Filipinos flock to Facebook for yearly Catholic feast of Black Nazarene

Filipinos flock to Facebook for yearly Catholic feast of Black Nazarene

SOME FILIPINOS turned to Facebook to avoid the crowd and coronavirus during the return of the Black Nazarene procession in Manila, where more than 6 million devotees took part, after a three-year break, according to research firm Capstone-Intel Corp.

The annual Catholic feast of the Black Nazarene, an idol of Jesus believed to have healing powers, got a 701,025 engagement score with 2,566 total posts, yielding 3.4 million reactions on the social media platform, Capstone-Intel said in a statement on Wednesday.

“Facebook love” accounted for 64.5% of the total reactions at 2.2 million, followed by 1.2 million likes (35.2%), “Facebook haha” at 4,795 (0.1%), “Facebook wow” with 2,144 (0.1%), “Facebook sad” with 1,808 (0.1%) and “Facebook angry” with 748 reactions, Capstone-Intel said.

“More Filipinos are now using the digital space to practice their faith, and looking at the data, a significant number of devotees have been taking their spirituality along with the changing digital landscape and accessibility to online platforms,” it said.

Aside from reaching 42.4 million people online in the Philippines, the feast also reached audiences in Syria (3.9 million), France (541,096), the United States (137,052), India (52,346), Russia (47,092), the United Kingdom (24,312), Canada (15,665), Australia (11,637) and Ukraine (9,352), Capstone-Intel said.

Meanwhile, small entrepreneurs took advantage of the procession to sell their wares.

Mae de los Reyes and her relatives, based in the district of Tondo, Manila sold hand-printed face towels bearing the image of the Black Nazarene.

“We spent P18 to produce each towel,” she said in an interview near Quiapo Church. “Initially, we were selling each towel for P25, but we decided to cut the price to P20 each.”

Unsold items would be sold online after the feast, she said.

“It’s a season that creates a surge in demand for the products of small-scale businesses,” John Paolo R. Rivera, an economist at the Asian Institute of Management, said in a Facebook Messenger chat. “Revenues from the occasion may be equivalent to days or weeks of work.”

Errol Jarapa from Quezon City sold calendars with the image of the Black Nazarene for P160 each, earning P60. Unsold items would be returned to the owner of a printing press, he said.

“The continued reopening of the economy toward greater normalcy has benefitted micro, small and medium enterprises, especially those that were hit hard by the pandemic,” Michael M. Ricafort, chief economist at Rizal Commercial Banking Corp., said via Messenger chat.

“The resumption of religious festivities such as the Black Nazarene feast helps generate more sales, earnings and employment for more people.”

Marites Arevalo, a 46-year old vendor from Caloocan City, had sold 3,000 leis of sampaguita by 3 p.m. and was expecting to earn P2,000.

“After the feast, I’m back to doing house-to-house selling in our community,” she said. “I go to Quiapo every Nazareno feast to sell Sampaguita because there are so many people.”

“Filipinos have a very tangible faith,” said Jairus D. Espiritu, a philosophy lecturer at Mapua University, noting that touching images of saints is part of their worship.

“Some scholars would argue that these practices are remnants of an animistic past,” he said in a Messenger chat. “Perhaps they are, but it is undeniable that it has already taken a uniquely different form — one that is truly Filipino, but still Catholic.”

With a P25 capital, Dennis Tiron sold necklaces with a Black Nazarene pendant for as much P100 during the feast. “Overall, I spent P10,000 to buy these items wholesale. I’m also expecting P10,000 or more in profit.” — Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza