6,500 Manila police ready to secure Black Nazarene procession

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(File photo) A scene from the Traslacion in 2017.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 2) — Authorities are expecting millions of devotees to participate in this year's procession commemorating the feast of the Black Nazarene in Manila.

After a series of bombings in Quiapo in April and May, and the Marawi crisis which left over a thousand dead after months of fighting last year, authorities in Manila are bracing for another security challenge as millions are expected to gather for the Black Nazarene feast on January 9th.

Police say they are prepared to secure the annual event as this year's expected crowd will be the biggest in the event's history.

Supt. Erwin Margarejo, Manila police spokesperson, said, "We will be considering all threats and we are well-prepared for it "

Margarejo said security will be tighter with more checkpoints to be put up in strategic locations. Drones will be banned, while the entire procession route will have cellphone signal jammers.

And then the manpower: 6,500 policemen will be deployed, an increase from last year's 5,000.

They will respond to all kinds of threats, including gang wars and petty crimes.

Margarejo said, "Considering na mas maraming pupunta ngayon [more people will be going this time], of course we will be beefing up our security measures...And this is a challenge for the Manila Police District."

For their own safety, police are warning participants not to bring objects with sharp edges, as well as expensive items like jewelry.

They should also not bring along small children. Devotees should bring enough food and water, and be physically prepared for the event.

As early as now, some devotees are backing out of the procession.

Analiza Samera, a devotee of the Black Nazarene said, "Marami po kasing tao at saka baka magsabay-sabay tapos madaganan kami."

[Translation: There will be a lot of people and they might all come at the same time, we might get trampled.]

"Precy," another devotee said, "Eh siyempre iniiwasan ko rin yung disgrasya, eh."

[Translation: Of course I'm guarding against anything bad happening.]

But Gina Batucan will be there, and against the advice of authorities, will bring her two-month-old baby.

She said her child is a gift from the Black Nazarene.

She said, "Hindi ko naman po siya isisiksik sa balyahan, tama na po yung maka-ano kami sa Kanya....Kasi ano, hiniling namin ito sa Kanya. Nagkasakit din siya ng ano, nag 50-50 din siya tapos dito din talaga ako nag-ano, tumawag din ako sa Kanya."

[Translation: I will not put my baby in harm's way, it's enough that we see Him...We prayed for this baby. Our child got sick and almost died, and we called on Him for help.]

Batucan said her faith will push her to join the event despite the physical risk, including that of her baby's.