The Black Nazarene of Oxnard
By Rudy D. Liporada
It was not massive. It was not pandemonium bordering to chaotic. Nonetheless, the devotion of was there. Strong.
For the largely Filipino-Hispanic Catholic parish of Mary Star of the Sea in Oxnard, California, the first celebration of the Translacion de Nazareno Negro (Translocation of the Black Nazarene) last January 9, 2020 was a replication of the annual Translacion of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo, Manila. The solemn transfer of the commemoration of the Christ’s journey to Mt. Calvary is attended by as many as 500 thousand devotees in the Philippines. Believed to be miraculous for its healing process and other blessings, the procession starts at around 5:30 in the morning after a solemn Midnight Mass at the Quirino Grandstand and reaches Quiapo in the late evening or early next morning depending on how slow the image travels crowded by its devotees. While many walks barefoot to emulate Christ’s journey to Golgotha, others wait for the arrival of the procession at the Basilica. Most devotees wear maroon and yellow like donned on the image.
For the procession, the Nazarene is set upon an ‘Andas’, pulled by ‘mamamasan’ or bearers. Marshalls called Hijos del Nazareno or Sons of the Nazarene act as honor guards around the image and the only ones permitted to ride the Andas. They also help the devotees to briefly climb the Andas to touch the icon’s cross; and wipe the image with cloths tossed at them.
The ritual in Oxnard was preceded by daily novenas starting in January 1 through the procession day. The Knights of Columbus group of the parish acted as mamamasans and marshals. The procession was held around the parish grounds. Miniscule compared to the gargantuan crowd in Manila but the works was there.
“Not as massive, but we can only grow,” said facilitator of the event, Ronald Parcon.
“This is a legacy that would surely take hold,” added adviser, Cora Ortiguerra.
“I am so glad I came,” said Angelita Olosan Caldwell who came from Fort Worth, Texas, to have her veil blessed when wiped upon the image.
The rite, ‘Dungaw’ or Mirata in Spanish, was also done in the Oxnard celebration where the image of the Blessed Virgin Mary met the Nazareno. The Mirata reflects the fourth Traditional Station of the Cross, where Christ meets his mother, the Virgin Mary, towards to His crucifixion.
The mass before the celebration was officiated by Fr. Felix Daganta. During his bilingual homily, he touched on the history of the how the Black Nazarene came to be in the Philippines and the historical binds of the Filipinos and the Hispanics.
The icon was made by a Mexican sculpture and shipped via the Galleon trade route between the Philippines and Mexico. It arrived in Manila from Acapulco on May 31, 1606. A belief abounds that the blackness of the Nazarene was due to its being charred by a fire on the galleon that ferried it from Mexico. However, it was also pointed out that the wood was actually truly dark to its core.
Mexico and the Philippines were among the colonies of Spain. All the colonies of Spain during 15th to the 19th century was administered by the King of Spain through the Vice Royalty which was based in Mexico. “Thus,” said Fr. Daganta, “Filipinos and Mexicans have that common bind of being former colonials of Spain.”
The Oxnard Nazareno Negro, fashioned from bass wood, was sculptured by the late Rick Bagabaldo. It was commissioned by donors from the Mary Star of the Sea Parish. Shortly upon arriving back in his hometown in Paete, Laguna, after finishing the image, Bagabaldo passed away.
“Bagabaldo’s legacy is hinged on this artwork,” said Parcon.
Renowned in the Philippines, the Nazarene’s devotees in Oxnard who miss the annual celebration in their homeland, now have their very own Nazareno Negro who they could venerate in the comforts of their adopted country. And this is together with their Catholic Hispanic hermanos y hermanas.
“See you again next year,” said over-all coordinator of the event, Rey Alonzo.