ALL roads in Manila lead to the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo today as some 13 million to 15 million devotees are expected to join the “Traslacion” or the transfer of the miraculous image of the Black Nazarene from the Quirino Grandstand to Quiapo Church, according to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Manila (RCAM).
Officials said more devotees may join the annual procession because this year’s commemoration falls on a weekend.
“The growing number of fiesta devotees will add up to the regular Friday and Sunday devotees. Another factor is the declaration of the City Government of Manila making Quiapo Fiesta 2016 as an international event,” a situational report furnished by the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene said.
Church and city officials, in coordination with the Metro Manila Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (MMDRRMC) and the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRRMC) have formulated a plan to ensure the safety of devotees.
The joint plan was similar to the security preparations put in place when Pope Francis visited Manila last year.
Emergency response clusters have been organized and activated at different levels based on identified threats such as any terrorist attacks, fire, common crimes and stampede.
Church officials called on the faithful to observe discipline. They also asked politicians not to use the event for politicking.
Monsignor Hernando Coronel, rector of Quiapo Church, said the focus of the event is to show respect and love to the Black Nazarene, and thus, should not be used for personal gains.
Coronel reiterated his appeal to politicians not to take advantage of the event by putting up streamers or posters along the route of the procession.
The priest also warned against the distribution of shirts bearing not only an image of the Black Nazarene but also names and faces of politicians.
“We discourage those things,” he added.
On Friday, more than a million devotees lined up as early as 4 a.m. to kiss the Black Nazarene.
The Black Nazarene is a life-sized wooden sculpture of Jesus Christ that was brought to Manila by Augustinian priests in 1607. Tradition holds that it got its dark color after it was burned in a fire that hit the Spanish galleon carrying it.
Unshod devotees pull a carriage where the image is ensconced during the procession that in recent years lasted 20 to 24 hours. Millions of devotees normally follow the carriage until it reaches the Quiapo Church.
Manila Mayor Joseph Ejercito Estrada called on the devotees not to bring selfie sticks and pointed umbrellas because they could cause injury to others.
This year’s grand procession will follow the same route as last year’s.
The procession will start at 7 a.m. at the Quirino Grandstand, left to Katigback Drive thru Padre Burgos Street, left to Taft Avenue thru Jones Bridge, right to Dasmariñas Street, right to Plaza Santa Cruz Street, left to Carlos Palanca Street thru under Quezon Bridge, left to Quezon Boulevard, right to Arlegui Street, right to Fraternal Street, right to Vergara Street, left to Duque de Alba Street, left to Castillejos Street, left to Farnecio Street, right to Arlegui Street, left to Nepomuceno Street, left to Aguila Street, right to Cancer Street, right to Hidalgo thru Plaza del Carmen, left to Bilibid Viejo thru G. Puyat, left to Guzman Street, right to Hidalgo Street, left to Barbosa Street, right to Globo de Oro thru under Quezon Bridge, right to Palanca Street, right to Villalobos thru Plaza Miranda, and then back to Quiapo Church.
However, the Holy Mass, which is usually held before the procession, has been moved to midnight of Friday right after the novena.
“We want to avoid [the recurrence of incidents from]previous occasions when devotees would run to kiss the Black Nazarene even during the Mass,” Quiapo Church Parish Priest Hernado “Ding” Coronel said.
The Mass on Friday was led by Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle.