The continuous stream of devotees who had been flocking to the religious site “Kamay ni Hesus” (Hand of Jesus) shrine here to mark Holy Week was spiritually enriching for the religious.
For local business, the economics of the multitude was like manna from heaven.
“Our sales tripled this Holy Week compared to past years,” Rimberto Veloso, proprietor of the popular “Eker and Ely Langgonisa,” told the Inquirer on Sunday.
He said the brisk sale the past week almost matched with business transactions during the Pahiyas Festival held here every May 15.
The popular event is also a red-calendar day for local business due to the throng of local and international tourists that invade the town at the foot of Mount Banahaw to witness the colors and galore of the famous farmer’s festival.
Isabelita Racelis, proprietor of Racelis’ Mike, a noodle factory in Banahaw Subdivision, said Holy Week was really good for local business, particularly those selling food and souvenir items.
The five-hectare religious complex located in Barangay Tinamnam, some two kilometers away from the town proper, is one of the popular Holy Week destinations in the country.
Fr. Joey Faller, a renowned healer and founder of the shrine, said that based on the estimate of police and the shrine’s own security guards a total of 1.5 million shrine guests came for Holy Week.
Quezon Police Chief Senior Superintendent Valeriano de Leon, who supervised the maintenance of peace and order in the area, said based on his knowledge of crowd estimate, “that 1.5-million figure has basis.”
Lucban Police Chief Inspector Hilario Cantoria said “the crowd is so huge and the volume of vehicles is really heavy.”
He noted the heavy volume of passenger jeeps, buses and private vehicles that arrived in Lucban loaded with passengers/visitors to the shrine.
Cantoria said the proposed by-pass road, that would enable the motorists to skip the town proper and go directly to the shrine, would have to be completed this year to avoid a similar situation next Holy Week.
He described the situation at the shrine during the past week as “generally peaceful” with over 50 policemen and Army soldiers assigned at the shrine to protect its visitors.
He said there was no other untoward incidents reported to the police except for a lone pickpocket incident last Tuesday when a female “balikbayan” was victimized by a woman pickpocket.
Only cash was taken by the unidentified thief while the personal identification cards and other documents of the victim were left behind in one of the shrine’s comfort rooms.
One of the closed-circuit televisions (CCTV) placed in strategic spots in the complex was able to get footage of the incident, said Cantoria.
Faller described the absence of criminal activities at the shrine as a “miracle.”
“It seems that even the criminals have observed Holy Week and respect the sacredness of the shrine complex,” he said. Last year the police journal reported a couple of pickpocket incidents inside and outside the shrine complex during the Holy Week.
Faller said that with the multitude of visitors, the police, Army, volunteers and the shrine’s own security guards had thought that criminal elements would swarm the shrine.
“That’s the reason we put up CCTVs around the complex. Thank God that only one unfortunate incident happened,” the priest said over the phone on Monday.