Quiapo Church exec: All systems go for Traslacion 2024

By Christopher Lloyd Caliwan and Ferdinand Patinio

January 8, 2024, 3:20 pm Updated on January 8, 2024, 9:00 pm

<p><em>(PNA file photo)</em></p>

(PNA file photo)

MANILA – It's all systems go for Tuesday's Traslacion or grand procession of the Black Nazarene, as organizers assured that all preparations are in place.

“Sa pakikipagtulungan ng lahat ng sektor, pamahalaan, volunteers groups at taong simbahan, masasabi kong handang handa na tayo para sa security at pagiging solemn ng ating traslacion (With the cooperation of all sectors, the government, volunteer groups and people from the Church, I can say that in terms of ensuring the security and the solemnity of our Traslacion, we are ready)," Quiapo Church rector Fr. Jun Sescon said in an interview Monday.

Aside from the Manila City government, the organizers of the event also coordinated with other government agencies and private organizations to ensure an orderly and peaceful Traslacion.

Among them are the Philippine National Police (PNP), the Department of the Interior and Local Government, Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of Health, Philippine Coast Guard, and the Philippine Red Cross.

Meanwhile, PNP spokesperson Col. Jean Fajardo said they remain on alert to counter any security threats that may disrupt the religious observance.

"We are monitoring our proactive stance, our intelligence monitoring and we are working with other security forces. In case we monitor any threats, we will not hesitate to implement precautionary measures," Fajardo added.

Bureau of Fire Protection chief Director Louie Puracan said they would also provide ambulances and deploy first aid teams for medical emergencies.

“Makikita niyo kaagad yan naka kulay orange yung mga kabumberuhan natin. Nagdeploy kami ng around 2,000 na bumbero na qualified to conduct first aid kung sakaling may mga medical emergencies. Coordinated na rin ito sa mga malapit nating ospital kung may talagang kailanngan itakbo sa ospital (You will see right away that our firefighters wearing orange. We have deployed around 2,000 firefighters qualified to provide first aid in the event of medical emergencies. It has also been coordinated with our nearby hospitals in case someone really needs to be taken to the hospital),” Puracan said.

Manila Archbishop Cardinal Jose Advincula will lead the Fiesta Mass at midnight on Tuesday at the Quirino Grandstand, which is expected to draw thousands of devotees.

The grand procession will begin early Tuesday morning, from Quirino Grandstand in Luneta to the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo.

It will feature a new Andas (carriage), the image of the Black Nazarene will be enclosed in a tempered glass cage, still being pulled using a thick rope by devotees.

The public will no longer be allowed to climb the Andas to ensure the protection of the image and as well the attendees.

Devotees are encouraged to wear face masks while attending church events at Quiapo Church and during the Traslacion.

It will be held after three years of suspension due to Covid pandemic. The route of the procession will be the same as the route used in 2020.

The last Traslacion was held in January 2020, two months before pandemic lockdowns were implemented in the country. It was attended by some 2 million people.

According to the Quiapo Church Command Post, a total of 23,725 devotees have trooped to the church while nearly 31,000 joined the 'pahalik' for the Black Nazarene's image at the Quirino Grandstand as of 5 p.m. Monday.

Spring of inspiration

Meanwhile, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said it would do its best to secure devotees who would join this year's Traslacion.

"Kami rin ay kikilos upang maging payapa at maayos ang natatanging pagdiriwang ng sakrispisyo at pag-aalay ng buhay ni Hesus. Habang ang lahat ay taimtim na nagdarasal, kami rin ay nananawagan para sa aktibong pakikiisa ng mga namamanata na umiwas sa kaguluhan (we will act to ensure that this religious event which celebrates the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and while everyone is fervently praying, we are urging those devotees who will active in the procession to refrain from any acts that could cause trouble)," AFP chief Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. said in a statement.

Brawner also hoped that this occasion will serve as inspiration for Filipinos to unite for the country. 

Around 400 military personnel from different AFP units will be helping the PNP to secure this year's Traslacion.

Red Cross ready

The Philippine Red Cross (PRC) has stepped up measures to prepare for Traslacion by dispatching handheld radio units and installing very small aperture terminal (VSAT) in its command post in Kartilya ng Katipunan to ensure that communication lines are open.

The VSAT will ensure the connectivity between the deployed PRC personnel and the PRC national headquarters in Mandaluyong. The handheld radios, meanwhile, will guarantee communication among the PRC volunteers and staff deployed.

The installation of VSAT and distribution of handheld radios came after the Philippine National Police (PNP) said it is planning to temporarily shut down cellular phone signals along the procession route of the Feast of the Black Nazarene as part of its security measures.

“We will install a VSAT at our command post so we can monitor the situation real time in the grand procession. We have been including this practice in most of our rescue and response operations because this advanced state of communication allows us to send immediate assistance to people who need it,” PRC chairman and chief executive officer Richard “Dick” Gordon said.

PRC volunteer medical personnel, emergency medical team and staff will utilize the VSAT to relay real-time updates on the grand procession or report any significant emergencies to the PRC’s Operations Center in Mandaluyong.

Immediate transmission of the situation report will enable PRC national headquarters to dispatch additional assistance if needed.

PRC Secretary-General, Dr. Gwen Pang, meanwhile, said the organization has further improved its annual assistance for Black Nazarene devotees, which is included in PRC’s preparation and response operation this year.

“We take into account every best practice and lesson learned we have for every operation because these allow us to better prepare for situations such as this,” Pang said.

VSAT is a small-sized earth station, facilitating the transmission and reception of data, voice and video signals through a satellite communication network.

Well done

After visiting Quiapo Church and the command center on Monday morning, Interior and Local Government Secretary Benhur Abalos lauded the stringent security and safety measures.

He said President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. has specific instructions “to ensure the safety and welfare of the mammoth crowd that is expected to join in the procession of the Black Nazarene.”

“Ito ang unang (This is the first) Traslacion after Covid. We will be expecting more people kung kaya’t ito’y pinaghahandaan natin (that’s we are preparing for this),” he said in a news release.

“This is the government at work. So, detalyado (detailed), very comprehensive,” he added.

He reminded the devotees to exercise their good judgment before joining the Traslacion and advised them to stay at home if they are feeling unwell. (with Priam Nepomuceno/PNA)