MANILA - The devotion to the Black Nazarene, highlighted every January 9, manifests the plight of the Filipino working class, a sociologist said on Friday.
Dr. Jayeel Cornelio, sociologist and author of "Being Catholic in the Contemporary Philippines" explained that the Black Nazarene attracts the working class since the icon is seen by many as "someone who understands the plight of the masses."
"The Black Nazarene attracts the working class. This is hardcore everyday struggle of the ordinary Filipino. And why does it attract a lot of people? Because a lot of people are still poor in this country," he said in an interview on "Mornings@ANC."
He clarified that devotees of the Black Nazarene cannot be simply dismissed as fanatics simply because their actions are "not consistent" with the liturgy of the Catholic Church.
"We have to be very careful in readily dismissing them as fanatics.
Even religious experts, people think that they are not mature enough with their faith just because it is not consistent," Cornelio said.
"The devotion to it manifests in many ways people’s aspirations and struggles," he added.
Millions of Filipino Catholic devotees flock to the country's capital every January 9 to join the annual 'Traslacion' which is usually marked by injuries and deaths.
For this year, officials of the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo are expecting around 16 to 18 million devotees to join the procession.
According to Cornelio, participants of the procession are "more authentic" with their faith because "it takes a lot of bravery and willpower to participate in such an event."
"The devotion to the Black Nazarene is a very competitive devotion and is very different from other devotions...it takes a lot of invincibility," Cornelio said, noting that only 10 percent of women who join the procession finish it.
Cornelio also dismissed the notion that the procession is a very individualistic act since most devotees push against each other to be able to touch even just the rope of the Black Nazarene icon.
"In reality it is also a collective act people chant, move along, stay with everybody else... There is an element of spontaneity to it but at the same time there are unwritten rules to it," he said.
Considered by devotees as miraculous, the Black Nazarene icon in Quiapo is renowned by millions of Filipino Catholics who believe that touching the image can cure diseases or help grant wishes.