Culture

Traslación 2018 in Photos: What Filipino Devotion (Still) Looks Like

The annual procession of the Black Nazarene draws millions of people.
IMAGE Jilson Tiu
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It’s an annual phenomenon, but one that never ceases to astonish. On the ninth of every January since the year 1787, Filipinos have gathered to celebrate the “solemn transfer” of the Black Nazarene, a life-sized image of a dark-skinned Jesus Christ carrying the cross to Golgotha. The image is said to have arrived in the Philippines in the 16th century, and then was moved from its original shrine in Intramuros to its current Minor Basilica in Quiapo Church some two hundred years ago. Ever since, devotees have commemorated that occasion yearly, with a procession called Traslación.

The Black Nazarene itself is believed by many Filipino Catholics to have miraculous healing powers. To its most staunch followers, merely touching it can cure disease. That’s why the image’s influence has expanded and drawn impossibly large crowds to Traslación every year, with millions walking alongside it—some barefoot, in penitent emulation of Christ’s suffering—as it makes its way to Quiapo. Many of them hope to touch, if not only venerate the Black Nazarene, in search of a cure.

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The tradition was upheld this year, as Traslación began at 5:00 a.m. on a Tuesday. Photographer Jilson Tiu attended the procession and situated himself on a rooftop, where he had a bird’s eye view of the assembling throngs:

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“Some of the devotees were with us, after they had plunged into the crowd early in the morning. They stopped to rest inside the building where I stood,” Tiu recalls. But he also notes that not all devotees were to the Black Nazarene. “Some of the feast-goers were Mother Mary devotees, or just regular Catholic devotees who brought their personal image of Christ to the procession.”

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Tiu also notes how the crowd’s density lent itself to the unique spiritual practice. “It’s exhilarating to feel the faith of thousands of people in such a small area,” he remarks. His photos capture that faith, and render a powerful portrait of traditional Filipino devotion surviving the modern world.

For more incredible photos, follow the photographer's Instagram account: @jilson.tiu.

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Miguel Escobar
Assistant Features Editor for Esquire Philippines
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