MANILA - The Catholic faithful once again demonstrated their religious devotion through the Alay Lakad or Penitential Walk 2023 procession to the Antipolo Cathedral.
The Antipolo Cathedral is the home of the Nuestra Senora Dela Paz y Buen Viaje, or the Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage.
The penitential walk is done annually but was halted for 3 years due to the COVID pandemic.
According to Rev. Father Reynante Tolentino, the rector of Antipolo Cathedral, the penitential walk is being done every Maundy Thursday, after the traditional "Last Supper" Mass.
Fr. Tolentino said in 2019, the devotees who participated in the Alay Lakad were at 4.2 million. This year, they expect more than 6 million devotees to participate in the procession until 6 a.m. on Good Friday.
Antipolo Cathedral was declared an International Shrine on March 25, 2023.
“Kaya mas lalo po na maraming kabataan ang excited na umabot sa Antipolo, makita ang mahal na Birhen," Fr. Tolentino said.
Antipolo Cathedral is the only church in the Philippines that will remain open until 12 a.m., a practice started in 2017 during his assignment in Antipolo.
Devotees come from different parts of Metro Manila and nearby provinces, according to Fr. Tolentino.
Among those who continued the devotion this year were partners Ralph Angulo and Chelse Orlina. They started walking from their home in Cainta, Rizal and it was their third time participating in Alay Lakad before it was halted due to the pandemic.
For Ralph, joining Alay Lakad is his way of thanking the Almighty for answered prayers.
“Natupad na ang mga hiling ko kaya ang ginagawa ko pa-thank you na din," he said.
Based on their experience, all feelings of tiredness from walking for more than five kilometers disappear once they reach the cathedral, light their candles, and say their prayers.
Devotee and Cainta resident, Bella Alvaro, 60, was with her friends from Zumba class. She said they left early from Cainta in order to arrive at the cathedral early.
Alvaro has been participating in the Alay Lakad since she was 18 years old.
“Inaano namin na dagdagan pa ang buhay namin, 'yung lakas, ang buhay namin humaba," she said.
With the large volume of people expected to flock to the Antipolo Cathedral until dawn, security has been tightened in the area. More police officers have been deployed for every 200 meters along the Station of the Cross in the Cathedral.
No untoward incident has been recorded so far, according to police.