History and Culture

Black and White: Two Colors of the Nazareno in the Philippines

Metro Manila

Choose Philippines
Choose Philippines | Jan 08, 2016
Black and White: Two Colors of the Nazareno in the Philippines

Every January 9, one of Manila's oldest and historical districts—Quiapo—is jampacked with millions of people from all over the country (and, maybe, even abroad). They are the Black Nazarene devotees who accompany the iconic life-size statue as it makes its way from the Quirino Grandstand in Luneta and back to Quiapo Church on the day of the Traslacion. Also known in Spanish as Nuestro Padre Jesus Nazareno, the image is a representation of Jesus Christ's passion and suffering on his way to Mount Calvary.

The statue was created and painted by an unidentified Mexican artist. It came from Acapulco, Mexico along with another statue and was brought to the Philippines on May 31, 1606. It was a gift from the Recollect priests to the Quiapo Church and has been kept in the Minor Basilica since 1787.

(Photo from dzmm.abs-cbnnews.com, January 2015.)

Folk legend has it that the statue was originally of fair complexion. It only turned dark after the ship carrying it from Mexico caught fire and the statue was charred. Another story claims that it was the Mexican artist's prerogative to paint the Jesus Christ image as a mulatto. It only grew darker when it arrived in the Philippines.

The Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) in Naawan, Misamis Oriental, however, has a Nazarene of white color as a replica. 

(Photo from Roxanne Roble Arevalo, ABS-CBN Regional, January 2015.)

IFI is the official Spanish name of the "Philippine Independent Church," which is also known as the "Aglipayan Church" after its founder and first Supreme Bishop Gregorio Aglipay. It was formed as part of a nationalist struggle against Spanish colonialism and American imperialism in the beginning of the 20th century. The separation from the Roman Church was brought about by the racial discrimination and friar domination at the time.

(Photo from Roxanne Roble Arevalo, ABS-CBN Regional, January 2015.)

It can be presumed that having the White Nazarene, instead of a black one, is part of their continuous fight against this discrimination. 

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View Related Articles:
1) Then and Now: Quiapo Church Through the Years
Calesas around Quiapo Church, 1900s
(Photo from corregidor.org, Corregidor Historic Society)
2) Manila's Old District: How Well Do You Know Quiapo?
Plaza Miranda
(Photo from Wikipedia)
3) Manila's Biggest Religious Festival: Schedule and Route of Traslacion 2016
(Photo by Jonathan Cellona via news.abs-cbn.com.)


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