Baclaran devotees take fight vs vendors online
The religious community of the Baclaran Shrine are apprehensive about the Parañaque city government’s plan to legalize—and possibly increase—the number of vendors that crowd the busy Redemptorist Road, a perennial cause of traffic congestion in the area, and a security nightmare for authorities.
Community members composed of lay people, Redemptorist priests and devotees have taken into cyberspace their opposition against a draft city ordinance that seeks to put up stalls along the road, according to the rector of the church, officially the National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help.
“The campaign is not about denying vendors a means of living, but this is more for the protection of the devotees who make up the shrine and even make hawking wares a viable business,” explained Fr. Victorino Cueto in an interview.
“If not for the people who go to Baclaran, the church would not be what it is today,” he added.
Since last week, community members have been securing signatures from parishioners and devotees who make their weekly pilgrimage to the shrine, a popular site for locals. The open letter of devotees was also posted on the shrine’s Facebook account (http://www. facebook.com/baclaranovena).
As of August 17, a Facebook fan page dedicated to the cause said the proponents gathered over 27,000 unique signatures contesting the ordinance.
Cueto said City Mayor Florencio Bernabe Jr. met with the community last Saturday to explain to them that the Draft Ordinance No. 25 “was an attempt to solve the problem” by organizing the vendors.
The ordinance was authored by Councilor Eric Baes Jr.
Traders at Baclaran price their goods lower, and in the course of time, the area earned the distinction of being a shopping mecca alongside Divisoria in Manila. Cheap goods also make hawking wares a viable business.
Cueto recalled that city officials asked the community to give the proposal “a chance” but solving the issue of vendors along the street has been almost a three-decade headache for administrators of the shrine.
“With the implementation of their proposed solution, it seems the authorities are creating more problems,” Cueto said. “They are not making the illegal vendors leave, and yet they are putting stalls in the area so in essence, they are adding more people there.”
Threat to devotees
The crowded street was a threat to devotees who flock in droves to Baclaran weekly that it could be dangerous for any person wanting to offer a prayer there, the priest pointed out.
Having one’s wallet picked off the pocket was a tale often told by devotees who come to the shrine office to complain about the lack of security outside the church’s walls, he said.
“There have also been a number of shooting incidents in the area. One vendor was wounded in one of those events that I could recall,” the priest continued. “In some cases, devotees who knock some of the hawkers’ wares by accident get mauled by irate vendors.”
The chaotic surrounding of Baclaran has also quietly derailed its tourist potential; its impact could easily be felt by the local economy there, according to Cueto.
Bishops from dioceses overseas have been overlooking the shrine as a possible pilgrimage site for their flock because of the situation around the area, the priest said.
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