2 devotees die in Black Nazarene procession

Posted at 01/09/2010 9:26 AM | Updated as of 01/09/2010 6:49 PM

MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) - Two persons have died as close to 2 million devotees push and shove their way to touch the Black Nazarene during the annual procession in Manila on Saturday.

The first confirmed fatality Rodrigo Ocampo, 42, who died at the Ospital ng Maynila due to cardiac arrest.

Another devotee, 40-year-old Bernardino Basilio, was pronounced dead 7:17 a.m. at the Jose Reyes Memorial Hospital.

Basilio suffered severe injuries after falling from the Black Nazarene's carriage before the procession started at the Quirino Grandstand at Luneta Park.

ABS-CBN correspondent Jeff Canoy gathered that 5 other people have been rushed to the Ospital ng Maynila and 4 others were brought to the Jose Reyes Medical Center. Three other devotees have been rushed to the Philippine General Hospital.

As of 2 p.m., the black image of Jesus Christ was in front of the Manila City Hall.

The image is being brought to its resting place at the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene or the famous Quiapo church.

The Feast of Black Nazarene, which is annually held in Quiapo, has been marred by deaths and injuries of devotees during the procession.

In 2008, an estimated crowd of 1.5 million people joined the procession. Two people died and at least 50 were injured.

In 2009, the Church and the local government of Manila decided to change the route of the procession.

Devotees, however, pulled the rope of the Black Nazarene’s carriage back to its original route. Nearly 100 people were injured during the procession.

3 million expected to join this year

The procession started around 8:30 a.m. after a Mass led by Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Rosales at the grandstand. The archbishop asked devotees in his homily to lead simple lives.

"Mamuhay kayo ng simple katulad niya (Lead a simple life like him)," Rosales told an excited crowd of devotees raring to touch the black image of Jesus Christ.

A radio dzMM report said a few people got injured after devotees tried to breach a metal barricade set up in front of the grandstand.

Senior Superintendent Lito Mirasol, Manila police’s deputy chief for operations, said that they are receiving reports of some devotees collapsing during the Mass aside from the commotion at the grandstand.

Mirasol said the estimated crowd at the Luneta Park and devotees waiting on streets where the Black Nazarene will pass were nearly 2 million.

“We observed close to 2 million devotees and still increasing,” he said, adding that they expect the crowd to balloon during the procession.

Mirasol's superior, Superintendent Francis Gabriel, said that at least 1 million more devotees have also flocked to the Quiapo church.

Police expect the number of devotees to reach 3 million this year because of the calamities suffered by the country in 2009.

6.3-kilometer procession route

The procession was expected to pass through at least 30 streets in Manila, majority in Quiapo district.

Mirasol said that with thousands of devotees and a 6.3 kilometer route, they expect the procession to end before midnight.

The Manila police has fielded at least 1,500 personnel, augmented by security people organized by the local government.

The local government has also set up 11 medical stations along the route of the procession. The stations were manned by policemen and medical staff to assist devotees who will be injured.

The feast of the Black Nazarene is an annual religious event attended by thousands of people as a way of strengthening their faith or fulfilling their “panata” vow.

Devotees also believe that touching the black image would bring them luck.

Burnt image

The Black Nazarene is the patron saint of Quiapo. It shows a black image of Jesus Christ carrying a cross.

The Archdiocese of Manila said the black image has been housed at the Minor Basilika of the Black Nazarene or the famous Quiapo church since 1787.

The black image is brought out of the church twice every year, during the feast and on Good Friday.

The archdiocese said the image was brought to Manila by a Spanish priest in 1607 aboard a ship.

“The ship caught fire, burning the image and thus came to be known as the Black Nazarene,” it said.

Despite being burnt, people decided to honor the image and reports of miraculous things happened to people who touch the image, the Manila archdiocese said. With reports from Jeff Canoy and Ryan Chua, ABS-CBN News, radio dzMM and ANC