Many devotees of the Black Nazarene believe the statue holds miraculous healing powers, but for 54-year-old Mario Francisco, the most rewarding part of joining the annual Traslacion is its own way of building stronger family connections.
While he is aware that the long procession is sacrificial, for him, joining the Traslacion is worthy because it brings his family and neighbors closer.
"It's not about asking more miracles, but it's more on thanking the Black Nazarene for giving us a durable family connection, good health, and stable life. For me, that's already a miracle," he said.
Aside from the deep religious devotion, Francisco said devotees must learn not only to ask for miracles but also to be thankful to the Black Nazarene for reflecting admirable faith to God, which he said serves as an inspiration to everyone.
Francisco is one of the millions of devotees risking life and limb for the privilege of pulling the ropes that moved the Black Nazarene's carriage forward during the Traslacion procession.
Meanwhile, six years after she started her devotion to the Black Nazarene, 51-year-old Agnes Lawag from Bacoor, Cavite said her fervor to the Traslacion brought her closer to God.
Lawag said she was not a spiritual person and just "merely believed" in a Higher Being.
But when she was introduced to the Black Nazarene, she said it seemed that her devotion directed her back to God.
"I have seven children, two of them died. One had just died two months ago, the other one was four years ago. This Traslacion, I pray for the souls of my children. I know Black Nazarene will help me and my children," she said.
She said her devotion helped her to be patient and more tolerant of life's challenges.
"It's an extraordinary feeling; it seems that the Black Nazarene eases my pain. Every time I feel bad, I pray to him and it seems like he miraculously takes away those bad feelings," she said.
She said God never gives challenges that people cannot surpass, adding that "with all these trials, the Black Nazarene wouldn't let me get stuck in this sad situation, he will lift me up."
Her devotion encourages her to trust God's plan.
"I think the Black Nazarene helped me mediate directly to God and access His divine help," she said.
Meanwhile, 23-year-old Jessie Dayag from Isabella, Cagayan Valley, with her mother-in-law and her one-year-old son, joined the Traslacion for the first time.
She heard about the Black Nazarene based on what she saw in news reports, and since the Traslacion is being broadcast on TV annually, she learned about the healing powers brought by the religious icon.
"I would like to experience the miracles of Traslacion. Since we already have started it, we will continue this devotion," she said.
"I believe Lord is a healer, I wish for the safety of my husband who is a policeman and good health for my family. This may be the first time but we will pursue our devotion for the next Traslacion," she added.
This year's Traslacion is a nine-day activity-filled celebration that began on January 1 and will culminate on January 9.
The procession commemorates the arrival of the image of the Black Nazarene at the Saint John the Baptist Church in Quiapo in 1767.
The famous church, known for the miraculous black image of the genuflecting Christ with the cross on his shoulder, had gained popular devotion throughout the archipelago.
Source: Philippines News Agency