Feast of the Black Nazarene

9 Jan 2017
Manila

Swarms of believers jostle to get a hand to the effigy of Jesus Christ as it is walked through Quiapo's streets.

You might not believe in miracles but that doesn't stop you from at least trying to encourage the Gods to work in your favour. If the words in the fortune cookie make even a little sense then we suddenly believe in fate. The same could be said for horoscopes; when Mystic Meg tells us we're about to come into some money we desperately want to believe her. In Manila, Roman Catholics turn to religion for miracles, more specifically a statue of Jesus Christ that is believed to have heavenly powers. 

The biggest imprint Spanish missionaries left on the Filipino islands was Catholicism. The Black Nazarene is an ebony statue brought to The Philippines by a Mexican priest in 1606. Every January it is bore through the Quiapo district, traditionally by men but in recent years by women, a pleasing sign of a modernising Christianity.

Crowds have been so large that the original processional route of the Traslación has been altered and it has been declared a non-working holiday so that the city might better cope with the event's disruptive side effects. The four and a half mile journey has attracted as many as 12 million people who revere the statue for its ability to perform miracles. Wiping the artefact with cloth is thought to transfer sanctity.

Garbed in maroon, attendees walk barefoot as they endure the extreme heat. A spectacle that only the hardened traveller will consider participating in but a spectacle for all.

You might not get your miracle but it might be a little more promising than the fortune cookie that told you: 'Someday everything will all make perfect sense'.

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