Black Nazarene devotees urged to pray for peace in Middle East, 2.3 million devotees arrive early

The procession started shortly before 4am at the Quirino Grandstand today. Photo: Jire Carreon/ABS-CBN News
The procession started shortly before 4am at the Quirino Grandstand today. Photo: Jire Carreon/ABS-CBN News

The Traslación, Manila’s annual religious event famed for attracting hundreds of thousands of barefoot devotees, kicked off at around 4:15am today at the Quirino Grandstand, as a senior member of the Catholic Church urged the faithful to pray for peace.

Cardinal and Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle, in his last Traslación homily before moving to the Vatican, reminded Black Nazarene devotees to be mindful of those suffering in the Middle East, where hostilities are simmering after the United States killed a high-ranking Iranian military official last week. Iran responded to the assassination with rocket strikes, but both Iran and the U.S. have since signaled that they do not want further escalation. The Philippines, however, is not leaving anything to chance and is preparing for the mandatory repatriation of Filipino workers from Iraq.

“Let us remember that in other parts of the world people are facing the possibility that violence would break out; let us hope that this does not lead to war,” Tagle said in Filipino. “Let us pray that people living in the Middle East would be safe. That the desire to destroy other people would vanish. That they do not seek revenge.”

Read: At least 10,000 cops to be deployed to keep order at this year’s Quiapo Traslación

This year’s procession has a shorter route, and is expected to go faster than last year’s, which took 22 hours. Starting at the Quirino Grandstand, the Traslación will see a replica of the Black Nazarene statue paraded through Manila until it reaches Quiapo Church.

“But we can’t predict what time it will come back, because of course, it depends on the attitude of the devotees,” Fr. Douglas Badong, the vicar of the church, told radio station DZMM.

Originally from Mexico, the Black Nazarene (or “Poong Nazareno“) was carved by an unknown sculptor and arrived in the Philippines in 1606. Its devotees believe that their wishes will be granted if they touch it, which has led to stampedes in the past as people clamor to reach the icon. In 2015, two devotees died during the event, one in an apparent crush of people, and the other after collapsing and failing to get immediate medical attention due to the crowds.

This year, at least 10,000 police officers were deployed to manage the event, which had already attracted about 2.3 million devotees by 9am, The Philippine Daily Inquirer reports. The mobile phone companies Smart, Sun, and TNT have turned off service in selected areas after they were ordered to do so by the Philippine National Police over safety concerns, ABS-CBN News reported.

Meanwhile, the environmental group Eco-Waste Coalition has urged devotees to keep this year’s procession trash-free. Each year, vast amounts of garbage accumulate on the streets, which has led some netizens to refer to the event the “Trash-lacion.”

Last year, the Eco-Waste Coalition said that they spotted nasty stuff such as urine-filled plastic bottles, used diapers, used wipes, and rotten food along the procession’s route.





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