BY GERARD NAVAL and VICTOR REYES
THE 415th Feast of the Black Nazarene will be a historic event as it will be officially celebrated nationwide, instead of the usual flocking of devotees to Quiapo Church in Manila.
For decades, the Quiapo Church has been holding a grand procession in Manila during the feast of the black image of Christ, which is participated in by tens of thousands of barefoot devotees. For this year, however, Quiapo Church and the Manila city government decided to drop the grand procession to avoid a mass gathering of devotees amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
Despite this around 27,000 policemen and 400 soldiers will be deployed to secure the Feast of Black Nazarene on Saturday.
Fr. Douglas Badong, Quiapo Church parochial vicar, said everything is set for the localized edition of the “Traslacion.”
“The Black Nazarene won’t be able to go out of Quiapo (Church) now. But more Nazarene images will come out now to carry the message,” he said in a radio interview. “From Batanes to Mindanao there will be simultaneous celebrations of the feast of the Black Nazarene.”
“Celebration” means fiesta masses will be held in different parishes, especially within the Archdiocese of Manila and its suffragan dioceses, said Msgr Ding Coronel, rector of Quiapo Church.
“The Archdiocese of Manila, Dioceses of Kalookan, Cubao, Novaliches, Pasig, Parañaque, and several provinces will have their own fiesta masses,” Coronel said in another interview.
Badong said processions and motorcades will be held in dioceses and parishes, “where the local government gave permission.”
He said the localized “Traslacion” is an upgrade from the usual celebration that is limited to Manila and selected provinces, such as Cagayan de Oro, Batanes, Catarman, Nueva Vizcaya, Iligan, and Puerto Princesa.
“Now, there will definitely be more places involved as every province, every parish has signified their intent to join the celebration on January 9,” said Badong.
Brig. Gen. Vicente Danao Jr, chief of the National Capital Region Police Office, said while the traditional grand procession would not be held, crowds are still expected during masses at the Quiapo Church, Sta Cruz Church, San Sebastian Church, Nazarene Catholic School.
Danao said 7,000 of the policemen will come from the Manila Police District while 20,000 will come from other police districts in Metro Manila and other police units.
He said the “challenge” is how to implement minimum health standards to prevent the further spread of COVID-19. He asked churchgoers to observe the health protocols of wearing face masks physical distancing.
Danao said the PNP will be imposing some restrictions — no vendors allowed in the vicinity of Quiapo Church, and churchgoers will not be allowed to bring or use backpacks as well as colored canisters.
He said only transparent plastic bags and transparent water containers or bottled water will be allowed to avoid any untoward incident.
The military’s Joint Task Force National Capital Region said it will deploy some 400 soldiers to augment the police force.