Photographers' Blog

Keeping the faith

Manila, Philippines

By Bobby Ranoco

Covering the grand procession of the Jesus of the Black Nazarene is not easy, even though I do it annually. Every year on January 9, millions of devotees crowd the streets as a life-sized, dark, wooden sculpture of Jesus Christ carrying the cross is brought through Manila’s old city.

I began to prepare days before the procession and sought permission to get a vantage point on the rooftop of the Quirino Grandstand at Luneta Park, where the procession begins, and on top of other buildings surrounding the route, to produce photographs from a bird’s eye view. It was my first time photographing from the rooftop of the Quirino Grandstand. I had to do my research on how my photographs would turn out at such an angle.

As I did all this, I was praying hard for guidance from the Jesus of the Black Nazarene that all my requests would be approved. He heeded my prayers: everything was approved and ran smoothly with time to spare.

January 9 arrived and while everyone else was sleeping, I woke up at 3 a.m. because we had to be at the grandstand by 5 a.m. to give us an hour to prepare before the mass. At last, the organizer asked me and the other local photographers to position ourselves on the rooftop.

As I stood on the grandstand, about as high as a five-storey building, I was amazed by what I saw: a sea of devotees attending the early morning mass before the procession. Millions of people come to the event every year to ask for their individual miracles. During the mass, which was officiated by Archbishop Cardinal Luis Tagle, I could feel the solemnity and the serenity of the devotees who were praying fervently to the Black Nazarene.

Feast of the Black Nazarene

Downtown Manila’s “Feast of the Black Nazarene” is an annual event that everyone anticipates. It has become a routine because everything happens as expected – millions of people jockeying to get near and touch the image of the Black Nazarene or at least the rope that pulls the carriage for the religious procession. Some people faint, a few unfortunate ones get trampled to death or suffer heart attacks, petty thieves take advantage of the situation to pick pockets and bags, and so on.

Devotees clamber onto a carriage to touch the statue of the Black Nazarene during an annual religious procession in Manila January 9, 2011.    REUTERS/Erik de Castro

Yes, it has become predictable and routine but it never ceases to amaze me every time I see the outpouring of emotions and enthusiasm of the people to be part of the event. Last January 9, I was at the Qurino Grandstand in Manila as early as 5 a.m. The procession didn’t start until 7 a.m. after a Holy Mass but I had to make sure I would get the best possible position to capture good images of the crowd. That position was at the rooftop of the grandstand.

A man is carried by fellow devotees after touching the statue of the Black Nazarene during an annual religious procession in Manila January 9, 2011.   REUTERS/Erik de Castro

This year, police estimated two million devotees participated in the procession that took the image of the Black Nazarene to the streets of Quiapo district in Manila. It was just more or less a five-kilometer stretch but it took 17 hours for the image to reach the final destination – the Quiapo Church.

Routine hostage crisis turns deadly

ATTENTION: CONTAINS GRAPHIC CONTENT

By Erik de Castro

I arrived at the scene of the hostage taking in Manila with feelings of excitement because it was a big story. But also, with a pang of sadness as I was at exactly the same place two months ago when yellow was the color of festivities for thousands of people attending the inauguration of our new president, Benigno “NoyNoy” Aquino.

I immediately noticed a parked tourist bus just in front of the grandstand. I was standing behind a police line about 300 yards away. I quickly snapped photos of the bus and and two women looking out from between the closed curtain of the bus.

Tourists taken hostage look out from a window after a former police officer took hostage a tourist bus in Manila August 23, 2010.  REUTERS/Erik de Castro

My colleague Cheryl Ravelo and I set up our communications and our laptops to file pictures from my car. We immediately called Manila-based photographer Bobby Ranoco to arrange how we could get his memory cards to file the first Reuters pictures.

from Russell Boyce:

Asia – A week in pictures

Rarely do so many big stories of global interest happen at the same time from one region but last week in Asia its been incredible.

Soldiers and aid workers struggled to reach at least a million people cut off by landslides that have complicated relief efforts after the worst floods in Pakistan in 80 years. Poor weather has grounded relief helicopters and more rain was expected to compound the misery of more than 13 million people . The floods have killed more than 1,600 people. 

PAKISTAN-FLOODS/

Marooned flood victims looking to escape grab the side bars of a hovering Army helicopter which arrived to distribute food supplies in the Muzaffargarh district of Pakistan's Punjab province August 7, 2010. Pakistanis desperate to get out of flooded villages threw themselves at helicopters on Saturday as more heavy rain was expected to intensify both suffering and anger with the government. The disaster killed more than 1,600 people and disrupted the lives of 12 million.  REUTERS/Adrees Latif