Is the feast of the Black Nazarene more about macho bragging rights than spiritual devotion? This rough-and-tumble religious procession held every 9th of January in Manila is not for the fainthearted.
Despite a heavy police and medical emergency services presence, last year’s feast led to the death of two people and injured 50, attracted more than a million people and took nearly seven hours to complete its 4.7-kilometer procession.
It is an event much like a rock concert mosh pit—thousands jostling as a heaving and groaning sweaty mass of muscle. All this just for chance to be a pingga—those who push the carriage of the Black Nazarene—or to be a salang—those who pull on one of the three ropes that form the symbolical reins of the carriage. All come barefoot to avoid aggravating the pain of one’s feet inevitably trampling and being trampled upon by fellow devotees.