Traslacion message: Stop the killings
Thousands of people joined Monday’s Traslacion, or Procession, of the Black Nazarene in Manila with the hope that their devotion to the image of the cross-bearing Christ would put an end to vigilante killings in the country and cure loved ones of ailments.
Some wore T-shirts printed with God’s Fifth Commandment—“Thou shall not kill.”
Diether Edralin, 16, said the message was addressed to President Rodrigo Duterte “so that the killings would stop.”
More than 6,000 people have been killed since the Duterte administration launched its war on illegal drugs six months ago.
For this year’s celebration of the Feast of the Black Nazarene, Edralin of Pasay City’s Salud chapter said his group leader thought of coming up with the T-shirts on Jan. 2.
About 30 chapter members, many of whom have relatives who were killed recently, joined the procession, according to Edralin.
“They will say, ‘nanlaban, nanlaban.’ Do you believe that?” he asked sarcastically while eating corn on the sidewalk, referring to police claims that suspects had fought back and thus had to be shot dead.
“We think they’re innocent. Even our barangay chair, who was kind to me, was shot dead,” he said.
Edralin identified the barangay chief as Alberto Arguelles, 48, of Barangay 4, Zone 2. Arguelles was shot dead on E. Rodriguez Street in July by motorcycle-riding men who left a placard calling him a drug peddler.
The reason Edralin joined the procession, however, was not political. He said the image was miraculous and he wanted miracles for his family.
“I want good health for them and I wish I could finish my studies because we are poor and we don’t have much money,” he said.
Many Filipinos believe touching or getting close to the life-sized statue, which was brought to the Philippines in the early 1600s when the nation was a Spanish colony, can lead to the healing of otherwise incurable ailments and other good fortune.
Aside from Edralin, Quiapo Church’s “alagad” (watchmen) Norberto Pajarillo and Delpan’s Elmer Cruz also wore T-shirts with the same commandment written on the back, close to the hemline.
Pajarillo said this was in line with the Church’s recent stand on national issues. “Last year, we wore T-shirts with the commandment, ‘Thou shall not steal,’” he said.
Like other watchmen, Pajarillo, 70, has been tasked with ensuring the “safety” of the Black Nazarene image.
Cruz said group members wore the T-shirts in line with Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle’s admonition against killing someone.
“Look at what’s happening now,” Cruz explained what Tagle’s message meant to him. “The cardinal wants the beloved President to correct what’s happening right now because there’s a lot of [killings].”
At the midnight Mass on Sunday at Quirino Grandstand, Tagle advised devotees against being judgmental of others.
The reminder came as Filipinos have become more divided, particularly the supporters of Mr. Duterte and his critics.
He said that to genuinely unite a divided country, one must learn to love truly by not being judgmental of others and by doing good to others.
Melissa Abuedo, 30, joined for the first time the procession, praying that the image of the Black Nazarene would relieve her of the cough and flu she have been enduring for weeks.
The barefoot Abuedo said she felt better after she was able to grasp the rope attached to the Black Nazarene’s carriage.
The statue is called the Black Nazarene because of its charred color, believed to have been caused by a fire on a ship while the image was being brought to the Philippines from Mexico.
Replica crosses and other icons followed the cross carriage six abreast, borne on the back of trucks, atop pedicabs and manually drawn carriages in an extremely slow procession that was expected to last into the night.
Apart from her well-being, Abuedo said she hoped that the Black Nazarene would prove instrumental in ending the vigilante killings.
“Some are killed because of mistaken identity and many innocent lives end up as collateral damage,” said Abuedo, who lost neighbors who had turned themselves in to the police as part of the antidrug campaign.
Abuedo said the country “will not progress” if the killings continue.
For 60-year-old Danilo Paz, his prayers of good health to the Black Nazarene was not for him but for Mr. Duterte, who he said had delivered a “good performance,” especially in putting an end to petty crimes.
“I pray that he would have a longer life so that he can continue his good work for our country,” he said of the President.
He lost 3 cousins
Even if he had lost three cousins to the drug war, Paz said he wasn’t blaming Mr. Duterte, noting that his relatives’ “ill ways” had finally caught up with them.
Carolina Valdesco, who has been joining the traslacion for more than four decades, said this year’s crowd appeared to be “more serious” in joining the annual procession, estimated by police to have attracted more than 1.5 million devotees past noon.
The parish priest of the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene earlier said he expected devotees taking part in the traslacion to reach 15 million to 18 million.
Asked what she had prayed to the Black Nazarene, Valdesco said she hoped the killings would stop.
“I pity the children of those suspected criminals who are left orphaned. I hope that the government would give these parents a chance to change their lives for the better. After all, it’s the lack of employment and opportunity that has pushed them [to do whatever they can to earn a living],” she said.
Mr. Duterte often gives conflicting signals about his religious convictions and criticizes Church leaders, but he offered encouragement to those involved in the procession.
“Prayers are likely answered because we do not give up or get tired from asking God for the fulfillment of our heart’s desires,” the President said.
More than a thousand devotees received medical assistance from the Philippine Red Cross. —WITH REPORTS FROM TINA G. SANTOS, MARLON RAMOS AND AFP
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