IN THE SPOTLIGHT: The Black Nazarene

The Feast of the Black Nazarene through the eyes of documentary photographers

We didn’t know what devotion meant until we saw these photos. Click for more!


( Come January, there is only one King for many Filipinos and his name isn't Melchor, it isn’t Gaspar, and neither is it Balthazar. The Black Nazarene is the main man for hundreds of thousands of Catholics who troop to Manila and make the city a giant mosh pit every 9th of January. While many are familiar with the feast and the traffic jam that comes with it, many also do not understand what this means to the devotees, some of whom have been camping out days before the event.


For starters, many devotees attend to fulfill their vow or panata for the icon because they believe their prayers have been answered in some way. Like the statue that survived the ship that burned en route to the Philippines from Mexico, devotees see themselves as survivors from sickness or poverty; this is a chance for them to give thanks and celebrate. On the day of the feast, the iconic 406-year-old wooden statue is brought around the city of Manila in a procession that has handkerchiefs flying, people weeping or pushing, and many photographers snapping.



This is, after all, one of Manila's most world-famous events. We ask four Manila-based documentary photographers to share some of their photos and stories about the Black Nazarene, as well as tips and advice on how to survive and understand the event. Freelance photographer and writer Tammy David shares her experiences from 2011, her first and only time at the Feast of the Black Nazarene procession; while visual artist Carlo Gabuco gives advice strung together from four years’ worth of experience. Photographer Geloy Concepcion, who’s been accompanying his father, a devotee, for years, shares a bit of trivia. While lensman Veejay Villafranca shares some Black Nazarene photos that have been included in his award-winning work "Faith before Fate."

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