Traslacion canceled — again!
Since a few days ago, I started receiving messages from friends in high places and from ordinary folk, near and far, through my socmed platforms, bearing one particular question. And the question is this: Why did God allow the cancellation of translacion of the Black Nazarene or Poong Nazareno for two years in a row?
Roads around Quiapo Church are closed as NCR was placed under alert level 3 due to the threat posed by the highly transmissible Omicron variant. Through a pastoral letter, Manila Archbishop Jose Cardinal Advincula made an attempt to reach out to the devotees of the Black Nazarene as he personally asked for their understanding, following Manila Mayor Isko Moreno’s announcement of the cancelation of all activities for the feast of the Black Nazarene, including physical Masses and the traslacion.
January is the most anticipated month for devotees who come in millions, rain or shine. In normal times, devotees from everywhere would create a sea of humanity, believing in their hearts that the miraculous Black Nazarene would protect them from harm and illness. In 2021, we felt sadness and, this year, we see again the debris of spiritual wreckage scattered across the land.
The Pinoy-style devotion to Poong Nazareno is uniquely physical. To get nearest to the carosa and hold the rope or touch the Miraculous Image, if lucky, means heaven and earth to the devotee. They trust that the white cloth could “rub off” the miraculous power from the statue to them and, voilà, a healing of mind and body and family relations would happen.
Overall, the pandemic subdues the 500 YOC events. Not just the 2021 and 2022 Traslacion were canceled, but other festivals of fluvial parade, processions, and street dancings related to age-old Filipino Christian tradition. Local governments in the Visayas have decided to simplify the religious activities due to the pandemic, as the provinces continue to recover from the devastation wrought by Typhoon Odette. Instead, online novena Masses are held to celebrate the festivals. In Cebu, a motorcade procession bearing the image of the Sto. Nino is the first to cross the new third bridge or the Cebu-Cordova Link Expressway, but without the warm-body congregation.
The pandemic, though temporary, wrought a whirlwind of alterations that affected us in the most despicable manner. The persistently tenacious natural disasters such as a series of super-typhoons, earthquakes, and volcano eruptions did not challenge our Faith as much as how Covid-19 and its new variants did in 2020, 2o21, and 2022. The pandemic was unpleasantly different, cold, and unkind. We recall that only the Philippine Revolution in 1897 and the Japanese invasion in 1942 had ever stopped the annual Traslacion of the Poong Nazareno since its genesis 415 years ago.
In the new millennium, the COVID pandemic – with its variants, Delta and Omicron – is reckoned as the blackest, vilest, and the most brutal health crisis that came directly out of Hell. It provokes either cowardice or heroism, either silence of the worst type or self-giving, either ego-centrism or socio-centrism, either a “me-first” survival instinct of greedy businessmen and government-sponsored “plundemic” or a sacrifice of the highest level on the part of our heroic front liners.
At the end December, Omicron canceled more than 6,000 lights, confused airline passengers in many cities, and deprived hundreds of thousands of global citizens of fun, bonding, and reunions during the 2021 Christmas Holidays. Why? It must be the same reason why mosques around the world wereclosed for prayer during the 2020 and 2021 Ramadan, the holiest month of the year for Muslims. And the same reason why the Tokyo Olympics, supposedly the zenith of all leading international sporting events, originally dedicated to Zeus, the mighty ruler of all the gods of Mount Olympus, was held in 2021 without fans, without noise, and without cheering.
The only explanation is to save lives, which is the ultimate measurement of heroism, patriotism, and true Christian devotion.
Jose Mario Bautista Maximiano (facebook.com/josemario.maximiano) is the author of MCMLXXII: 500-Taong Kristiyano, Volume Two (2021) and 24 PLUS CONTEMPORARY PEOPLE: God Writing Straight with Twists and Turns (Claretian, 2019).