Black Nazarene ‘escort’ killed near his ‘Señor’
MANILA, Philippines—A deluge of faith tainted by a fatality.
A man counted among the “official escorts” of the Black Nazarene of Quiapo died while participating in the mammoth procession of the iconic image on Friday, his body crushed by the relentless wave of bodies pressing against the carriage that paraded the statue in central Manila.
Renato Gurion, 44, a member of a parish-backed group of devotees known Hijos del Nuestro Padre Jesus Nazareno, was one of those assigned to ride the andas and help others climb over to touch or dab towels on the 17th century image held by many to be miraculous.
Doctors at the Manila Doctors’ Hospital pronounced Gurion dead at 8:50 a.m., 20 minutes after he was rushed there. The cause of death was cardiac arrest, according to the Manila Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office.
Members of the Hijos del Nazareno believe it was the first time in the 400-year-old history of the procession also known as the “traslacion” that one of their members lost his life while performing his duty for their Señor Nazareno.
The procession was just less than hour old when tragedy struck.
“It happened around 8 a.m., when the andas (carriage) had just moved five meters away from the stage (of the Quirino Grandstand),” said Adam Rich Sanding, an Hijos member who was beside Gurion at the time.
“There was a sudden rush of devotees wanting to climb over and it overwhelmed him (Gurion). He lost his balance while on the andas and got crushed by the sheer weight of the people,” Sanding said, adding that he was nearly trampled on as well.
“I also fell but managed to get up at once. But we had difficulty getting Gurion up again. It took us 15 minutes, and by the time we got firm hold of him he was already turning blue.”
Emergency medics tried to revive Gurion before sending him to the hospital, but to no avail.
“In all the years the traslacion has been staged, this is the first time a member of the Hijos has been killed,” Sanding said.
Every procession—dismissed by critics as a superficial form of Catholic devotion bordering on idolatry—leaves hundreds injured or unconscious. The last time the traslacion turned fatal was 2010, when three devotees perished.
According to his colleagues, Gurion was already a longtime Nazarene devotee before he was formally made an Hijos member five years ago.
Sanding noted that Gurion appeared fit as he had regularly joined long-distance running events. However, Gurion once told him that underwent angioplasty long ago, he added.
He added that the incident could have been avoided if only the devotees, especially those new to the ways of the traslacion, showed more order and restraint.
“There’s a practice called pagpipingga, which is a gradual way to get to the andas,” Sanding said. “But devotees today don’t mind stepping on other people just to reach it.”
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