(PNA file photo)

MANILA – The city government of Manila has appealed to all replica owners of the Black Nazarene not to go to Quiapo Church as traditionally done.

Every year, before and during the January 9 feast day of the Black Nazarene, replicas are brought by devotees from the National Capital Region and neighboring provinces to the minor basilica for the blessing.

However, rising coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) infections placed Metro Manila under Alert Level 3 while the Archdiocese of Manila will not hold physical masses from January 7 to 9 to prevent the crowd.

Sa mga organisasyon na may mga replica katulad sa amin, kami mismo, meron kaming replica sa Velasquez, Tondo, ipanatili nyo na lamang sa ating mga chapel ‘yung ating mga replica at yung mga deboto ng Nazareno at doon na lamang tayo magdasal sa kaniya kaniyang chapel (To the organizations that has the replica, like us, we have a replica in Velasquez, Tondo, keep your replicas in your own chapels, and to the devotees of the Black Nazarene, just pray in your chapels),” Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso said in an interview during his visit to Plaza Miranda, right outside the church, on Friday.

Domagoso also thanked Department of the Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año for sending security reinforcement to secure the vicinity of the church and assure that no people would gather during Sunday’s feast day.

He also congratulated and extended gratitude to the Manila Police District for laying out a security plan for this year’s celebration.

Domagoso, for the second straight year, appealed for understanding from devotees for canceling all events related to the celebration.

He said restrictions are being done to protect not only the devotees themselves but the welfare of the general public as well.

In San Juan, Mayor Francis Zamora likewise banned all Black Nazarene-related gatherings within the territorial jurisdiction of the city.

In a statement, he again reminded strict adherence to public minimum health standards, especially wearing of masks, regular handwashing, and physical distancing.

Usually, millions of devotees gather for the Black Nazarene feast and participate in the traslacion (transfer) procession that sometimes takes nearly 24 hours to finish.

Devotees believe that by touching the life-sized statue of the suffering Christ or at least the andas (carriage) and rope which devotees hold on to during the procession, their prayers will be answered.

Some join the traslacion as a vow or gratitude for their answered wishes.

The last traslacion in 2020, two months before the pandemic, lasted 16 hours while the longest happened in 2012, which took 22 hours to finish after the wheels of the andas and the rope were broken. (With a report from Lade Jean Kabagani/PNA)