City tightens security for Zamboanga Hermosa festival
ZAMBOANGA CITY—Motorcycles and people wearing backpacks, baseball caps and hoodies are banned from entering the city center as part of security measures during the month-long celebration of the Zamboanga Hermosa festival in honor of its patroness, the Lady of Pilar.
Mayor Ma. Isabelle Salazar said the ban was aimed at preventing people with ill-motives to carry out plans to disrupt the festivities. Thousands of devotees from across the country are expected to join the grand procession to the Fort Pilar Shrine on Oct. 17.
“The festival showcases numerous activities that bring fun, promote cultural heritage and tourism,” said Belen Sheila Covarrubias, city information officer.
At least 60 events have been lined up, including La Cocina Chavacano (Chavacano cuisine), trade fair, the Original Chavacano Video Music Festival, the parade of lights and floats, Zamboanga Hermosa street dance, Vamos Music Festival, Regatta Zamboanga, Mascotta de Zamboanga, sardines festival, and the procession.
“We should not allow that incident of bombing in Basilan to dampen our festive mood and we should make sure our security is tight,” Salazar said. She directed security forces to be vigilant “to ensure the safety of our people.”
Senior Supt. Angelito Casimiro, the city police director, said the security plan was not only for the fiesta itself but for events before and after the procession. “Previous experiences taught us that bomb attacks usually happen before the Fiesta Pilar or even after it,” he said.
In October 2011, 11 people were injured when a bomb tore through a cockpit, where a boxing competition was being held. In October 2004, an American soldier was killed in one of two explosions that rocked the city. On Oct. 11, 2007, a motorbike blew up in front of the shrine, but no one was killed.
Some residents said they would be skipping some schedules that would draw big crowds, and would instead attend Mass at Fort Pilar in the early hours of the day. “Just be early, fewer people, much safer,” Evelyn Sarmiento, a mother of four, said.
Trixie Ayuban, another resident, said she was confident that people would enjoy the festival because of the tighter security. “I heard of the explosion in Basilan, but I am not afraid. Every corner of the city is secured,” she said as she pointed to security personnel roaming Cesar Climaco Street.
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