Charlie Dungo has seen the ebb and flow of the Traslacion of the years. While he grew up in Sampaloc, he studied at Quiapo Parochial School and knows how chaotic the colorful Manila district can get during the religious procession—the country’s biggest—every January 9.
“I wouldn’t say I’m a devotee,” says Dungo, holding court at the Manila tourism office at City Hall. “But for the last seven years, since I’ve had a quadruple bypass, I’ve been going to Quiapo church every January 9 at 4 A.M.”
You may also like:
There are many stories like Dungo’s. Many troubled, challenged, or even desperate souls have sought refuge at or have given thanks at the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene. Scores more join the Traslacion, the procession that re-enacts the sacred figure’s 1787 transfer from Intramuros to Quiapo Church. Last year, the trek started at a little past 5 A.M. and ended at around 2 the next morning, slowed down by waves upon waves of attendees, all jostling to touch the famous image.
Now, as OIC for Tourism of Mayor Isko Moreno’s relentless Manila City Hall, and as part of the committee helping out with the proceedings, Dungo has an opportunity to help things go smoother, safer, and quicker. “I shared [with the committee] everything I observed in the last seven years. Hopefully, things will change.”
Smoother and quicker
One major difference this year, Dungo shares, is a Yorme directive. “The Mayor said ‘zero vendors, zero obstruction.’ Wala talagang mangyayaring bentahan ng mga T-shirts, kung anuman. Pati food. Kasi 'yung mga [barbecue] stick 'yun ang nakaka-aksidente,” he says. “The City Hall is involved every year, but I don’t know what kind of approach the previous administration did. I think this is the first time that we will have zero vendors.”
Dungo says the preparations this time went much deeper. “We’ve been meeting with the church every month since August. They were the ones who came to us and asked for help. The Mayor then endorsed and delegated everything down to the departments involved: engineering, cleanup, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Control (NDRRMC),” he says. “We asked the Department of Social Welfare and Development to help in case of missing children. Of course, the Manila Police District and the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) are also involved. There will be more police. Hopefully, everything will go smoothly.”
In an interview with reporters last Saturday, NCRPO chief Police Brig. Gen. Debold Sinas announced that, in an effort to speed up the procession, participants will be barred from walking in front of the image’s carriage. There will be police and armed forces at every corner of the route to ensure that devotees will not block the path of the Black Nazarene.
“We will do this to stop people from rushing in front of the carriage because that slows down the procession, which hampers the flow,” Sinas says. “Devotees should walk behind the carriage to make it more orderly.” The chief says that people can still climb, as they are wont to do every Traslacion, but they can only do so from behind.
There is also a change to the procession’s route this year, which will now go through Ayala Bridge. “It used to go through Jones Bridge, but it can’t handle the volume anymore—even the Department of Public Works and Highways said so,” Dungo says. “MacArthur Bridge, the one going to Sta. Cruz, can’t handle it either. The number of people is really the problem. Hopefully, it will go better this year and a system will really be put in place.” Reports estimate that attendees for this year will be around 2.5 million.
Barbed wires will also be put on the beams of Ayala Bridge according to Sinas to prevent foolhardy youth from climbing the metal frames. “Mga kabataan ngayon, umaakyat ’yan dun. Baka mahulog at may mga tao sa baba, marami pa ang madisgrasya. Prevention po ito,” the officer reassures.
For its part, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) will deploy around 1,000 personnel to help in the event, says spokesperson Celine Pialago. Cleaning and clearing crews will also be on hand after the procession to ensure that litter and clutter will be kept to a minimum.
“Yung may mga sakit na, kung maari, 'wag na um-attend,” Dungo pleads. Instead, he advises that they attend the “pahalik” on January 8, which will be in Quirino Grandstand. There will be proper queues there, and everything is safe and organized.
Cleaning up Quiapo
“Marami na ring nabago sa Quiapo. Tulad ng baradong Carriedo, nagiging passable na,” Dungo says. “Yung Plaza Miranda na puno ng vendors, naging malinis. Mas sistematiko na. Yung Villalobos, naging zero vendors naman. Kumbaga mas organized sila ngayon. Mas malinis.”
This is but a part of the overall cleanliness push that Mayor Isko has been promoting ever since he came into office, a cleanup drive that regularly gets shared on social media. Dungo has been part of the Moreno team since he ran for Vice Mayor in 2007, and through his failed senatorial bid in 2016, and his win last year.
“Yun na lang ang yaman na meron kami sa Maynila,” he says of this directive to clean and preserve. “Wala kaming matataas na building. Kasi alam niyo na lumang city ito. Pero binubuhay namin 'yung luma, 'yung yaman na iniwan ng mga ninuno natin.”
He is of the same mindset when it comes to Thursday’s procession: keeping a beloved tradition while making sure the city is kept clean and nothing falls apart. Their team is optimistic that with the planned changes, the procession will be shorter than the 21-hour march everyone endured in 2019. He hopes the devotees will be mindful of the work the government and its people have put into cleaning up Manila, of caring for the city and its structures.