The procession of the religious image around Manila is one of the highlights of a weeklong celebration of the Feast of the Black Nazarene in the Philippine capital in early January. (Photo: Joe Torres/ucanews)
Security has been tightened in Manila ahead of the Philippines’ largest religious event this week — the procession of the image of the Black Nazarene which usually attracts millions of devotees every year.
The Philippine National Police announced that it is profiling groups and threats, especially after the killing of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani by an American drone strike last week.Lt. Gen. Archie Francisco Gamboa, national police chief, said there are security concerns that some groups may take advantage of the situation.About 10,000 security personnel will be deployed in the Philippine capital to ensure order during the religious event this week, said the police official.Authorities earlier announced that it is planning to quicken the pace of the yearly "traslacion," or transfer, of the image of the Black Nazarene from a park in Manila to a nearby church.
The Black Nazarine is a dark-skinned image of a kneeling Jesus Christ carrying the Cross.In previous years, the procession, which takes place every Jan. 9, has taken up 22 hours to finish.The traslacion draws millions of devotees every year who jostle one another to touch or at least catch a glimpse of the religious icon, slowing the procession down.
This year, authorities are putting up barriers and barbed wire along strategic places such as bridges to prevent devotees from slowing the procession by jumping onto the carriage bearing the image from all directions.Brig. Gen. Debold Sinas, Metro Manila police chief, said climbing on the carriage will still be allowed but only from the rear. He said policemen will also be stationed along the procession to monitor the activities of devotees.The general, however, said he cannot estimate how long the procession would take this year, saying the police would rather focus on maintaining peace and order.Some devotees have criticized the police plan, saying they will not be able to get near the image.Father Douglas Badong, vicar of the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene in Manila, assured devotees that they will not be prevented from going near and touching the image.The priest, however, appealed to devotees to make the celebration "orderly." Manila authorities have already announced the suspension of classes in public and private schools, and the closure of government offices on Jan. 9.Meanwhile, replicas of the Black Nazarene were scheduled to be blessed on Jan. 7.A procession of the replicas will showcase centuries-old personal collections of images that have been cared for and passed on from generations of devotees.The procession recalls the 1787 transfer of the image of the Black Nazarene from an Augustinian church in the old walled city of Manila to the basilica in the city's Quiapo district.This year marks the 13th time that the Black Nazarene procession will start outside the Quiapo church. The first time was in 2007, the 400th anniversary of the celebration.