PNP eyes ban on climbing Black Nazarene for 'safer, solemn' procession

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The Traslacion draw millions of Black Nazarene devotees for an hours-long procession around Manila. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 31) — Devotees of the Black Nazarene could be in for a huge surprise in the upcoming feast and procession ‪on January 9.‬ 

Acting National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) Director PBGen Debold Sinas said authorities are preparing new security protocol for the annual procession, which is known to draw millions of believers for an hours-long procession around Manila.

The Traslacion is an annual religious event which commemorates the transfer of the image of the Black Nazarene from Intramuros to Quiapo Church in Manila. The procession usually lasts for an entire day. In 2019, the procession took 21 hours.

Sinas said the new security plan would ban devotees from climbing up the dark-skinned image of Jesus with a cross to catch and wipe towels tossed by the faithful. Instead, all will be required to fall in line after the andas and hold candles to keep the procession orderly and "solemn."

"With this setup, we expect na wala nang mga Spider-Man na kakapit doon (sa Nazareno) kasi pipila na," Sinas said. "Ngayon i-try natin, controlled area naman. Lahat ng spectators ay nasa side ng kalsada at lahat ng sasama sa prusisyon ay sa likod ng andas at maggagamit ng kandila at sumabay sa rosary."

[Translation: With this setup, we expect no one will be able to be like Spider-Man and climb onto the Black Nazarene because they will just be falling in line. We will try a controlled area: spectators will be forced to stay on the sidewalk and everyone else will follow the andas and hold candles as they pray the rosary.]

LOOK: Scenes from Traslacion 2019

Sinas added that priests from Quiapo Church will be accompanying the Black Nazarene image, while streets where the procession will pass through will be barricaded.

"Walang sasalo ng panyo, bawal ang panyo kasi wala nang tao sa ibabaw [Towels and handkerchiefs won't be allowed anymore because there won't be people aboard the Black Nazarene anymore]," he noted.

The NCRPO deployed 9,000 cops during the thanksgiving procession of the Black Nazarene ‪on Tuesday midnight‬ to test the new system. As a result, the march ended after a record one and a half hours — a far cry from last year's more than 10 hours.

In previous years, Sinas said that the procession usually lasts 10 hours or more for a 2.3-kilometer route. He blamed devotees who intercept the flow of the march for the delays.

Sinas told reporters that the NCRPO may adopt this security protocol should church officials agree to it.