THREE days before the feast of the Black Nazarene, Quiapo Church officials are making a final appeal to the government to allow them to accommodate more devotees of up to 50 percent of their capacity.
In an interview, Quiapo Church Parochial Vicar Fr. Douglas Badong said they are still hoping that they will be permitted to fill half of the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene on January 9.
“We hope they can still consider the 50 percent capacity so that we can accommodate more devotees for the Feast Day. If it’s 50 percent, about 500 can enter the church,” said Badong.
Once inside, the priest assured that they can strictly implement minimum public health standards. “We can assure them that there will be physical distancing,” Badong said.
Based on existing guidelines of the Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID), only up to 30 percent seating capacity are allowed for religious gatherings in areas under general community quarantine (GCQ).
With the 30 percent limit, the Quiapo Church can only accommodate a maximum of 400 people in each of the 15 masses scheduled on January 9.
In a press conference for Traslacion 2021, Technical Working Group head Alex Irasga said this means that for the entire day, only 6,000 people will be allowed to attend the masses inside the church.
“So for those who want to go inside the church, we are informing you that once we reach 6,000, we will stop the queuing,” said Irasga.
“If before it’s difficult already, it will be harder now because the number is limited. We call for more patience,” he added.
For those that won’t be able to enter the church, he said they will be allowed to attend the mass outside its premises but under strict health protocols.
“There will be LED boards in Quezon Boulevard, Carriedo, Carlos Palanca, and Plaza Miranda, where devotees can attend the mass. But there must be physical distancing as there will be markers with distances of 1 meter,” said Irasga.
Similarly, church officials urged the public to consider attending the fiesta masses online or on television.
“For our own health and safety, we can still pray and ask for blessings while watching the mass on tv or online,” said Irasga.
In the past, tens of thousands of devotees attend the fiesta masses at the Quiapo Church every January 9 as part of the celebration of Traslacion.
The Manila Police District Traffic Enforcement Unit said several roads in Manila will be closed to traffic starting at 10 p.m. on Friday night, January 8, for the Black Nazarene feast even if there will be no Traslacion.
The road closure includes the northbound lane of Quezon Blvd from Carlos Palanca street to Fugoso street, southbound lane of Quezon Blvd from A. Mendoza/Fugoso to Carlos Palanca street, westbound lane of Espana Boulevard from P.Campa to A. Mendoza street, the stretch of Evangelista street from P. Paterno street to Recto Avenue, the stretch of Palanca from Carriedo/Plaza Lacson to P. Casal street, and the stretch of Ronquillo street from Rizal Avenue to Plaza Sta. Cruz and the stretch of Bustos street.
Plaza Sta. Cruz to Rizal Avenue will be closed to traffic on January 9 at 12 midnight onwards.
Earlier, Mayor Isko Moreno said though there will be no Traslacion for this year’s Black Nazarene feast, the city government will make the Villalobos, Hidalgo, Carriedo and Plaza Miranda areas available to accommodate devotees who will attend the masses in Quiapo Church on January 9. – With Ashzel Hachero