By Joseph Almer Pedrajas and Martin Sadongdong
Devotees of the Black Nazarene should expect slight changes in this year’s “Traslacion” as police and Quiapo Church representatives bared their new plans to ensure a safer, more secured, and more solemn procession on January 9.
National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) chief Brig. Gen. Debold Sinas said that at least 2,000 police personnel will be positioned at the front and flanks of the carriage or “andas” of the Black Nazarene to prevent the crowd from blocking its path.
“There would be no devotees at the front and on the side because they’re the ones causing the procession to take longer,” Sinas said Thursday after meeting with members of the Manila Police District and Quiapo Church representatives.
“Just look at what we did during the thanksgiving procession. That’s what we’ll also do,” he added.
Monsignor Hernando Coronel, Quiapo Church rector, said that new route of the procession was adopted taking into consideration the safety of the devotees.
“Our route on January 9 will be on Ayala Bridge. According to the Department of Public Works and Highways, it is the safest because it has been retrofitted recently,” he said.
Police around ‘andas’
Sinas said that they will “adopt the same set up” as Monday’s thanksgiving procession where “there were no devotees at the front” of the image.
“We recommended it if it’s possible to adopt what we did during thanksgiving,” he said.
The Metro Manila police chief said that they will deploy police personnel at the front and flanks of the “andas” to prevent devotees from blocking it.
“If you notice, in all Traslacion, no one already wants to give way if the path is already blocked. That’s what we will prevent,” he said.
To “keep the devotees’ tradition” alive, Sinas said that they will still allow them to climb the carriage but only from its rear part.
“We also agreed that as much as possible, the procession will not stop. What we’re hoping is to make it faster because we’re very concerned that the longer it takes, the longer the time for criminal and terrorists to do their plans,” Sinas said.
During Monday’s thanksgiving procession, around 10,000 police personnel were deployed to ensure safety and orderliness. But for the upcoming Traslacion, Sinas said, they have yet to provide the numbers. The same number of policemen will be deployed to secure devotees during the Traslacion.
Fr. Douglas Badong, parochial vicar of Quiapo Church, said that instead of Jones Bridge, McArthur Bridge, and Quezon Bridge, the procession will pass through Ayala Bridge for the “safety and security” of the attendees. He said that the three bridges are undergoing “retrofitting.”
The new route has 14 segments and is 6.16-kilometers long.
This year’s procession is expected to start at 4:30 a.m. on January 9.
Badong said that the Traslacion will start at the Quirino Grandstand, then will pass through Katigbak Road, P. Burgos, Finance Road, and then from LRT Taft all the way to Ayala Bridge and Palanca.
Once it reaches the Quiapo area, Badong said, the procession will take the normal route.
According to him, the new route is 300 meters shorter than last year’s 6.19-km route. But it has more segments compared to the 10 segments last year.
This is also the first time that the procession will not pass through several barangays, he added.
“We will try to accommodate as many devotees as possible. This if the first time that the procession will not pass through several barangays,” Badong said.
“What we’re expecting is for the Traslacion to become peaceful. It’s not about the length of the procession, but about how it will become orderly and organized,” he stressed.
As for the ‘Pahalik’ or the traditional kissing of the Black Nazarene at the Quirino Grandstand in Manila on Tuesday (January 7) and Wednesday (January 8), Sinas said that they will follow the same security procedures implemented last year.
On Tuesday, the Pahalik lane will start at South Drive and end at the Katigbak Drive. But on Wednesday, it will start and end at South Drive.
Sinas said at least 23 “critical points” were identified from Padre Faura corner Roxas Boulevard to Round Table as he advised the public to expect strict security measures in the areas.
At around 12 a.m. on Tuesday, the following areas will be closed to traffic in preparation of the Traslacion: stretch of Katigbak Drive, Independence Road, and South Drive.
Meanwhile from 9 p.m. Wednesday onwards, the following areas will also be closed to traffic: Katigbak Drive and South Drive (one lane accessible to Manila Hotel and H20 Hotel); Roxas Boulevard from Katigbak Drive to T.M. Kalaw Street; Taft Avenue, from Ayala to Quezon, McArthur and Jones Bridges; and both lanes of Quezon Boulevard (from A Mendoza/Fugoso Street to Quezon Bridge).
“What we actually aim for is for the world, not just the country, to see how we love Jesus Christ, because this is an international event,” Coronel added.
Contrary to previous claims, there will still be the traditional rope for the devotees to touch, Badong said.
“We have not released anything that there will be no ropes. What we’ve only changed is the route,” Badong said.
The parochial vicar also called on the public to practice “devotion not fanaticism.”
“Our call for them is to be a devotee, not a fanatic,” he said.
“Let’s make the Traslacion more solemn as we are stressing the religious aspects of Traslacion 2020,” Coronel added.
Bro. Alex Irasga of Quiapo Church also bared that there will be 14 prayer stations.
Meanwhile, Sinas said that the replicas of the image of the Black Nazarene will be at the tail of the procession.
Body cameras will be attached to some police personnel and security officers, according to Sinas.
“Actually, someone lent me body cameras, around 24 pieces. But maybe, they could add more because the Highway Patrol Group is also asking so they could record the actual happenings, he said.
“Earlier, we learned that when we have body cam, we can put the pictures together,” Sinas added.
Sinas said that they also suggested to put a facial recognition software to the body cameras.
Jonjon Dionisio, a member of the Hijos del Nazareno-Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene, said that he already advised other ‘Hijos’ to lessen their food consumption.
“Our preparation already started four months ago. I told my brothers in Hijos that if possible, we lessen our food consumption so that we will be physically fit this Traslacion,” he said.
“We are more confident now. We hope that the Traslacion will be faster and more beautiful,” he added.
Other security measures
Sinas said that there are still” no imminent threats for the upcoming Traslacion, but added that they are not discounting the usual threats, including terrorism.
“We agreed with our counterparts – the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) and NICA (National Intelligence Coordinating Agency) of Intel – that as much as possible, we add more of our people for police visibility,” he said.
Signal jamming and suspending permit to carry firearms as early as the “Pahalik” or kissing of the image will also be recommended by the police.
“It was agreed that we continue jamming the telecommunication lines. So we are requesting the telcos that signals be jammed from the 8th (of January) until the procession is finished,” he said.
The local government of Manila also started prohibiting vendors from selling on Hidalgo and Gomez streets, which are adjacent to Quiapo Church, in preparation for the upcoming procession.
“No vendors, no drinking of alcohols, no pregnant women,” Sinas said.