FROM being cured of diseases to a respite from natural disasters, prayers poured in during Saturday's annual procession of the Black Nazarene in Cagayan de Oro, where police said close to 25,000 devotees showed up.
Norma Baylon, a widow, said she came all the way from the town of Magsaysay in Misamis Oriental to pray for one of her children who has cancer.
"Layo intawon og naabtan, pero nia dire tungod sa pagtoo nga kaluy-an (I've come far enough but I have to be here to seek mercy)," said the 50-year-old Baylon, one of the thousands of devotees who braved the heat and dust to complete the more than four-hour procession.
Another devotee's wish wasn't that personal.
Norman Sahiron, a native of Gingoog City, said he prayed that the region be spared from Mother Nature's wrath, noting that in the last two years, a pendulum of floods and destructive, wind-whipped waves had punished Misamis Oriental and Cagayan de Oro-destroying properties and crops in the process.
"Kung magbaha way trabaho mahimo. Patay ang tanum, ma-ong way makaon (If there's flood you can't do anything. Crops are destroyed and there's nothing to eat)," said the 52-year-old farmer, whose house along the coastal part of Gingoog was also destroyed by big waves last year. Destructive waves are common in Misamis Oriental's coastal area being near the storm belt of the Visayas.
Some devotees interviewed by this paper believe their devotion to the Black Nazarene can rive away bad luck and bring prosperity.
This year's estimated number of devotees has more than doubled compared last year. It remains a far cry from the Quiapo festival, where an estimated two million devotees poured in during Saturday's profession, killing two and injuring five others.
In Cagayan de Oro, where the annual festival is only its second year, police said the procession had been orderly.
"Very orderly and peaceful naman. We thank the devotees for their cooperation," said the newly-installed City Police Director Benedicto Lopez, who personally oversaw the 300-men security detail for the whole procession.
The procession started at the St. Agustine Cathedral at around 4 p.m. and reached its final destination at Nazareno Parish around 7 p.m.
Police and medical volunteers were on sight throughout the procession. As the mass ended, the callejeron-where the replica of the Black Nazarene was placed-was about to be lifted by the Hijos of the Black Nazarene of Cagayan de Oro but they failed: thousands had already converged in every corner of the cathedral.
It took close to an hour for the image to finally move but, soon as it did, there was no stopping it as the police cordoned its perimeter to keep the crowd at bay.
As the Black Nazarene passed the streets, devotees lining the roadsides shouted "Viva Señor Nazareno" and threw confetti.