By Roy Mabasa
The British government on Tuesday advised its citizens in the Philippines to avoid the annual procession of the Black Nazarene or “Traslación” to be held in Manila on Wednesday “for safety purposes.”
This advisory came despite earlier assurances made by the Philippine National Police (PNP) that no terror threat has been monitored in time for the yearly feast, an event where millions of Black Nazarene devotees are expected to attend.
“The procession may last up to 22 hours and attract over a million participants. You’re advised to avoid the procession for safety purposes and follow the instructions of local authorities,” the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) of the United Kingdom said in an updated travel advisory posted on its website.
National Capital Region Command chief Guillermo Eleazar said the PNP is deploying more than 7,000 cops for the religious event that will start at around 5 a.m. at the Quirino Grandstand in Rizal Park, ending in Quiapo Church in Plaza Miranda.
The PNP official, however, said signals would be jammed and a “No Fly Zone” and a “No Sail Zone” will be implemented in Quirino Grandstand, Quiapo, and along the route of the Traslacion as additional security measures.
On December 21, the FCO warned British nationals against all travel to western and central Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago because of terrorist activity and clashes between the military and insurgent groups.
In addition, it advised against all but essential travel to the remainder of Mindanao (excluding Camiguin, Dinagat and Siargao Islands) and to the south of Cebu province, up to and including the municipalities of Dalaguete and Badian, “due to the threat of terrorism.”
Ten days after the FCO travel advisory was issued, an explosion rocked Cotabato City when an unidentified suspect lobbed an improvised explosive device (IED) outside the South Sea mall complex, killing two people and injuring 34 others.
The UK government said the purpose of the FCO travel advisory is to provide information and advice to help British nationals make their own informed decisions about foreign travel.
Wednesday’s procession commemorates the transfer of the life-sized image of the Black Nazarene from Bagumbayan (Luneta) to the Minor Basilica (Quiapo Church). The dark-colored wooden sculpture of Jesus Christ was brought to the Philippines by Augustinian priests in the early 1600s.