Police beef up security as millions of devotees expected to visit Quezon religious shrine
LUCENA CITY — With the expected return of the throngs of religious pilgrims that climb its hundreds of stairs as part of their Holy Week “panata” (vow), police and the administrator of “Kamay Ni Hesus” (the Hand of Jesus) in the breezy town of Lucban, Quezon, have started taking measures to ensure that the Lenten visitors to the popular shrine would have a solemn and safe experience.
“Our local police have been augmented by more than 80 cops from other towns and mobile forces to help maintain peace and order here in Lucban, particularly at the (KNH) shrine,” Police Major Arjohn Oxina, Lucban police chief, said in a phone interview on Monday.
Oxina appealed to shrine visitors to obey all rules and regulations inside the complex.
“Observe precautionary measures to protect their personal belongings. And still, be mindful of health safety protocols,” Oxina appealed.
Closed-circuit television system or security cameras were also strategically placed in different parts of the pilgrim center by the management of the shrine and police.
Heightened security alert
Quezon police chief Colonel Ledon Monte said the police force in the province has been placed on heightened security alert in observance of the Holy Week and summer vacation.
“We guarantee the Quezonians and visitors a safe and secure observance of the Holy Week,” Monte said in a statement.,
He said the police “are all set and ready to respond to any situations and act on contingencies.”
In 2002, Faller, a native of Lucban, built the five-hectare religious complex on a hilly part of Barangay Tinamnan, two kilometers away from the urban center.
Lucban, which is located 118 kilometers south of Metro Manila, saw around 3 million visitors to the shrine during the Holy Week before the pandemic, local police estimates reveal. The KNH complex was closed to Lenten pilgrims in 2020 and 2021 amid community quarantines and travel restrictions.
The popular pilgrimage site reopened last year as pandemic restrictions in Quezon were relaxed and attracted over 2 million pilgrims after two years of closure.
The shrine visitors wait for hours to start the physically challenging but spiritually sanctifying climb on the 300-step “Stairway to Heaven” to reach the 50-foot (15.24-meter) statue of the resurrected Christ on top of the hill.
The KNH Risen Christ statue is touted to be the third tallest icon of Jesus Christ in the world, next to Bolivia (70 feet) and the tallest, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (150 feet).
At the break of dawn on Good Friday, hikers from Lucena City (24 kilometers away) and Tayabas City (12 km away) will start their annual penitential trek to the KNH shrine.
Faller holds daily Masses at the newly built and open-air “healing dome” that accommodates up to 7,000 people. Pilgrims believe that the priest possesses a gift from God for curing the sick.