There are countless misconcepcions and discussions around this popular undertaking that takes place annually every 9th day of January. Even the title itself is potentially plagued with errors as devotees and learned historians argue that that correct title of the event is “Translacion” which signifies the transfer of the image of Jesus Christ to its present-day home in Quiapo Church.
I’ve visited Quiapo Church several times in the past but never dared to be part of this yearly celebration. I fully respect the beliefs of those who flock to the Translación and attempt yearly to climb up to the statue to brush their palms and hankies on the image — it’s their faith. I, on the other hand, remain skeptical about the practice, most especially since casualties are recorded annually in association with this event. As of time of writing, Translación 2017 is still in progress so we’ll see what the numbers will look like for this year.
The Placebo Effect
In medicine, the concept of placebo effect is well-recognized, although not all physicians are fully supportive of the practice. Typically, in a placebo treatment, patients are prescribed a medication that may consist of a pill filled with nothing but sugar in it. In many cases, some have shown that as much as 30 per cent of patients administered with placebo feel better and get better.
Truth is, there isn’t anything about the medicine that worked to make the patients feel better. It’s just the patient’s belief or perception of becoming better or healed in the process that brings him or her relief. That is why some believe that the practice is deceptive and unethical. This drove the American Medical Association to rule in 2006 that doctors must tell their patients first when they are being prescribed a placebo.
Unfortunately, that diminishes the psychological value attached to it and its potential positive impact to the patient.
The real effect of the placebo
Whereas before, scientists thought that there isn’t any real physical change or improvement that happens with a placebo, more recently, it seems that the mind does things to the body.
An article published in The New England Journal of Medicine, which was based on the perspectives of Ted J. Kaptchuk, a thought leader when it comes to the healing effect of placebos, and Franklin G. Miller, established how several studies have demonstrated that certain neurobiological pathways are activated by placebo. In turn, this gives the patient a feeling of relief but, as the article highlighted, rarely redound to cure.
The power of faith
Another study published in 2016 in the JAMA Internal Medicine concluded that “frequent attendance to religious service was associated with significantly lower risk of all-cause, cardiovascular, and cancer mortality among women”. The study was conducted from 1992 through 2012, with a total of 74,534 subjects.
In the “Unlocking the healing power of you” published by the National Geographic, there is an astonishing story about a Parkinson’s disease patient, Mike Pauletich, who believed that a surgical treatment, still in its experimental stages, worked to improve his condition. Later, he found out that he was part of the placebo group.
The real miracle of the Black Nazarene
Faith is what drives the religious to brave the seemingly never-ending sea of crowds that flock the Andas (the carriage used to move the image around Manila during Translacion) every year. Some thanking the Nazareno for answered intentions and even more praying for healing from sickness, forgiveness from sins, and deliverance from poverty.
The real miracle of the Black Nazarene is in bringing together thousands of people to have but one purpose — to worship. When that faith is multiplied by a thousand times, individual faith is magnified as well, bringing devotees in a state of euphoria unmatched by any illicit drug that the Duterte administration is going after.
Recalling this passage from the Bible, Luke 17:11-20:
Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”
When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.
One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.
Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?”Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”
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