Black Nazarene.
This is theology in practice... from the ground.