MANILA - The much-awaited Good Friday procession in Quiapo was canceled at the last minute due to poor crowd control, officials said Friday.
The minor basilica was forced to call off the procession as it was unable to control the crowd waiting for the replica at the corner of Villalobos Street and Carlos Palanca Street, according to its parochial vicar Fr. Douglas Badong.
“Sadyang may mga deboto na hindi napakiusapan. Sa umpisa naman lahat sa Plaza Miranda behave, nakikinig. Pero pag dating sa area, base sa sinasabi ng ijos, may mga lasing at may mga naka paa, siguro sadyang di nila narinig o pinakingan pakiusap namin na hindi ito pasanan, motorcade lang,” he said.
(Some devotees do not listen to our appeal. In the beginning everyone in Plaza Miranda was behaved. When the Black Nazarene arrived in the area, some devotees were drunk, shoeless, and did not really listen that this is just a motorcade.)
The Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene canceled the procession just minutes after the replica of the Black Nazarene left the church doors.
The replica of the Black Nazarene, which left at the stroke of midnight, returned to Quiapo Church at around 12:25 a.m. Instead of navigating a stretch of about 4.3 kilometers.
Ryan Garcia, one of the ijos that surrounded the truck carrying the replica, shared the devotees blocked their way and tried to come closer to the replica, which is against the guidelines.
“Doon kami sa truck mismo sa gilid para wala makalapit… Hindi kami makatuloy kasi ayaw nila umalis sa daanan. Kahit pakiusap. Kaya nagdesisyon balik na lang para walang gulo maganap,” he said.
(We were beside the truck so that no one can come nearby...Even if we pleaded, we couldn't move forward because the devotees were on our way. That's why it was decided that the Black Nazarene will return to Quiapo so there will be no ruckus.)
The Manila Police estimated the crowd consisted of about 70,000 people. While It is far from the usual turnout prior to the pandemic, the sum is still an unexpected number under the new normal.
Apart from blocking the path of the replica, devotees were no longer following the minimum health protocols and were beginning to become unruly, according to Police Lt. Col. John Guiagui, commander of Sta. Cruz Station.
“Ayaw natin maging dahilan to ng kahawahaan. Nakita naman behavior na nagsisigawan pa, so makikita natin matitigas pa ulo ng mga deboto. Ayaw natin may madisgrasya kaya binalik na,” he said.
(We don't want this to cause virus transmission. As we saw the behavior of devotees, some of them were even shouting at each other so we can see they're still hardheaded. We don't want anyone to get injured so we returned the Black Nazarene to Quiapo.)
While the procession was canceled, the parish still allowed devotees to catch a glimpse of the image of Black Nazarene and offer a prayer inside the church.
Longing to see the holy image after only witnessing the Black Nazarene through screens during Holy Week for two years, people rushed to the Minor Basilica. The throng of devotees flocked in Plaza Miranda, scrambled, pushed, and forced themselves towards the gate of the church.
As the crowd grew restless and disorganized, Manila PNP decided to vacate the plaza and instruct people to line up at Villalobos Street and Carriedo Street instead.
People were then ushered into Plaza Miranda in batches. They were also asked to physically distance themselves from one another by following the yellow markings placed on the stone pavement.
Corazon de la Cruz, a devotee of 30 years, came with her daughter and granddaughter. She shared that observing Semana Santa at Quiapo church is a family tradition.
The resumption of physical religious activities was among her prayers, she added.
“Medyo masakit pero happy na din kahit papano lumabas. Masaya, basta masaya. Kahit hirap lumakad, kailangan kayanin dahil dito ka masaya. Gusto ko. Parang iba loob ko, may nagawa na siya sakin na himala,” she said.
(It's sad but I'm still happy the Black Nazarene came out. I'm happy. Even if I find it hard to walk, I have to because I'm happy. I want to. The Black Nazarene has caused miracle in my life.)
Roselle, meanwhile, came with her husband and 12-year-old son all the way from Laguna. She said she understands the devotees who met with the replica at the corner of Carlos Palanca and Villalobos Street, as she herself has been aching to see the Black Nazarene.
“Imbis na makakalabas ng maayos, kasi pinagbawal lubid, hindi siya nakaprusisyon ng maayos… Pero OK naman kasi nakapalo kami. Sapat na sapat na makapasok lang ng simbahan sobbrang sapat na po,’ she said.
(The Black Nazarene found it difficult to come out of the church because there was no rope...But it's fine, we were able to touch it. It's more than enough to get inside the church.)
Badong admitted he was saddened by the incident but added that it serves as a learning experience and that they will ramp up their public communication efforts.
"May bahagi na nalulungkot, nadi-disappoint pero sadyang magiging malaking hamon ulit na palawakin ang aming binibigay na information dahil marami ang masa labas na individual, group ang hindi pa nabibigyan ng tamang information,” he said.
(I find some parts of it sad, disappointing but this will serve as a great challenge to widen the information we give because most individuals, groups outside weren't given the right information.)
“Pagsisikapin natin sa susunod na labas ng Hari mabibigay sa Inyo. Sa ngayon, kailangan sumunod sa protocol.”
(We will strive hard to get the Black Nazarene outside to the people. For now, we need to follow protocols.)