In the 9th of January, 2014.
The rebirth of this postponed tradition of “Dungaw” or “Mirata” reminded us of the “encuentro” of our Lord carrying the Cross of Calvary and his sorrowful Mother, as he pave the way to our salvation. A lovely custom traces its roots from the traditional route of traslacion before discontinued due to yet unknown reason, the images of the Señor and of our Virgen del Carmen are of Recollect origin. It is an encounter of a people’s faith, a faith’s journey and triumph.
As the traditional “traslacion” was commenced by the celebration of the Holy Mass at the Quirino Grandstand, the devotees of the Señor comes from the different walks of life — from the poorest, humblest of them, to the middle-living ones, unto the affluent members of the church. The feast day of the translation of the Black Nazarene is a day of awe, of miracle, of atonement, of grace.
Nearly in the early noon, the steel church of San Sebastian is already flocked by the devotees of the Nazareno and of del Carmen: the former, resting and having their filial cling to this Recollect church as they have just went through the tiring colossal procession, and the latter, waiting for the Virgen Señora to come down from her pedestal of old silver altar.
The organizadores of the tradition of dungaw set a scaffolding outside the entry door at the Gospel side (left) of the church, facing the del Carmen Street. The scaffold is of maximum 10 person capacity. Under it is the “imagen de portal” of del Carmen, made from wood material. While the piaña used was that of the official replica, simpler in design and color.
The people inside the church reminds one of the pilgrims’ custom of resting, laying at the church floor to regain their strength after a hot sunny day of procession. Others meet their friends and compatriots, from different paths of faith. Wherever you look, you will clearly see the masses of people, wearing their shirts of red and maroon, with their towels touched to several replicas of the Señor. An exciting historical day is awaiting to each of us — a moment of grace and blessing.
A six o’clock p.m. Mass was celebrated inside the steel church. Attendants of commonality, most of them encountered in the social media, met at this renaissance of a long-hold custom. Our spirit are in a state of wonder and joy — to see familiar and even meet unexpected friends, hoping to accompany us in our story of Catholic life.
A sea of red and maroon swarmed the locus of San Sebastian. That was an opportune moment for friends, acquaintances, and even enemies, to unite as one community and seek confidence and maternal love to the Virgen — mercy and grace from the Señor.
“Ite, Missa est.” The evening Mass ended, and everyone was advised to leave the church immediately. Mass attendants gathered together at the outside walls of San Sebastian, while the organizadores prepares the pedestal where the Virgen will be lifted, as she watches over the thousands of people escorting her Son, carrying the saving Cross of Calvary. Of long wait, the devotees filled the plaza del Carmen. All of us awaits the coming of the Señor that he would bless us and give us grace. It is a chance, a once in a year moment we are waiting. Devotees talking about the arrival of the Black Nazarene, others having a time to share stories of life, to chat and savour the spare hours of waiting — of almost four or five hours standing.
It was nine o’clock in the evening. It was a continuous play from the sound system of the “Marcha del Carmen”. It is a nostalgia to hear the banda de musicos playing this beautiful Spanish march. In my expectation, I was waiting for the “Carmen Coronada” to be played. Around minutes, the ciriales walked forward to Guzman Street.
After a while, the prayer-leader started and invited the devotees to meditate the Glorious Mysteries. It was prayed in the vernacular. What a great glance to see thousands of mouths uttering the prayers, beads running to the fingers, of eyes lifted up to our Lady, of minds and hearts contemplating the glorious life of our Lord and her Mother. Nearly the people were put in the holy silence, as God speaks to them through it.
The Rosary ended as customary. Each of us cannot but wait for the Virgen to ascend to her meek pedestal. As a signal, the church bells tolled endlessly in their glory, as we expect the Señor to come and pass by Bilibid Viejo. Numerous banners are coming through the street. Several replica images of the Señor begin to flock at the plaza. All cannot wait to shout “Viva!”, a famous acclaim to our Señor and the Virgen.
of the swarm of devotees;
to the shout of the continuous “Viva!”
It was already half past 10 o’clock when the Virgen ascended to her piaña. Her beauty is radiantly illumined, while we sing her hymn “Bulaklak ng Carmelo” by Alfredo Buenaventura. The cruz estila signaled her “assumption”, held by servers wearing white-hooded sotana and plain sobrepelliz. The Shrine Rector, wearing shielded cope of red, lead the congregation of the acclamation of “Viva Nuestro Padre Jesus Nazareno!” “Viva Virgen del Carmen de San Sebastian!” “Viva Reina ng Quiapo!” One may not imagine how the devotees are joyful, waving their handkerchiefs and filling the air of their bi-syllabic “Vi-va!” While some are taking videos and pictures from their digital cameras and others contented of treasuring this moment in their hearts
The Friar-Rector lead the praying of “Pater Noster”, “Avemaria” and “Gloria Patri” in the vernacular. And again repeated the acclamation “Viva Nuestro Padre Jesus Nazareno!” “Viva Virgen del Carmen de San Sebastian!” “Viva Reina ng Quiapo!”
Every devotee showed how much they love and venerate the Señor as the custom dictates. Waving their towel imprints of the Señor, throwing it to the Hijos and back to them having touched the vestments or the face of this much-venerated image, as the Virgen watches over another faith’s triumph. Hymns like the traditional “Ama Namin” of Fr. Eduardo Hontiveros, S.J. (RIP) and the “Aba, Ginoong Maria” by Lucio San Pedro (RIP), were sung. Each was accompanied by the “Vivas” to the Señor and the Virgen. Endless shouts of joy filled this glorious night, ’til the Señor entered Guzman Street.
Everyone was in awe, of gaze and ecstacy. As the usual, a number of devotees met accident or fainted in the event, but were aided by the medics around the vicinity. Finally before the Virgen descended to the balcony, people bid their farewell to the Señor and to Her, as they clamored “Viva!” The Virgen, removed of her areolo, was brought down of the platform back to her camarin. A tradition ended joyfully, as each of masses traces their paths home. Friends bidding goodbye, their joyful adieu, the dungaw was ended leaving an unforgettable remark and memory to each and all of us there.
It is but a great wonder to us Catholics of these islands that we can relate our lives not to the Regal King, but on the baby Jesus in the manger and to his painful carrying of the Cross, as one priest reflects. We learn the divinity of our Savior in his humility, poverty and suffering.
To be born in a manger, to die on the Cross, This how the Lord commenced and ended his life in our midst. It would be fitting to us to live as how we are born, and to die in a painful suffering, that will lead us to that Greater Glory.
—S. M. Amamangpang
9th January 2014
Feast of the Traslacion of the Black Nazarene