MANILA, Philippines (The Adobo Chronicles) – Each year, on the 9th of January, some 12 Million Catholics — mostly men — line the streets of Manila in a religious procession honoring the image of the Black Nazarene. It is a decades-old tradition meant as a way to atone for one’s sins and to ask for favors in the coming year from the revered statue of Jesus Christ enshrined in Manila’s Quiapo Church.
The image, which was carved by an anonymous Mexican artist sometime in the 17th century, depicts Jesus bearing the cross en route to his crucifixion. The statue is renowned in the Philippines and considered miraculous by many Filipino Catholics. It is widely believed that the image’s dark color was a result of it being charred in a fire in the galleon ship that brought it to the Philippines from Mexico.
In modern times where women’s rights are becoming front and center even in a machismo society like the Philippines, Filipinas are starting to assert their equality with men. Yes, even in a religious tradition like the Black Nazarene procession.
So, next year, when the procession rolls out again in Manila, only women will be allowed.
This is the result of a petition signed by 10 Million Filipina Catholics asking Rome to declare 2017 as Women’s Year For the Black Nazarene. Pope Francis signed the declaration last January 8th, the eve of the 2016 procession in Manila.
In 2018, the procession will revert back to an all-male event. However, the papal directive provides for an all-women procession once every four years, coinciding with the Leap Year.