MANILA — For the first time, policemen will take charge of jumpstarting a mammoth procession of the Black Nazarene in the capital, one of the world's biggest show of Catholic zeal, organizers said Monday.
From the Quirino Grandstand to Roxas Boulevard, policemen will pull the carriage of the Black Nazarene to prevent devotees from blocking its path, said Fr. Douglas Badong, vicar of Quiapo Church, home of the 400-year-old statue of Jesus Christ.
"Iyong mga kapulisan po ay nasa unahan lang ng andas para iyong mga sumasalubong na para bang humaharang sa daraanan, iyon lang po ang kanilang gustong i-prevent na mangyari — pero hindi para bakuran ang Nazareno," he told radio DZMM.
"Ito rin naman po iyong unang pagkakataon na talagang full support iyong kanilang lahat ng puwersa na kapulisan. Nakakatuwa rin kasi ang hangad lang nila makatulong sa ikakaayos ng prusisyon," he added.
(The police are in front of the carriage to prevent those blocking the path of the Nazarene, but not to cordon it off. This is the first time that the entire police force will show its full support. We are happy because all they want is to help facilitate the procession.)
Millions of devotees, mostly barefoot and clad in yellow or maroon, jostle every year to touch the ropes pulling the carriage of the Black Nazarene or throw white towels to wipe the statue believed to have miraculous powers.
Some 5,000 to 7,000 policemen, including trainees and elite commandos, will keep watch over the mammoth procession, said Philippine National Police officer-in-charge Lt. Gen. Archie Gamboa.
"Three layers" of policemen in uniform and combat boots will guide the Traslacion's start, he added.
"Sana huwag na nilang harangan sa harap," he said in a DZMM interview, addressing devotees.
"Parang mahirap paniwalaan na magiging successful, but the PNP is trying its best na kung puwede, subukan lang natin," he said.
(I hope that they will not block the carriage's front. It seems difficult to believe that it will be successful, but the PNP is trying its best. If possible, let's just give it a try.)
About 80 percent of 100 million Filipinos are Catholic. The Philippines is renowned for its colorful religious rituals, and the celebration of the Black Nazarene is a tradition in the former Spanish colony that goes back more than 2 centuries.
It is not known why the statue, which was carved in Mexico, turned black. There are myths that the original statue donated by Spanish priests was burned as a fire erupted on the ship that carried it to the Philippines in the early 17th century.
— With a report from Reuters