MANILA, Philippines – Environmental watchdog Eco Waste Coalition reminded devotees of the Black Nazarene of the basic adage: “Cleanliness is next to Godliness,” as the group staged Sunday a preview of an ecological and safe procession ahead of the January 9 feast.
Even as the group clamored for environmental awareness, the Manila Police District (MPD) asked the public to keep away children and pregnant women from Wednesday’s procession for their safety with at least nine million people expected to participate in this year’s event.
Members of the Eco Waste Coalition and the Samahang Pagkakaisa ng mga Tindera sa Talipapa (SPTT) held a procession, bearing miniature images of the Nuestra Padre Jesus Nazareno and green candles, around the traditional route of the Black Nazarene.
During the procession, the green groups prayed for the safety of devotees who will join on Wednesday’s feast day, and wished for “each devotee be a role model for caring for himself, his family, community and the environment.”
In a statement, Zero Waste campaigner Tin Vergara, said, “The religious feast is not an excuse for litterbugs to have a field day defiling the streets of Manila without fear of being admonished and punished.”
She added, “As followers of the Black Nazarene, we expect devotees to fulfill their sacred vows in an environmentally responsible manner.”
The environmental watchdog urged devotees to refrain from smoking and throwing cigarette butts on the ground; to dispose of chewed gum and bamboo skewers properly and to avoid spitting anywhere and urinating on nooks along the street.
The group also appealed to devotees to throw garbage in designated receptacles.
For vendors and other food suppliers the group suggested packing meals in biodegradable materials, such as banana leaves, or in reusable containers; bringing garbage containers for disposables; collecting leftovers and cleaning up after themselves.
Meanwhile MPD spokesperson Chief Inspector Erwin Margarejo reminded devotees not to bring their children to the procession.
He said pregnant women should refrain from participating in the procession to avoid the anticipated crush of millions of people struggling to reach and touch the centuries-old image of Christ.
Margarejo told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that participants should also avoid bringing valuables with them to avoid being victimized by thieves.
“A new devotee should get tips from those who have long been participating in the procession so he can avoid injury,” the spokesperson said, referring to newbies who might volunteer to tug on the ropes of the mulatto Christ’s float or to ride on the float.
“We want to avoid casualties this year with more people expected to participate in the procession,” he explained, adding that in last year’s record 22-hour procession, where some 8.5 million people participated, there were 49 persons injured.
Nevertheless, Margarejo assured that security preparations have already been laid out for the annual procession and said that some 3,000 police personnel from Manila as well as nearby cities will be deployed to ensure an orderly event.