Two dead, hundreds hurt in Black Nazarene feast

By Zyann Ambrosio, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 09 2015 11:35 PM | Updated as of Jan 10 2015 05:51 PM

A member of Hijos del Nazareno identified as Renato Gorion, 44, is pulled out from the carriage of the Black Nazarene after he lost consciousness during the 2015 Translacion Friday. Gorion was rushed to Manila Doctors Hospital but was declared dead on arrival. ABS-CBNnews.com photo

MANILA (3rd UPDATE) - Every year, hundreds of devotees are injured during the grand procession of the Black Nazarene. This year is no different, except two devotees died.

"We had two casualties yesterday and today. The first one was before the procession started, and the last one prior to the arrival of andas within the vicinity of the Quiapo Church," said Chairman Francis Tolentino of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA).

As devotees pushed and shoved trying to clamber up the carriage of the icon of the Black Nazarene on Friday, 44-year-old Renato Gorion, who was atop the carriage, collapsed.

Gorion is a member of the Hijos del Nazareno -- a group of devotees assisting the church during the feast of the Black Nazarene.

With scores of people trying to climb the carriage, it took a while before Gorion was brought down.

He was rushed to a hospital but was declared dead on arrival.

Responders said Gorion may have suffered a heart attack.

Early morning on Saturday, another devotee was rushed by the Philippine Red Cross to the Jose Reyes Memorial Medical Center where he was declared dead on arrival.

"Apparently, he was crushed by the approaching crowd before the arrival of the andas," said Tolentino.

"We offer prayers and condolences to the families of the two victims," he added.

The man, who has yet to be identified, was found lying near the Quiapo Church, with bruises and scratches all over his body, SPO4 Glenn Vallejo of the Manila Police District said.

The man is believed to be between 25 and 30 years old. He was wearing blue pants and a maroon shirt worn by Nazarene devotees.

Investigators suspect the man collapsed during a stampede while the image of the Black Nazarene was being brought back to the Quiapo church this morning.

Meanwhile, many others needed medical attention as the procession wound through the streets of Manila from Luneta to the Quiapo church.

A number of people fainted and even marshalls were not spared.

Many also suffered cuts on their feet, especially those who walked barefoot.

Even authorities had to make sure they were physically fit to man the huge crowd.

The Philippine Red Cross, in an advisory Friday night, said more than 1,500 people sought medical help during the event.

A total of 876 had high blood pressure, while 564 had injuries, lacerations, or felt dizzy.

Nineteen were considered major cases. They include difficulty in breathing, seizure, went unconscious, or suffered sprain ankles and possible fractures.

Four were brought to hospitals.

Early Saturday morning, four more people were wounded when the roof of a residential house along Guzman Street collapsed from the sheer weight of devotees trying to get a good look at the carriage of the Nazarene.

MAMMOTH CROWD

The mammoth procession, estimated by the Philippine Red Cross at 5.5 million people, crawled at a near-snail's pace along Manila's old quarter as devotees risked life and limb for the privilege of pulling the fat rope that moved the float forward.

Many Filipinos believe the statue holds miraculous healing powers and make lifetime vows to join the annual parade, often wearing T-shirts emblazoned with an image of Christ crowned in thorns.

"The brand of religious devotion that we see in Filipino Catholicism is based on a very strong desire of the majority of our people for a more immediate and direct access to divine help or power," Manuel Victor Sapitula, a sociology professor at the University of the Philippines, told AFP.

"That is why it is sought through physical touch, sound, bodily experience, or any combination of these," he said.

The image of the Black Nazarene was welcomed by the devotees back into the Quiapo Church at almost 4 a.m. Saturday, over 19 hours since the procession began at Quirino Grandstand on Friday.

The religious icon was brought back to its original home one hour longer than last year amid some adjustments to the route and some delays at Roxas Boulevard.

After some closing prayers, the devotees have gone home, leaving workers from the MMDA to conduct cleanup operations after the traslacion. -- with reports from Johnson Manabat, dzMM; Francis Faulve, ABS-CBN News; ANC; Agence France-Presse