MANILA - Quiapo Church on Sunday once again bared a tarpaulin reminding the public of its stand against taking the life of another -- this time, during the traditional "Pahalik" or kissing of the Black Nazarene statue at the Quirino Grandstand in Manila.
"Huwag kang papatay," stood out in bold, white letters against the red backdrop of a tarpaulin mounted on the stadium where thousands of devotees flocked to kiss the image of the cross-bearing Christ.
Last December, the Quiapo Church also displayed a similar banner on the facade of its cathedral amid the surge of killings linked to the government’s war on drugs.
Quiapo Church is the lead organizer of the Feast of the Black Nazarene, whose grand procession draws millions of devotees jostling to touch the ebony statue believed to have miraculous powers.
The four-century-old icon was transferred to the Quirino Grandstand from its home in Quiapo Church around 11 p.m. Saturday.
The Pahalik opened for an hour at 2 a.m. Sunday. Many devotees slept in the grandstand to wait for the Pahalik to resume at 8 a.m.
As of 9 a.m., there were around 22,000 devotees waiting in line to kiss and touch the 400-year-old statue, the Southern Police District said.
Antonio de Castro, a 76-year-old devotee from Las Piñas, shared his fulfillment over kissing the Nazareno.
"Guminhawa [ang pakiramdam ko]. Kasi taon-taon akong nariyan e. Diyan gumaling ang mata ko, lumiwanag. Mabubulag na sana [ako]," he told radio DZMM.
Rebecca Sy, 53, shared the same sentiment, saying: "Magaan po ang pakiramdam at sulit na sulit po iyung mga pagsisikap at paghihirap para makahalik sa mahal na Poong Nazareno."
Sixty-year-old Erlinda Tapio, another devotee, also fulfilled her devotion to the Black Nazarene while offering forgiveness to others. "Napakasarap ng pakiramdam ko ngayon. Nagpatawad, pinatawad sa mga nagkasala," she said.
The "Pahalik" will run until the midnight Mass that Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle will preside at Luneta Park.
The 7.5-kilometer "traslacion," or grand procession of the Black Nazarene from the park back to the Quiapo Church, will start at 9 a.m. Monday.
-- With reports from Zhander Cayabyab and Ron Lopez, DZMM; April Rafales, Ernie Manio and Raphael Bosano, ABS-CBN News