RAIN was pouring sporadically as devotees of the Black Nazarene began gathering inside the Pelaez Sports Center.
It was 3 a.m. and in the dark and cold and damp, a sea of umbrellas and jackets, thousands strong, could be seen silently and patiently waiting for the commencement of the procession.
In this early hour of January 9, people from various parts of Mindanao and from other parts of the country gather to take part in the yearly reenactment of the transfer of the Black Nazarene from Pelaez Sports Center to the Jesus Nazareno Church.
The transfer or “Traslacion” mimics the yearly procession of the Black Nazarene from Luneta to the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene or Quiapo Church.
This year, some 20,000 devotees clad in the iconic yellow and maroon colors of the Black Nazarene marched with the replica singing Nuestro Padre Jesús Nazareno, the official anthem of devotion to honor the statue.
The procession started at around 4:30 a.m. with an army of devotees carrying the statue of the dark-skinned, Jesus Christ carrying the Cross along Velez Street, Julio-Pacana Street, Gaabucayan Street, Agora, Valenzuela road, and C.M. Recto Avenue.
The original Black Nazarene statue, depicting Jesus on the route to His crucifixion, was believed to have come to the Philippines in 1606 from Mexico.
The ship carrying the statue, however, burned with all hands before arriving in the Philippines.
The statue survived but was blackened by the fire.
Filipino Catholics ever since believed the statue to be miraculous and most devotees testify that touching the statue could cure any ailment.
Cagayan de Oro is one of the only cities outside Manila to be permitted by the Quiapo church to hold the Traslacion procession.
The left hand of the city's replica which is housed at the Jesus Nazareno Shrine was taken from the original Black Nazarene statue in Quiapo church.
This year’s Traslacion lasted three hours with the devotees, the clergy, and the police all braving the rain along the city streets. The statue was pushed by the so-called “Hijos and Hijas de Cagayan,” the volunteer group tasked to supervise and organize the procession.
Aside from Cagayan de Oro City devotees, this year had devotees coming from neighboring cities and provinces such as Iligan City, Bukidnon, Davao, Butuan, and Zamboanga.
One of these devotees was 41-year-old Ella Eunice Salinas who traveled from Butuan City with her husband and three children.
Like fellow devotees, Salinas believed in the power of the Black Nazarene and experienced its miracle herself. She said she owes her health and the happiness of her family to the Black Nazarene whose power cured her husband years ago.
“My husband and I started our family early. I gave birth to my first child at the age of 23 while my husband was 30. In the year 1995, I gave up my career to look after my first child and anticipate the coming of our second child. Marco, my husband, was then working at a bakery to provide for us,” Salinas narrated.
Salinas said her husband was in an accident after one of the ovens malfunctioned. At that time, Salinas said she could not even see the hospital hallways as she made her way to his room because of the tears in her eyes. When she saw her husband, he was unconscious in one of the hospital rooms and as she inspected further, she saw that his arms were badly burned from the hands to the upper arms.
“I was very scared. At that time, the doctors said that he would certainly survive but then he might lose the use of both his arms. I was young and we had no savings and I was pregnant and we also have a young daughter. All I could do was cry because of the burden of the situation and hope that a miracle would fall to my family,” Salinas said.
Days after the tragedy, her mother gave her a miniature statue of the Black Nazarene which an aunt brought from the Traslacion in Quiapo that year. She placed this at the bedside of her husband and prayed to it everyday. Salinas said a week after that, her husband was able to leave the hospital. She said that while the damage done to his arms were serious, her husband did not lose use of his arms.
After that, Salinas said aside from her husband being able to get work again, they were able to save enough to open their own bakery and sari-sari store.
Five years after the tragic incident, Salinas and her husband went to Quiapo for the Traslacion to honor the miracle that was given them.
“We want to also bring our children to the procession and teach them the devotion to the Black Nazarene,” she said.
“My husband did not expect he would still be able to use his arms. But when they removed the bandages, they were good. I could not explain the happiness and relief that I felt that time. And whether it was my husband's determination to heal or a miracle by the Nazarene on his bedside, I owe it all to the Black Nazarene,” Salinas said.
Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on January 10, 2017.