Every year, it’s the same. The Feast of the Black Nazarene comes up and the City of Manila is thrown into a tizzy. Government offices in the immediate vicinity of the observance’s epicentre – Quiapo – are shut down, traffic is re-routed, and the number of police officers assigned to the area go up.

More recently, there have been persistent talk of ‘signal jammers’ being deployed – a direct response to the fact that improvised explosive devices can be triggered via a mobile phone. And of course, the fuss has spilled over onto social media where people mostly slam the yearly observance and deride the devotees as ‘obsessed, fanatical cultists.’

And yet, every year, the crowds come, not really caring what they’re called; secure in their self-identification as debate deboto or devotee. This pisses social media off more, I suspect, than the inconvenience caused by the observance to begin with.

Pope Innocent X approved veneration of the statue in 1650 as a sacramental, and authorised the establishment of the Confraternity of the Most Holy Jesus Nazarene (Spanish: Cofradía de Nuestro Santo Jesús Nazareno). Pope Pius VII gave the statue his Apostolic Blessing in 1880, which granted plenary indulgence to those who piously pray before it.” – Wikipedia

Clearly, the Traslacion is a hold-out religious tradition rooted in a religion that, despite being observed more in the breach, remains very much alive in the country. It is also one that has taken a toll in human lives. I believe it was last year when a man suffered a heart attack while riding the Black Nazarene’s carriage, literally dying in full view of a live nationwide television audience that had no idea what was happening. And then, of course, there’s also the modern cost in lost productivity, and the very real danger of the observance being a particularly tantalising target for terrorism.

Given all these factors, should the Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines take the lead in reforming the Traslacion?

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