Traslacion 2020: Early start, shorter route cuts procession to over 16 hours

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 9) — An early start, a shorter route and tight security for the biggest procession in the country — the Traslacion — was able to trim the event's duration to over16 hours from its usual 20-hour length. That is so far the fastest Traslacion in six years.

Swarms of devotees filled the streets of Manila on Thursday for the old Catholic tradition of transferring the venerated image of the Black Nazarene in a carriage from the Quirino Grandstand at Rizal Park to its home in the city's Quiapo Church.

Manila's public information office said this year's procession lasted 16 hours and 35 minutes. It said the procession started at 4:10 a.m. or an hour earlier than scheduled and ended at 8:45 p.m.

At 8:50 a.m., nearly 2.4 million people were already at the procession, according to the local government of Manila. As of 9:04 p.m., officials estimated the crowd at the procession at least three million. Last year, an estimated 4 million people took part in the Black Nazarene festivities leading up to the Traslacion, while 2.5 million devotees joined the procession that lasted 21 hours, police said.

Devotees, most of whom were barefoot and clad in maroon and yellow, chanted "Viva Nazareno" (long live Nazarene) and jostled their way to the carriage to touch and see the icon, as they believe doing so could bring healing, answer prayers or lead to miracles.

The image of the Black Nazarene arrived at the San Sebastian Church past 4 p.m., for the traditional "Dungaw" where the Our Lady of Mount Carmel image is brought out to the balcony of the church to face the Black Nazarene icon. This tradition depicts the moment Mary witnessed Jesus when he was carrying the cross.

This year's Dungaw transpired much earlier compared to previous years, when it took place in the evening. In 2019, the Dungaw started shortly before 11 p.m.

Among the changes in this year's procession were the shorter route and tighter security. The carriage of the Black Nazarene passed through the barbed wire-covered Ayala Bridge during the procession as the usual bridges used in the Traslacion, namely Quezon Bridge, McArthur Bridge, and Jones Bridge are under construction. The police also formed a human wall to secure the carriage or andas.

'Image of suffering'

Cultural anthropologist Nestor Castro explained why millions of people join Traslacion held every January 9.

Castro said it seems the image of the suffering Christ resonates with their everyday experience.

"It is a combination of a lot of factors. But, they want to go through the same suffering that Christ went through. They can identify with the suffering of Jesus Christ," he said.

Castro added that the Catholics want to experience a spiritual euphoria during Traslacion that they do not experience any other time of the year.

Manila Mayor Isko Moreno credited some of the devotees for cooperating with security personnel and thanked the vendors for not obstructing the roads and streets used in the procession.

Moreno said, “As you can see, nakababa ng maayos sa Ayala Bridge. Nasa Palanca Street na [ang andas] alas-otso palang. Hopefully, patuloy 'yung pakiki-cooperate ng devotees.”

[Translation: As you can see, the carriage was able to pass Ayala Bridge according to plan. It was already in Palanca and it is just 8 a.m. Hopefully, the cooperation of devotees continues.]

‘Traslacion ng mga pulis’

More than 2,000 police officers have formed a human wall to secure the andas, which was met with criticisms from some devotees.

Some of the devotees complained they were not able to get near the andas or the carriage of the black Nazarene because of the strict personnel.

Ibang iba ang traslacion ngayon ng Nazareno hindi katulad dati. Ngayon parang Traslacion ng mga pulis," one devotee said.

[Traslacion this year was really different compared with other Traslacion. Now it was like the Trasclacion of police.]

From the police's side, an official said some devotees have also been violent against authorities.

Makati Police Criminal Investigation Chief Gideon Ines shared photos of a damaged vehicle, saying devotees repeatedly kicked it, including the leading car of the andas. He also said some of them smelled of alcohol.

Mga amoy alak, lumalaki ang mga mata yan ba ang mga deboto?,” said Ines on his Facebook account.

[Translation: Smelling of alcohol with wide eyes, is that what devotees are?]

Over 400 people were also reported to have sustained minor injuries during the procession.

The procession turned rowdy along Ayala Boulevard when some devotees climbed the andas and the law enforcers prevented them from doing so.

CNN Philippines' Joyce Ilas and Rex Remitio contributed to this report