The children of Nazareno
MANILA, Philippines - Amid the chaos of the passing devotees near Quezon bridge, a young boy screams through his young lungs: “Towel po oh! Bili na po kayo! Mura dito!” (We sell Nazareno towels cheaper here! Buy here!)
Meet 11-year-old Alvie Alvarez, who sells towels and wrist bands marked with the face of the Black Nazarene on the streets of Quiapo. “I went with my godfather since I didn’t have class. We earn much from this event so I want to help out,” Alvie said in Filipino.
His uncle, 25-year-old Joey Alvarez, has been selling Nazareno merchandises every year for the past 10 years. “I don’t really sell here in Quiapo. I only come here every Nazareno. I want Alvie to learn the ropes while he’s young,” Joey said.
Joey and his nephew, however, are not devotees of the Feast of the Black Nazarene - the biggest religious gathering in the country. They go to Quiapo just to earn money.
“We believe in God. We’re not just devotees of the Black Nazarene,” Joey added.
Selling merchandises in this year’s feast is proving to be difficult. There are thousands of other street vendors selling the same Nazareno merchandise. Joey and Alvie haven’t hit their quota yet.
“It was really difficult this morning because of the rain. I hope we get to sell more so I’ll have more money to take home to my parents,” Alvie said.
No place for children
Authorities have repeatedly asked devotees and vendors not to bring their children to the festivities.
Yearly, millions of people flock Manila to attend the “Traslacion’ or the transfer of the Black Nazarene, a 17th-century mulatto image of Jesus Christ believed to cause miracles. Hundreds get hurt and worse, even die from the festivities.
This 2015, local officials confirmed that one devotee died and more than 400 people suffered minor injuries during the procession.
But devotees didn’t heed the government’s warnings. Parents still brought their children and infants to Quiapo to join the celebration of the Black Nazarene.
‘It’s for the children’
Daisy Cruz also sells Nazareno merchandises in Plaza Miranda. With her is her 2-year-old boy who has only recently learned to walk. Unlike Joey, she is a devout follower of the Black Nazarene.
“He is our saint here in Quiapo. We pray and believe in his power,” said the 27-year-old mother.
Daisy said she looks forward to the feast every year as she receives both spiritual and financial blessings. “Our sales really increase every year. We are able to sell more products and also fulfil our devotion to the Black Nazarene,” she added.
Despite the danger of being crushed by the crowd, Daisy said she brought her son because she wants him to be a follower of the icon.
“My devotion to the Black Nazarene and my business here in Quiapo is for my son. I want him to know that the Black Nazarene will always guide him in any difficulty,” she said.
She added: “It’s better for him to see how hard life is even if he can’t understand it yet. It’s a risk bringing him here but he's a child of the Black Nazarene so I know God will see us through."
As of posting, the Black Nazarene was still on its way to Quiapo Church, the icon’s home. Authorities expect the Nazarene’s arrival at around 5 am Saturday, January 10. - Rappler.com