By Christina Hermoso, Aaron Recuenco, Leslie Ann Aquino, Anna Liza Villas-Alavaren, and Betheena Kae Unite
The stage is set, the roads are cleared, and security is air-tight as thousands of Catholic faithful stream into millions for today’s “pahalik” and vigil, leading up to the “traslacion” or transfer of the revered image of the Black Nazarene from the Quirino Grandstand to Quiapo Church in Manila tomorrow.
Yesterday, about 90,000 people were present when the procession of the replicas of the Black Nazarene took place in Quiapo, said Manila Police District spokesperson, Supt. Erwin Margarejo.
Today, the crowd will begin to thicken at Rizal Park as thousands upon thousands of “Poong Nazareno” devotees from different parts of the country take part in the series of activities that will be held during the overnight vigil.
Devotees, who are mostly clad in maroon and yellow shirts, that include the elderly, the sick, and persons with disabilities traditionally line up for hours for the “Pahalik sa Poong Nazareno.”
Quiapo Church rector Monsignor Hernando Coronel will preside over the Liturgy of the Hours and the holy mass at midnight. Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle will serve as the homilist.
Msgr. Coronel said, they are “praying for a more peaceful and safer procession this year” as he asked the faithful for prayers for a successful celebration. He has, repeatedly, appealed to the elderly, the sick, pregnant women, parents with small children, and the intoxicated not to attend the procession for safety reasons. “The Church,” he said, “will instead be praying for their personal intentions.”
Meanwhile, the last of the nine-day novenario in honor of the Black Nazarene that began last Dec. 31 will be held at the Quiapo Church at 6 p.m. today. The theme for this year’s celebration is “Poong Hesus Nazareno: Ang Daan, Ang Katotohanan at Ang Buhay.”
Volunteers who are involved in the traslacion 2018 will have the opportunity to also get close to the Black Nazarene a day before the much anticipated annual procession of the image.
For the first time, a special Mass will be held for volunteers today at the Quirino Grandstand in Manila.
Security in Manila
Snipers and drones will complement the ground security for the traslacion as millions of devotees are expected to join the slow procession around Manila to Quiapo.
Director Oscar Albayalde, chief of the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO), said the snipers will be on observer status who would monitor the ground activity from the top of the buildings along the procession routes.
“There will be drones all over the segments that would monitor the ground,” said Albayalde.
On the ground, Albayalde said the more than 5,000 policemen are tasked to be on alert on their areas of assignments, focusing on suspicious-looking people.
He said operatives from the Special Weapons and Tactics and the Explosive and Ordnance Division will repeatedly conduct paneling of the procession routes.
“Our policemen were already told not to use their cellular phones and that they should not act as spectators. They should conduct random checks of backpacks,” said Albayalde.
More than 5,000 policemen will be deployed in various areas of Manila, the cops will be reinforced by more than 1,000 soldiers and hundreds of volunteers and barangay security officers.
Quirino Grandstand and Jones Bridge will be highly-secured from the waterfront with the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) deploying 38 watercraft for monitoring and quick-reaction along Manila Bay and Pasig River.
Deployment has already started Sunday, said Captain Armand Balilo, PCG spokesman, “to cover the security at Quirino Grandstand and Jones Bridge.”
BRP Pampanga, a rescue vessel, will also be deployed on the day of the procession to serve as a platform for quick reaction team medical, K9, and rescue personnel.
The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) said a total of 1,300 MMDA personnel will be fielded around Quiapo Church and along the procession routes to help in traffic management, public safety, and emergency response operations of the city government and other government agencies.
The MMDA said roads in Manila where the Black Nazarene procession would traverse on Tuesday were already cleared of obstructions.
Bong Nebrija, MMDA operations supervisor, said illegally parked vehicles and vendors have been removed along affected roads to ensure the safety and security of the millions of devotees that would participate in the procession on January 9, Tuesday.
“We had a walk through the roads and inspected the areas to ensure there are no obstructions,” said Nebrija.
He advised motorists not to attempt using the routes of the procession prepared by the Manila Police District to avoid being caught traffic on Tuesday.
“Some roads will be closed to vehicular traffic,” said Nebrija.
The procession of the Black Nazarene image will start at 6 a.m. at the Quirino Grandstand.
From Independence Road, the procession will turn right to Katigbak Drive then straight to P. Burgos (westbound lane) going to P. Burgos (southbound lane) through Jones Bridge.
It will then turn right to Dasmariñas, turn right again towards Plaza Santa Cruz, turn left to Palanca St., turn left to Quezon Blvd, turn right to Arlegui St., turn right to Fraternal St., turn right to Vergara St., turn left to Duque de Alba, turn left to Castillejos St., turn left to Farnecio St., turn right to Arlegui St., turn left to Nepomuceno St. (counter-flow), turn left to Aguila St., turn right to Carcer St., turn right to Hidalgo through Plaza del Carmen, turn left to Bilibid Viejo St. through Puyat, turn left to Guzman St., turn right to Hidalgo St., turn left to Bautista St. (Barbosa), turn right to Globo de Oro through under Quezon Bridge, turn right to Palanca St., then turn right to Villalobos St. through Plaza Miranda going to Quiapo Church.
Liquor, gun ban
The Manila Police District (MPD) yesterday reminded the public of the imposition of liquor and gun ban in the capital city starting today in line with the religious festivity.
Chief Superintendent Joel Coronel, MPD director, said the liquor ban will be implemented from 6 p.m. today to 6 a.m. on Wednesday.
“This will cover the temporary ban on the sale, distribution, and consumption of alcoholic beverages within the 500-meter radius of the vicinity of the route, Quirino Grandstand, and Quiapo Church,” Coronel explained.
Meanwhile, Permits to Carry Firearms Outside of Residence (PTCFOR) will be suspended from midnight of Monday to midnight of Wednesday in the National Capital Region (NCR), Senior Inspector Albert Bucal of the MPD Public Information Office said. (With reports from Jaimie Rose R. Aberia and Leslie Ann G. Aquino)
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