The youth now see the procession as a means to compete with one another, rues a veteran devotee
MANILA - A child almost died while jostling with adults in pulling the ropes of Nazareno's carriage on Monday during the annual Traslacion (transfer) of the Black Nazarene.
The boy, Mark Anthony, was rushed to a nearby emergency rescue unit after collapsing. He seemed lifeless when he was carried by a couple of big men at the rescue tent.
He was seen barely catching his breath. He survived, luckily, a miracle maybe, but later on admitted that he lost consciousness for a moment, as he could hardly breathe when pinned down near the carriage by bigger and stronger adults.
"Naipit ako ng mataba, tinulak ako, humihingi ako ng tulong tapos tinataas ko mga kamay ko, naipit po dibdib ko," he said.
But Mark Anthony is just one of many children who veteran devotees call "Señor Liit." They now actively participate in the Traslacion procession.
Children, aged 15 and below, through the years, were often seen just watching from the sidelines, trying to get a glimpse of the black image from afar, or waving their white towels as the Nazareno passed by.
But not anymore.
Children, like Shaina and RJ, and others as young as 8 and 6 years old, are now allowed by parents to work on top of the replica carriage to serve as "little hijos," catching the white towels, wiping it on the image, before throwing it back to the owner.
"Mga bata po na ito, sila po papalit sa susunod na henerasyon, sila and magmamana, at patuloy nilang gagawin yan," an elder, Jonathan Bautista, said. His group of little hijos hails from Pandacan Manila.
Many children are also seen walking barefoot with their parent or guardians, already practicing at a young age how it is to be called a Nazarene devotee.
Some children are left sleeping on the road after an exhausting morning in what is supposed to be an activity of adults.
Good thing there are people like the Yu family who give food for free to thousands of devotees, especially to children caught in the melee of pushing and pulling along the route of the Traslacion.
A GAME OF SURVIVAL?
But, as young as they are, these children apparently do not understand the meaning behind the Traslacion, which has been criticized by some from the older generation for its apparent lack of discipline, solemnity, and order.
When asked why they join the Traslacion, wipe the face of the Nazarene with towels they don't own, or why they walk barefoot, the kids could hardly give an answer and simply smile back, as if asking what their reply should be.
John, 8 years old, joined the Traslacion again this year, his second. He said walking barefoot doesn't hurt at all. For John's parents, who are also devotees, it is just but proper to start introducing their son to the rigors of having a strong faith in the Nazarene they strongly believe in.
But, for veteran devotees like Boyet Dolorico who have been carrying the Nazarene literally on his shoulders for the past 56 years, the problem lies not in the act of bringing the children to the Traslacion, but in not teaching them what it is all about.
Boyet has long been disappointed that the devotees of today have lost the meaning of faith and devotion. He, too, has observed that more and more of the youth are seeing the Traslacion as a means to compete with one another, a game of survival of the fittest, a contest on who can do it first and do it again.
"Noong una, ang mga namamanata, mga displinado pa po. Ngayong taon na ito, hindi ko alam kung namamanata ba ito o nagpapayabang o nagpapasikat. Hindi nilalagay kung totoo ginagawa o isinasapuso. Yung iba, naglalaro, hindi nila alam ang ibig sabihin ng panata," Dolorico said.
"Ituro dapat ang tamang pamamaraan, ano ibig sabihin ng panata, maging displinado, huwag maingay pagkasama sa prusisyon, magdasal ng mataimtim," he added.
Boyet hopes to again see what he had been seeing 20, 30 years ago--a procession full of prayers, full of songs of praise for the Nazarene, whom the devotees have loved for its miracles, seen and unseen, in their lives and in the generations to come.