CALM BEFORE THE CROWD The streets in front of Quiapo Church appear wide days before the feast of the Black Nazarene. —PHOTOS BY JAM STA ROSA
More than 21 million devotees were expected to participate in this year’s Feast of the Black Nazarene, according to officials of the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene (Quiapo Church).
For Jan. 9, or the feast day itself, church officials said they expected around 5 million devotees joining the “Traslacion,” or the actual procession of the venerated image from Quirino Grandstand in Luneta to Quiapo Church.
“Yearly we expect it to grow. So this year, we expect more than 21 million,” said Fr Danichi Hui, parochial vicar of Quiapo Church.
Officials said the feast would also be held in Tagum City, Catarman, Nueva Vizcaya, Palawan, Bicol, Cagayan de Oro and Batanes.
Abroad, it would be celebrated in the United Arab Emirates, a Muslim country.
The National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) will deploy 7,000 police officers to secure the feast especially its 6.1-kilometer procession from Quirino Grandstand to Quiapo Church.
Director Guillermo Eleazar, NCRPO chief, said 7,200 policemen under him would be further augmented by force multipliers, including village officials and security guards, scattered along 10 segments on the route.
The procession, slated to begin at 5 a.m. on Wednesday, took 23 hours to complete in 2018 and ended with around 700 injured participants, but no casualties.
“All of the police districts of Metro Manila will be utilized,” said Eleazar.
CASHING IN Vendors prepare merchandise and souvenir items hoping to cash in on the hundreds of thousands expected to take part in the Black Nazarene feast.
The NCRPO would also remain on full alert status until then, under which police officers are prohibited from taking leaves of absence, while those with previously scheduled foreign leaves could be recalled if the need arises.
Eleazar said he would also be requesting “No Fly” and “No Sail” zones as well as the jamming of cell phone signals in the area.
The NCRPO said it has been making the necessary security preparations for the festival since December.
Although the 2018 procession was regarded as generally peaceful, the event had been known to evoke frenzied displays of religious fervor among devotees drawn by the Black Nazarene’s alleged miracle-performing abilities.
Devotees were discouraged from climbing aboard the carriage to touch the image of the Black Nazarene during the procession.
Simply joining the procession would be more than enough, said the officials.
Believers may visit the image any time at the Quiapo Church.
Like in previous years, there will be Mass at the Quirino Grandstand at midnight of Jan. 9.
Prayer will be held around 4 a.m. prior to the procession.
Life-size replicas of the Black Nazarene image will be placed in the prayer stations along the route of Traslacion 2019 for the veneration of devotees.
For this year’s Traslacion, about 14 praying stations will again be placed along the route of the procession starting from the Quirino Grandstand area and ending at Quiapo area.
The annual Pahalik of the Black Nazarene image at the Quirino Grandstand is usually attended by millions of devotees of the miraculous image from across the country. — WITH A REPORT FROM MATTHEW REYSIO-CRUZ
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