Quiapo preparations: Do’s, don’ts–and diapers
MANILA, Philippines—One of the country’s biggest religious gatherings seems to get more challenging each year for authorities, who on Wednesday came up with a list of do’s and don’ts— plus an unprecedented provision for adult diapers.
For tomorrow’s feast of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo, Manila, the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) is bracing itself for a hectic day attending to injured devotees, while the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) has made an unusual preparation for its traffic marshals who need to take toilet breaks but cannot just leave their posts.
The Manila city government also announced a change in the Jan. 9 procession route following a fire on Wednesday that gutted the abandoned building on Escolta Street that once housed the City College of Manila.
Instead of turning to Escolta after crossing Jones Bridge, the devotees will be directed to the next corner on Dasmariñas Street, which runs parallel to Escolta. This is to avoid injuries that might be caused by falling debris from the burnt building, according to Vice Mayor Isko Moreno.
Barricades will be put up to prevent crowds from entering Escolta. “For everybody’s safety, we are asking the devotees to please follow the new route,” Moreno said.
The condemned building has been marked for demolition since June 2014, according to city engineer Roberto Bernardo. But Mayor Joseph Estrada had the demolition postponed after groups behind the Escolta Revival Movement said the structure could still be saved as a heritage site.
Wednesday’s fire started around 3 a.m. on the second floor and spread up to the 14th, before it was declared under control seven hours later, said Senior Fire Officer John Joseph Jalique of the Manila Fire District.
Rooted in the 17th Century, the procession also known as the “traslacion” will parade the iconic image of the cross-bearing Christ in the streets of central Manila.
Rituals of devotion started Wednesday with the parade of Nazarene replicas, while the original will be brought out of Quiapo church today to the Quirino Grandstand for the “pahalik,” which starts at 1 p.m., allowing devotees to approach and kiss the image held by many to be miraculous.
On Friday, the traslacion will bring the Black Nazarene back to Quiapo church following a 5:30 a.m. Mass at the grandstand to be officiated by Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle.
‘Plan safe exit’
As past processions have been marked by fanatical throngs jostling their way to touch the image, the PRC renewed appeals for the predominantly male, barefooted Nazarene devotees to “maintain proper distance (and) plan a safe exit” from the crowds. Children, pregnant women and those with chronic illnesses are better kept out, it said.
For the long procession, which in 2012 dragged on for a record-setting 22 hours, devotees were advised to come with ample food and water. “Be sure to have an identification card, medical information and emergency contact numbers with you,” Red Cross secretary general Gwendolyn Pang added.
PRC chair Richard Gordon said about 300 volunteers and staff members would man 11 first-aid stations, 14 ambulances, three boats on Pasig River, a fire truck and a rescue truck.
But it’s the MMDA that came up with a precautionary measure never before considered in any traffic management operation.
MMDA chair Francis Tolentino on Wednesday said the 2,000 traffic constables to be deployed for the procession would be provided with adult diapers so that they won’t have to leave their posts in case they really need to go.
“Because if you leave your spot and join the queue to the portalets, it might take you more than hour to get back,” Tolentino explained to reporters. “That’s why they really have to wear something.”
He said diapers would also be handed out when the MMDA mobilizes personnel for the visit of Pope Francis next week.
But some traffic marshals approached by the Inquirer were embarrassed by the mere mention of Tolentino’s idea. “I don’t mind the tough assignment. But being asked to wear diapers? I don’t know. I would rather wait in line,” said one constable.
Another enforcer said he wouldn’t feel comfortable at all —especially now that Tolentino had announced it and all eyes would be on the MMDA constables on the day of the procession. With a report from Tina Santos