Is media to blame if devotees are encouraged to risk death in every Traslacion? One might think so, because even after a Quiapo priest told people not to climb the andas, a radio reporter did so and was naively praised by a radio anchor.
Days before one of Catholicism’s largest spectacles unfolded on Jan.9, Fr. Douglas Badong, parochial vicar of Quiapo Church, reminded Black Nazarene devotees there’s no need for them to elbow their way towards the dark-skinned image of Christ atop the carriage as it inches its way from Luneta to Quiapo.
He stressed the Traslacion is not about touching the image of the Black Nazarene to be blessed and be called a true believer. “Hindi naman para humawak doon sa imahe. Hindi iyon ang objective ng isang deboto. Ang objective ng isang deboto ay sumama sa prusisyon.”
But Fr. Badong’s reminder was apparently ignored by ABS-CBN’s DZMM reporter Jeffry Hernaez who proudly narrated being able to board the andas at the height of the recent Traslacion.
“Papalapit kami sa andas, ngunit pilit kaming itinutulak ng agos ng tao,” Hernaez said. “Ngunit hindi ako nagpatalo sa agos ng tao. Itinaas ko aking kamay at inabot ito ng isa sa mga Hijos (de Nazareno). Pagsampa ko sa andas, tumambad sa akin ang mga deboto na mistulang binabato na ang mga sarili sa andas.”
His feat elicited praise from radio anchor Vic Lima who uttered in awe, “Very good, very good.” Will Lima’s naïve response encourage more similar exploits from young devotees? Will more be attracted to conquer the challenges of Traslacion that Hernaez described as “masikip, mainit, delikado at milagroso” when he pondered on his firsthand experience?
To be sure, the achievement of Hernaez is not a first for media persons. In the past, TV reporters from rival GMA were also able to achieve the same.
But with all the daring exploits of media personalities aired on TV, it’s no wonder that more young people joining the Traslacion can’t seem to resist the urge to exhibit what’s described as “macho fanaticism, misplaced revelry and unnecessary risks that have become a popular but deeply-flawed measure of piety.”
Fr. Badong asked older devotees to guide young ones on why a true Nazarene devotee attends Traslacion: “The objective of a devotee in joining the procession is to accompany Him until He returns to His home.”
“He is there in the church 365 days. They can line up and kiss the image,” he explained. “Don’t do it at a time when there are many devotees.”
In the Nuestro Padre Jesus Nazareno Hymn which every devotee knows, National Artist Lucio San Pedro penned the lyrics: “Sinasamba Ka namin, pinipintuho Ka namin, aral Mo’y aming buhay at kaligtasan.” Every time the hymn is sung, we proclaim to the Poon Nazareno that “we worship Thee, we admire Thee; Thy teachings are our life and salvation.”
Indeed, His teachings ought to shape our lives. But none of Christ’s teachings tell devotees to act crazily, rudely, wildly, recklessly over His wooden image and put themselves and fellow devotees at risk of injury or death.
“We remain fixated with icons, with the physical representations than the meanings behind them. We struggle to get the rituals right in order to avoid bad luck, while showing little discipline, if any, in the daily practice of a virtuous life,” a prominent sociologist explained.
But Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle tells what’s right: “Let us show our love and devotion to the Black Nazarene by praying to God and not forgetting to help our fellowmen, following Christ’s teachings as guiding principles of our lives, and glorifying God’s greatness and love for mankind through our good deeds.”