Someone ought to put a stop to the annual madness that is the Black Nazarene procession.
Year upon year, this senseless activity claims lives and causes multiple injuries — not to mention the massive traffic jams and the amount of government personnel and resources needed to ensure everyone’s safety and security, all paid for by tax money — of which the church pays none.
This year, two people died — one collapsed with a heart attack and the other was trampled to death. The Philippine Red Cross reports treating more than a thousand injuries, some as minor as foot lacerations to more major ones like seizures, sprains and fractures. And all for what? Why, for the superstitious belief that touching the statue can bring about miracles.
Apparently the silliness of this all will be lost on some readers who might even be offended that I attack this time-honored tradition. That would be ironic given that they aren’t offended at all that this supposedly miraculous piece of wood failed to save the lives of two individuals who were passionately and faithfully devoted to it (to the death, even).
Renato Gurion, aged 44, was a businessman whose hope was to “live longer” for his two teenaged boys. He had already undergone heart surgery some years before. He became a devotee of the Black Nazarene for “better health and protection.”
Well, that hope was certainly dashed against the rocks when Gurion’s body was found slumped on the carriage carrying the statue. Nobody knew how long he had been lying there and for some time, nobody apparently cared as everyone was fighting their way up to touch the Nazarene. It was only later when security noticed the unmoving body, that they were able to control the crowd so they could bring Gurion to the hospital, but by then it was too late.
Christian Lim, aged 19, suffered a more gruesome fate. In the thick of the procession, he stumbled somewhere along the way and got crushed as hundreds, or perhaps even thousands, trampled on him until he died of asphyxia. They only discovered his body as the procession ended, already stiff with rigor mortis, and blood congealed on his hands and face.
You would think that these people’s relatives would get all fired up against the church for this, but no, Christian’s mother even called her son’s death “painful, but beautiful.” This is borne of some ill-begotten notion that the ceremony could not possibly be wrong. Or perhaps it is only fear of speaking against the authority of the church, or of God. But personally, I cannot see anything beautiful in the barbaric fate of someone so young and full of dreams. He was probably screaming as the weight of hundreds of feet bore down on his head, back, arms, hands, legs and feet — but nobody heard him, or nobody cared.
Far from beautiful, it was a senseless, brutal and cruel death.
The authorities could have put a stop to it. They could have cited statistics of previous deaths and injuries and withheld the proper permits and there would be no procession. But of course, it would have earned the ire of some twelve million voters who joined the procession that day, and of course, no politician could afford that.
The church could have put a stop to it. They could have refused to lend out the statue, and that would have been the end of it. They could have told their priests to preach against the mass hysteria that goes on during these processions, or that touching the statue doesn’t really do a damn thing. But perhaps it serves the church some purpose to keep its members ignorant and superstitious, so they can more readily believe in whatever agenda it wants to push.
Someone ought to put a stop to this annual madness. How many more lives have to be sacrificed until these people come to their senses? How much more blood has to spill until this stupidity ends?
Originally published in Sunstar Davao.