MANILA -- Even though he is now practicing a different faith, historian Professor Xiao Chua still maintains his respect to Filipino Catholics’ devotion to the Black Nazarene, which, he said, sustained his mother’s faith.
As a child, Chua said he used to have an “abnormal shape in the head” which many predicted would be the cause of his death at a young age.
But the Chuas were also told that if he survives until the age of 7, he would live the rest of his life normally.
This strengthened the faith of Chua’s mother, prompting her devotion to the Black Nazarene for her young boy’s health.
“Despite the fact that I am now a Protestant, I still respect the devotion of Filipinos to the Black Nazarene because it is the faith that sustained my mother,” Chua said in an interview on ANC’s “Dateline Philippines.”
In fact, Chua chose the Black Nazarene devotion as the subject of his doctoral dissertation.
“I have my own beliefs now based on my interpretation of the Bible but I will not impose that on devotees,” he said.
Asked on his views on the annual traslacion in Quiapo, Chua said as a Protestant, he believes that only faith in Jesus Christ can save a person but he also acknowledged that Filipinos are a “visual” people when it comes to faith.
“You have to understand that we have to cling on to something to show our faith,” he said.
While the annual traslacion may seem senseless to others, he noted that there is a "choreography" in the movement of the devotees, hence the term “simulated choreographed craze.”
“It seems crazy but it’s not. If you look at it mayroon yang choreography,” he said, noting that devotees use special codes with corresponding meanings to maintain safety during the procession.
Though the Black Nazarene icon is always in Quiapo throughout the rest of the year, Chua noted that joining the January 9 procession is different since it makes devotees reflect.
“In many ways, the sacrifice that you go through, the trouble and being pushed around during the procession for example, the hardships, this is like showing God that you are making sacrifices, atoning for your sins and making you reflect,” he said.
“When we look at the Black Nazarene, kulay natin siya, maitim siya tapos naghihirap siya pero alam natin na mabubuhay siya ulit so that is also the hope that every devotee brings into his heart,” he added.
(He has the same color as us, dark and struggling. But we also know that he will rise again.)
Around 16 to 18 million Filipino Catholic devotees are expected to join the Black Nazarene procession on Monday.