Sunday, January 11, 2009

Feast of the Black Nazarene

Yes. I was there last Friday. I was amongst the very large group of people in Quiapo, Manila who came to celebrate the Feast of the Black Nazarene. It was my first time, but I think I will find myself again in the same crowd next year. Yes. I’ll be there again next year.

Time Check: 8:30am. I lied. My mom asked me where I was going and I told her I’ll just do some walking outside. But she knows I never walked outside. She then asked me, “Are you really going to Quiapo?” Haha- Told her I was just joking when I told them the other night that I’ll go to Quiapo to witness the Feast of the Black Nazarene. Mom reminded me about last year’s feast...about the few people who died. Haha – told her again, “I am not going there!”

But I did. For a purpose.

Time Check: 10:00am. I reached LRT Carriedo Station. There were a lot of people. Actually, thousands of people wander the street of Carriedo going to Quiapo Church. I was surprised to see all the people, and was even more surprised to see myself amongst the crowd. You’ll never find me in any event like that – be it a political or spiritual thing. I hate going to such places of gathering – I hate the noise and the stink of diverse union of human sweat. It is just too troublesome going to such a very crowded gathering. I began asking myself- “What the hell am I doing here?!? This isn’t me!!!” But I was already there anyway. So why not witness the Feast? I asked the old woman standing beside if she has any idea what time approximately the Black Nazarene will arrive in Quiapo. I was answered – “siguro mga alas-singko ng hapon” (maybe around 5pm.) I stood just under the LRT Carriedo for a few minutes when I realized I didn’t take anything for breakfast. It would be a long wait so I deciced to grab something to eat first. 300 Php was all I have in my coin purse. I intentionally didn’t bring my wallet. In a place like Quiapo with a crowd of thousands of people to celebrate the Feast – you cannot really be safe from the petty thieves lurking around amongst the big number of potential victims. I had two orders of Siomai (Chinese Dimsum) and a glass of Black Gulaman in a nearby Food Stand. Solve – it was enough to keep my stomach calm.

Time Check: 10:45am. I decided to go to Quiapo Church first while I wait for the Black Nazarene. The crowd was even larger in Quiapo Church. One cannot almost move but everything seems ok since no pushing happened during the mass . It took me about half an hour before I was able to get close enough to the gate. The crowd was thick but slowly moved in unison towards the exit after the mass. I went back to Carriedo and glued myself again with the waiting crowd. I stood beside an old man carrying an image of Jesus Christ in the cross and asked him questions like I was a newbie reporter of some big news station. The old man gladly answered my queries and even let me carry the Image of Jesus Christ. I told him it was my first time joining the Feast of the Black Nazarene, and the old man happily answered – “Sana magkita ulit tayo sa susunod the pyesta.” (I hope to see you again next year), and he walked away. It was sad I didn’t even think of getting the old man’s name.

I bought myself a necklace with a wooden pendant of the Black Nazarene. For souvenir – I told myself. Three little girls selling sampaguita approached me when they saw me fishing in my coin purse. “Kuya bili ka na sampaguita- sampung piso lang po.” I said no – but smiling at the little girls. Then one blurted out – “Ay ang ganda naman ng kwintas mo kuya”, so I asked her if she wants one. All the little-sampaguita-girls said “Opo!” So I walked again to the man where I purchased the Necklace of the Black Nazarene and bought three more necklaces and gave them to the sampaguita-girls. The simple words they told me surprised me when I handed them the Necklaces. They said, one by one, “Maraming salamat po kuya!” It hit me. The way they said “Thank you” was so sincere. I felt a slight tremor in my heart – and believe me... I almost wanted to cry. Three little-sampaguita-girls thanked me so sincerely that it made me so happy. I have never heard my entire life...said “thank you” in that most sincere way. I then realized this world would have been a better place if all people know how to say “Thank you” the way the three little-sampaguita-girls did.

Time Check: 12:50pm. I heard that the Black Nazarene was already in front of Manila City Hall. And being the very impatient me, I decided to walk against the procession to get near the Black Nazarene. I started going against the flow...which is very me. It will take few more hours for the Black Nazarene to reach Quiapo from the City Hall and I cannot wait that long. I told myself, “I need to get near the Black Nazarene.” I was walking briskly against the crowd...but the crowd that I was moving against was different from the crowd in Quiapo Church. They aren’t moving in unison now, but randomly. I felt the crowd moving stronger and faster, and before I knew it I was already in the centre of the crowd just a few feet away from the Black Nazarene. We were in front of Park and Ride Terminal in Lawton. It was terribly difficult. It was hard to breathe. I got scared and I wanted to back out. At that moment, I wanted to just disappear instantly. I was asking myself- “Why did I go here?!? Why am I doing this?!?” I tried to move away from the centre... I tried to move away from the Black Nazarene. I was pushing myself against the people walking with their arms locked together. I wanted to get away! But a man asked me- “Lalabas ka ba o papasok pa lang?” I didn’t answer him. I had no time to answer. I told myself there is no turning back. I already reached that far and I am going to do it! And using all the remaining strength that I have (naks!) I pushed myself further inside the crowd until I had the rope in my right hand. Yep! I made it! I couldn’t believe it. And while I was there - holding onto the rope trying not to trip and be pushed away, I silently made my personal prayer. I was able to hold onto the rope for one good minute when I was finally pushed aside. I got two handkerchiefs with me, and instinctively, I threw it to one of the men guarding the Black Nazarene. I don’t know how it happened but when he threw my handkerchiefs back, it really went straight into my hands. Like a sort of mysterious force guided my hankies back to me. It would have been impossible to get my hankies back in a crowd like that but all the towel and hankies being thrown seem to go back to their righteous owners.

When I arrived home, I handed my mom one of my handkerchief. She was surprised. Told her I made it, and she asked me again, "Nagpunta ka ba talaga?", haha. I went straight to my room, silently said a little prayer, and fell asleep completely happy and full of hope.

And you know what they say when you get close enough to the Black Nazarene....more so if you are able to hold onto the rope. I am happy I made it. And hopefully, things will be better for me moving forward.

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