January 23, 2018, 11:55 pm
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Traslacion 2018 expects 19M devotees

ORGANIZERS of the Feast of the Black Nazarene are expecting close to 19 million devotees to participate in this year’s activities, including the grand procession in Manila on January 9.

In a press conference for the Traslacion 2018, the Manila Police District-Traffic Enforcement Unit (MPD-TEU) said it believes the trend of an annual five percent increase in the number of participants as shown in the last six years will continue this year.

“For the (several) days of celebration, we had 18 million last year. Now, we are expecting an increase of 5 percent also,” said MPD-TEU head Supt. Lucile Faycho.

“We are 100 percent ready. Actually, we already started last December 31,” said Quiapo Church Parochial Vicar Fr. Douglas Badong.

Also this year, organizers opted tointroduce minor changes in the format and route of the procession.

According to Traslacion 2018 - Technical Working Committee head Bro. Alex Erasco, they will be introducing the 12 prayer stations in selected parts of the procession route.

“In the prayer stations, there will be simultaneous praying as the andas (carriage) approaches every station. There will also be a blessing of holy water while the andas is passing through,” said Erasco.

According to Quiapo Church Rector Msgr. Hernando Coronel, the prayer stations aim to make the procession more “spiritual.”

In the past, the procession is often criticized as being a strong manifestation of “idolatry,” instead of faith, as devotees are doing everything just to be able to wipe their towels on the image of the Black Nazarene.

Aside from the prayer stations, organizers also opted to slightly alter the procession route.

Erasco said the procession will now be on a counterflow at P. Burgos (westbound and southbound lanes), which will take it directly to the Jones Bridge.

Aside from being safer, he said using the other lane will help in avoiding bottleneck segments of the procession.

As to the security preparations, MPD Deputy District Director for Operations Senior Supt. Ariel Arcinas said they have not monitored any threats.

Based on scheduled activities, the procession of the replica images is set on January 7, Sunday, at 2 p.m. at the Quiapo Church.

This will be followed by the start of the Pahalik at the Quirino Grandstand at 6 a.m., and the prayer vigil at 5 p.m. on Monday.

The Holy Mass will take place at midnight to be followed by the Morning Prayers at 4 a.m. on Tuesday, also at the Quirino Grandstand.

The grand procession of the Black Nazarene is scheduled to start at 5 a.m. at the Quirino Grandstand.

SECURITY

About five hundred soldiers will be deployed to help secure the procession of the Black Nazarene.

Brig. Gen. Alan Arrojado, newly-installed commander of the AFP’s Joint Task Force National Capital Region, said his unit has been coordinating with church leaders since last month to ensure peace and order during the event.

“Since last month, we have been coordinating with the diocese of Manila as part of the preparations of the JTF NCR. And they have a request, additional troops to augment the Philippine National Police,” said Arrojado.

“I just can say battalion-size, a battalion to reinforce (the PNP). At least we are ready,” said Arrojado when asked how many soldiers will be deployed for the procession. A battalion is composed of around 500 officers and men.

The PNP is playing the lead role in securing the event. National Capital Region Police Office chief Director Oscar Albayalde said 5,000 policemen will be deployed to ensure peace and order.

Arrojado said the military has not monitored any plan by terrorist groups to sabotage the procession. “Nothing has reached me. If there is, we will be prepared for it,” he also said.

“I have studies, updates and situations. We always consider the possibility of terrorism but it is not yet verified,” Arrojado said.

In 2012, six to nine terrorists from Mindanao plotted to bomb the procession of the Black Nazarene. The event proceeded without any untoward incident though security officials jammed phone signals to ensure the plan would not prosper.

The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority said 1,300 traffic enforcers will be deployed from Jan. 5 to 9 for the Feast of the Black Nazarene.  – With Victor Reyes and Evan Orias
 
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