AS early as 4 a.m., thousands upon thousands of devotees trooped to the Quirino Grandstand yesterday for the traditional ‘Pahalik’ or the kissing of the holy image of the Black Nazarene.
The event leads to the Feast of the Black Nazarene and the ‘Traslacion’ marking the transfer of the icon from the said venue to the Minor Basilica or Quiapo Church.
As of 2 p.m., Manila Police District (MPD) authorities said the crowd began swelling to nearly 20,000 and that most of the devotees stayed on after kissing the image, to find their spot for the start of ‘Traslacion’ this morning, January 9.
MPD chief Senior Supt. Vicente Danao, Jr. said the situation was generally peaceful and orderly.
Thousands also reportedly attended the hourly masses at the Quiapo Church yesterday.
It was learned that about 500 policemen have been deployed in the vicinity to provide security, apart from the K-9 unit, even as checkpoints have also been set up in areas leading to and from the Quiapo Church.
Aerial patrol was also continuously conducted by the Philippine Airforce both in the areas of Quiapo and the Quirino Grandstand.
Meanwhile, praying for guidance from the heaven’s above and full cooperation from the public, Philippine National Police chief, Director General Oscar D. Albayalde yesterday said they are aiming for a ‘zero casualty in today’s Traslacion expected to be attended by an estimated 21 million Black Nazarene devotees.
To achieve their ‘zero casualty goal,’ both Gen. Albayalde and National Capital Region Police Office chief, Director Guillermo Lorenzo T. Eleazar called on full cooperation of the public specifically the devotees.
“We enjoin all devotees joining the Traslacion to observe proper decorum and behavior befitting the sanctity of this religious rites,” said the PNP chief.
The PNP chief’s order to the NCRPO is clear: evict unruly persons and those under the influence of drugs and alcohol in the area.
All Permit-to-Carry-Firearms-Outside-of-Residence or PTCFORs issued to licensed gunholders in the country were suspended starting 8 a.m. yesterday until 8 a.m. tomorrow as part of the PNPs effort to ensure a peaceful and orderly Traslacion.
Eleazar said he has instructed his men to accost civilians carrying firearms in Manila and put them in jail if they are found to have unlicensed guns or even firearms with PTCFORs during the period.
Only members of the PNP, the Armed Forces and other law enforcement agencies who are performing official duties and wearing agency-prescribed uniforms will be allowed to carry firearms in Manila during the period, said Eleazar.
Already on full alert, the NCRPO is also seriously looking at all reports regarding plans to disrupt the event.
“We are not taking for granted all reports being sent to us. Our intelligence community is monitoring all threats,” the PNP chief said as he led the fine-tuning of all their preparations in coordination with the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, Departments of Health and Public Works and Highway, Metro Manila Development Authority, Philippine Coast and the Manila city government.
Gen. Albayalde said they expect the movement of mammoth crowd to render all roads and peripheries along the 6.1-kilometer long procession route around Luneta and Quiapo areas virtually inaccessible, thus their strong advise for those with no urgent business in these areas to postpone their trips for their own convenience.
With Alfred Dalizon