Millions joining Traslacion despite threat
FAITH is set to overcome fear of terror threats as millions of Filipino devotees are expected to show up for the grand annual Black Nazarene procession that has for years showcased the country’s religious fervor.
The “Traslacion,” or the transfer of the ebony image from the Rizal Park where it was venerated since Saturday night, to the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene or Quiapo Church, is one of the biggest religious events in the Philippines.
About 18 million people are expected to participate in the procession, according to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Manila (RCAM).
This year, the “Traslacion” will begin with a midnight mass officiated by Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle at the Luneta Grandstand. The procession will roll off after morning prayers at 5 a.m.
The Black Nazarene, on a special carriage pulled by maroon-clad devotees, will again be followed by undulating crowds armed with white towels or handkerchiefs.
Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo said that the religious feast is a time for prayers, sacrifice, penance, and self-giving.
Msgr. Hernando Coronel, rector of the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene, expressed hopes that the miraculous image will reach the church Monday night.
Last year, the “Traslacion” ended 20 hours after it left the Quirino Grandstand at past 6 am.
Church officials have called on devotees to observe discipline.
Coronel discouraged the distribution of shirts and the use of streamers and posters along the route of the procession bearing not only an image of the Black Nazarene but also the names and faces of politicians.
The police, military, church and the city government of Manila have laid out an elaborate security plan to protect the millions of devotees following reports of a possible threat from terror groups.
Thousands of soldiers and policemen were deployed, as well as personnel of the Metro Manila Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council, the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council, the Metro Manila Development Authority and the Philippine Red Cross.
The security plans include, among others, the setting up of emergency response clusters that are ready to respond anytime to terror attacks, fire, stampede, common crimes and medical emergencies.
Cellular phone signals in areas where the procession will pass will be jammed for security reasons.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Sunday said devotees should not be cowed by reports of possible terrorist attacks.
Col. Edgard Arevalo, chief of the AFP Public Affairs Office, gave assurances that security forces will watch after the devotees during the entire celebration.
“They should not be cowed by reports of possible terrorist attacks as that will fulfill the desires of terrorists.” he pointed out.
“They (devotees) should trust that their security forces are out there, among them, and looking over them in the entire period. We still urge the people though to support and cooperate with their security forces,” he added.
Instead of worrying about the alleged terror plot, devotees should serve as force multipliers and further “augment the already beefed up number of military and police personnel by observing people acting suspiciously; or packs left unattended; or other attendees violating established norms,” Arevalo said.
“These should be reported immediately to the nearest uniformed security forces…be the additional eyes, ears, and force multipliers,” he added.
President Rodrigo Duterte is contented with the security preparations for the Black Nazarene procession, Malacañang said on Sunday.
In an interview with state-run dzRB on Sunday, Presidential Communications Assistant Secretary Ana Maria Paz Banaag, said that the President “is satisfied” with the security preparations.
“He knows that the PNP, the AFP is doing their best, local government units are doing their best to make sure that any threat, any attempt of untoward incident would not push through,” Banaag said.
PNP chief Ronald dela Rosa imposed a 48-hour gun ban in Manila.
The gun ban started at 8 a.m. on Sunday and will end at 8 a.m. on Tuesday.
Dela Rosa said the PNP leadership suspended all Permits to Carry Firearms Outside of Residence in Manila.
Only policemen and members of the military will be allowed to carry firearms during the translacion.
Director Oscar Albayalde, head of the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO), said the devotees and onlookers are not allowed to bring backpacks with them and wear caps since these could be used to hide bombs or improvised explosion devices.
The Light Rail Transit will extend its operating hours on Monday to accommodate devotees of the Black Nazarene.
“There will be no free rides but we are extending our operating hours until 11 p.m.,” Rochelle Hilario, corporate head of the Light Rail Manila Corporation, told The Manila Times on Sunday.
The LRMC is the operator of the LRT.