VARIOUS government agencies have started strengthening security measures around the Quiapo Church or the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene in preparation for the upcoming Feast of the Black Nazarene on January 9.
And since Metro Manila has been experiencing a spike in COVID-19 cases in the past days following the gatherings during the holiday season, Manila City Mayor Honey Lacuna said measures would be put in place to ensure that the religious celebration would not become a superspreader event.
Lacuna said the measures would concern logistics, as well as security and peace and order for the event.
“We ask for your forgiveness if we are unable to execute the regular ‘Traslacion’ that we are used to, but we can be sure that our faith will not be diminished because we will have a walk of faith [procession] instead,” said Lacuna in Filipino during a media conference.
The last time the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene held its customary procession was in January 2020.
Since there is still a pandemic, the Quiapo Church and local authorities have once again suspended the traditional “traslacion” and changed the usual activities practiced during pre-pandemic years to reduce the crowds during the feast, Lacuna said.
The image of the Black Nazarene will be at the grandstand to be accessible to a greater number of devotees starting January 7 until the “Walk of Faith” procession.
The “Walk of Faith,” which will take place on January 8 following the midnight mass, will start at the Quirino Grandstand and end in Quiapo Church.
In anticipation of heavy traffic on thoroughfares surrounding the Quiapo Church, Metro Manila Development Authority General Manager Col. Procopio Lipana said some 730 MMDA personnel would be deployed around Quiapo Church and on roads for the walk of faith procession.
To ensure the safe movement of vehicles going in and out of the Manila Grandstand during the celebration, the Manila Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office will only allow the entry of registered and accredited vehicles by the local government and the church, said Kenneth Hong of the Office of Civil Defense – National Capital Region.
Meanwhile, some 3,000 personnel from the ranks of the Manila Police District and 2,000 personnel from the National Capital Region Police Office will be dispersed throughout the walk of faith procession route.
Although there are currently no threats of terrorist attacks concerning the feast, MPD Director Brig. Gen. Andre Dizon said security measures would still be enforced around the procession route.
To reduce the number of devotees going on the walk of faith procession, prayer stations with Black Nazarene replicas will also be installed around Quiapo, according to church officials.
For its part, the Department of Health said it has now alerted hospitals along the procession route to undertake quick response measures for injuries related to the celebration.
Lacuna said a liquor ban would be implemented in the city starting January 7 until January 9, which would be a non-working holiday.
Starting January 6, authorities said Quirino Grandstand would be closed to all vehicles from 10 p.m. onwards, while roads along Quiapo Church, starting from the northbound and southbound lanes of Quezon Blvd., would be closed on January 8, from 12 a.m. onwards.
On January 8, 2023, at exactly 12 a.m. a Eucharistic Celebration will be held. It will be presided over by Rev. Fr. Rufino Sescon Jr., the Rector and Parish Priest of Quiapo Church. The “Walk of Faith 2023” from Quirino Grandstand to Quiapo Church will immediately follow after the mass.
Officials have suspended the traditional “pahalik” to avoid the spread of bodily fluids during the activity, according to Quiapo Officials.
For this year, the traditional “pahalik” will now be called “pagpupugay,”where devotees are only allowed to touch and wipe the image of Black Nazarene.
Pagpupugay will run from January 7 to 10, Quiapo officials said.