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The Image of the Black Nazarene As Larauan

In Pedro Chirino’s account of the religion of the early Filipinos, he mentioned about the “adoration and deification of the ancestors – especially of those who distinguished themselves through valiant deeds… It was a general practice for anyone who could successfully do so to attribute divinity to his old father when the latter died.”

In memory of their departed ancestors, they keep their little idols called Larauan, which means “idol,” “image,” or “statue.” Some of these images or larauan are of stone, wood, bone, ivory, or a cayman’s teeth; while others are of gold. In short, they represent their ancestors and in times of necessities they turn to these images for assistance.

A 15th century Bulul with a ceremonial bowl or pamahan (, Louvre Museum).

Example of larauan is the Bulul (bulul) or tinagtaggu from Ifugao. It is a carved wooden image used to guard the rice crop by Ifugao and their sub-tribe Kalanguya peoples of northern Luzon. Bulul are representations of ancestors and are believed to possess power from the presence of the ancestral spirit. They are used in rituals related with rice production and healing.

A standing male figure representing a rice deity, Bulul. (

The Image of the Black Nazarene as Larauan

The image of the Black Nazarene portrays a suffering Christ in semi-kneeling position, clad in maroon robe, crowned with thorns and carrying a large wooden cross on his way to Calvary. (Read: Experiencing Christ Through the Black Nazarene) The Nazareno is a larauan because it “represents” the suffering Christ. Through the Second Council of Nicaea (787 A.D.), the Roman Catholic Church justified the inclusion of painted and carved figures in her services with these words: “Adoration is rendered to God, veneration, to the saints. Homage is paid to an image not for its sake but for the holy personages represented.” The Council of Trent (1545-1563), in response to the Protestant revival of the issue, the Church iterated her Nicene stand adding further: “In images, there is no deity or power on account of which we pray to them or entrusted them with petitions. Images enhance the homage we pay to what they represent: the divinity of Christ and virtues of the saints.” ( Read more Painted and Graven Images as Representation.

The devotion to the Black Nazarene is popular because it “meets legitimate psychological, physical, social and cultural needs. They fulfill the ‘deepest yearnings of common Filipinos.'” (Agong, Capaque, Gener, Hibionada, and Parian. The Church and in Asia). For the devotees, the Poong Nazareno is their “Provider, Confidante and Friend” (Ibid) much like the ancient larauan where people recourse to in times of necessities.

The image of the Nazareno is used in rituals like the pahalik and the annual procession or the Traslacion. These rituals are believed to be the means by which the divine power that fulfills the yearnings mentioned above, is transmitted to the devotees. Numerous replicas are kept and taken care of in homes and chapels throughout the archipelago much like how the larauan was kept in ancient Filipino spiritual practices.

The Use of Larawan in Genesis 1: 26-27

The term larawan is used in an entirely different sense in the book of Genesis chapter 1, verses 26-27. Magandang Balita Bibila (MBBTAG) renders , Pagkatapos, sinabi ng Diyos: “Ngayon, likhain natin ang tao ayon sa ating larawan, ayon sa ating wangis. Sila ang mamamahala sa mga isda, sa mga ibon sa himpapawid at sa lahat ng hayop, maging maamo o mailap, malaki o maliit.” Nilalang nga ng Diyos ang tao ayon sa kanyang larawan. Sila’y kanyang nilalang na isang lalaki at isang babae. (Italics mine)

The Strong’s dictionary defines “image” (larawan) as “representative figure, especially an idol:- image.” We are God’s larauan (image) or “under-kings,” vice-regents (deputy) or stewards. God calls humanity as “ruler” to serve as steward or under-sovereign, to embody God’s own care for, and protection of, his good creation in his own sovereign rule over the earth. God put us here to develop the hidden potentials in God’s creation so that the whole of it may celebrate his glory” (Bartholomew and Goheen).

In this sense, the term larauan or larawan is both a representation of persons whom we adore, respect, and turn to in times of distress, and our object of celebration as well (ancestors, God/Jesus) and a sense of responsibility on the part of human beings who were “created in God’s larawan (image). For the devotees of the Black Nazarene this calls for a more mature level of devotion. They should fulfill their yearly vow (panata) with a sense of responsibility for the environment by not littering on the streets during Traslacion, by not hurting fellow devotee, by being law-abiding citizens, and by being a consistent member of the Catholic Church.

For us who are not devotees of the Black Nazarene (Devotees included, of course), the term larauan, reminds us of our mandate as God’s stewards of his creation. May we continue to fulfill this mandate until the coming of our Lord and Master Jesus Christ!


Bina Agong, George Capaque, Timoteo Gener, Ian Hibionada, and Adonis Parian. Poverty, Religion and Culture in the Devotion to the Black Nazarene. Lessons on Being a Church Among the Poor. The Church and Poverty in Asia. Manila, Philippines: OMF and ATS, 2008.

Craig G. Bartholomew and Michael W. Goheen.The Drama of Scripture. Finding Our Place in the Biblical Story. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2004.

Pedro Chirino, S.J. Relacion de las Islas Filipinas. The Philippine Islands. Vol. XII, 1601-1604.

MySword for Android. Riversoft Ministry, 2011-2019.

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