January 9 each year is a special day in this particular part of Manila, the city’s geographic center known as Quiapo. This is the Feast of the Black Nazarene, that darkened Catholic icon which represented Jesus Christ carrying the cross that is beloved by many Catholics, a majority of which belong curiously to the male gender.
On a sociological level, such a deep, fanatical as some might say, devotion of Catholic men to the “Nazareno” (as the Black Nazarene is called) can be considered a peculiarity at the very least as commonly in the realm of the Catholic faith, it is the women who exhibit such devotion. The Urban Roamer has always wondered why it is so, but that should be a question best left to sociologists, theologians, or others more well-versed in this topic to answer.
Contrary to popular thought, January 9 is celebrated not as the actual feast day of the Black Nazarene (it is actually the Holy Week considering the icon depicts the Passion of Jesus Christ) but the day in 18th century (years vary depending on the source) when the image of the Black Nazarene was transferred from Intramuros (not Bagumbayan or Rizal Park today as it is believed though it was the image’s first home, specifically at the Church of San Juan Bautista) to its present home in the present Basilica of the Black Nazarene, otherwise known as Quiapo Church, where it can be found to this day.
The church itself has a long and interesting history. Like the Manila Cathedral, it has undergone a number of reconstructions and renovations since a church was first built in present-day Quiapo in the 1580’s. It is interesting to note that one of the people responsible for the construction of the first Quiapo Church is a Franciscan who was declared a saint by the Catholic Church, St. Pedro Bautista who went on to help build other churches, including the one bearing his name in Del Monte in present-day Quezon City.
The church we now see today is the Quiapo Church no. 4, built thanks to the efforts of the influential Nakpil family of Quiapo who helped raise funds for its reconstruction after the previous one was destroyed by fire in 1928. Reconstruction was spearheaded by a member of the Nakpil family, the famed architect Juan Nakpil who followed the previous church’s baroque design.
Completed in the 1930’s, the church would miraculously survive World War II and its Baroque exterior would remain intact. The church’s interior design is another story however, as the church’s parish priest Msgr. Jose Abriol directed a redesign of the interiors to accommodate more people. Architect Jose Ma. Zaragosa would design the church the way we see it now, expanded but with its old fancy Baroque pillars now gone among other changes which would make the church today look as one critic would call it, “a hollow indoor court.” It was said that Juan Nakpil himself was aghast at the redesign that was done which disregarded the work he had done.
For the church faithful who visit here during the feast and each Friday thereafter, that did not seem to matter as the basilica still is an important place of interest to this day. Though it would no longer be the church as it was before, with part of its heritage now lost for future generations to have a chance to appreciate.
© The Urban Roamer