By Christina I. Hermoso, Ellalyn V. Ruiz, Jaimie Rose Aberia, and Francis T. Wakefield
A sea of barefoot devotees of the Poong Hesus Nazareno clad in maroon and yellow shirts are expected to join the much-anticipated grand “Traslacion” procession of the revered Black Nazarene from the Quirino Grandstand in Manila back to the Quiapo Church in Manila this morning.
The long journey back to the Quiapo Church will begin shortly after the 5 a.m. Liturgy for Procession at the Quirino Grandstand.
It will be the eleventh time since 2007 that the annual procession will start at the Quirino Grandstand where devotees have been lining up for the traditional “Pahalik sa Poong Nazareno” since early yesterday morning.
This year’s theme is “Poong Hesus Nazareno: Ang Daan, Ang Katotohanan, at Ang Buhay.”
Quiapo Church rector Monsignor Hernando Coronel continues to appeal to pregnant women, those with small children, the elderly, the disabled, the sick, and individuals who are intoxicated not to join the procession or to keep a safe distance from the crowd for security and safety reasons.
Moving in wave-like motion, many will follow the procession barefoot as a sign of respect, humility, or in fulfillment of a “panata” (vow).
Amid shouts of “Viva Senor!” the devotees will each try to touch the ropes, believed to have healing and miraculous powers, attached to the gilded carriage of the image of the Black Nazarene.
Others will throw white towels to the men surrounding the image and who will in turn throw the towels back to the crowd after wiping them on the image of Christ.
The Quiapo Church has set up 12 prayer stations on the procession route “to make the procession more religious and spiritual.”
At the Quiapo Church, masses will be celebrated by the hour from 3 a.m. to 12 midnight. In other parts of the country, at least four to five million devotees are expected to celebrate the feast in their dioceses such as in Naga City, Laoag City, Tagum City, and Cagayan de Oro City.
Metro Manila will experience passing rain showers in the afternoon or evening during this year’s Traslacion, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration said.
PAGASA said good weather condition will prevail this morning but passing showers will be felt in the afternoon or evening, especially in Manila where the procession is held.
The forecast temperature range will be from 23 to 31 degress Celsius, PAGASA said.
More than 1,000 troops from the Armed Forces of the Philippines have been deployed to Manila to secure devotees in the procession.
The AFP, through the Joint Task Force National Capital Region, activated the Joint Task Group Nazareno to augment security forces from the Philippine National Police.
JTG Nazareno is composed of the Army, Air Force, Navy, Northern Luzon Command, Southern Luzon Command, and AFP Reserve Command and are part of the security, medical, K9, explosives and ordnance disposal, and chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear explosives teams.
Manila Police District director Chief Supt. Joel Coronel said that they have not monitored any threat to the procession but assured that they will implement strict security measures for the safety of the devotees.
He called on the public to help them achieve a safe and orderly Traslacion by reporting suspicious persons and packages.
Thousands of devotees of the Black Nazarene lined up around the Quirino Grandstand yesterday for the “Pahalik sa Poong Nazareno.
The MPD estimated the crowd at 18,500 at around 1:30 p.m.
One of them is 65-year-old Eduardo Tungol who travelled from Dasmariñas City, Cavite and lined up for hours for the Pahalik.
Tungol said he has been a devotee since he was in his 30s because his child was sickly.
“‘Yun bang mga simpleng lagnat lang, pero syempre bilang magulang ay alalang alala na ako. Hiniling ko na sana ay gumaling siya,” Tungol said.
After kissing and wiping the feet of the image of the Black Nazarene, Tungol said he will spend the night at the Quirino Grandstand and attend the dawn mass.
However, Tungol said he would no longer join the crowd of devotees trying to touch the image of the Black Nazarene in the procession today.
“May edad na rin kasi ako, at wala rin akong kasama kaya baka mahirapan na ako,” he said.