The “New Normal Traslacion” of the Black Nazarene Feast in Quiapo, Manila ended with a Mass before midnight on Saturday.
National Capital Region Police Office acting director Brigadier General Vicente Danao Jr. said this year’s Nazarene feast was peaceful.
Manila Police District Station 3 commander Police Lieutenant Colonel John Guiagui said more or less 300,000 devotees went to Quiapo Church on Saturday.
This was despite authorities’ appeal to devotees to stay home and just watch the Masses online.
Guiagui said this year’s feast was more challenging for the police force because aside from the security deployment, they had to implement the minimum health protocols such as social distancing and ensuring no senior citizens above 65 years old and children below 15 were at the event.
Police had to man the control points as well to manage the volume of the crowd, he added.
“Hindi lang po maiwasan na ‘yung violation ng minimum health standards at protocol ay medyo nava-violate po kaya naman sa ibang mga areas talagang sobrang nagdikit-dikit na,” Danao said.
A number of devotees meanwhile who are senior citizens did not reveal their real ages to authorities in order to attend activities during the Feast of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo Church, the Manila Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (MDRRMO) said on Saturday.
“Ang mga kapulisan po natin medyo nahihirapan nga po silang awatin ang ating senior citizens. ‘Pag tinanong po sila ay mababa sa 65 ang sinasabi nilang edad nila pero sa tingin naman po ng ating mga kapulisan ay mahigit 65 na po,” MDRRMO Director Arnel Angeles said in a Super Radyo DZBB interview.
Fr. Douglas Badong, parochial vicar of Quiapo Church (Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene) gave the assurance that only 30% of the venue was filled in accordance with guidelines issued by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) for areas under general community quarantine (GCQ).
Devotees entering the church were also given contact tracing forms to fill out.
The Black Nazarene feast held this year, albeit without the annual Traslacion procession of the life-sized image of the dark-skinned Jesus Christ carrying the cross, was a “superspreader” event amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the OCTA Research said on Saturday.
“Actually hindi na nga namin iniisip ‘yan eh. Alam natin na puwedeng malaki ang effect talaga ng [pista] na ‘yan sa infection, superspreader event, totoo ‘yung sabi mo,” Dr. Guido David of the OCTA Research team said in a Super Radyo dzBB interview when sought for comment on the Black Nazarene feast possibly causing COVID-19 cases to spike anew.
“With circulating photos and reports of crowding in different areas around Quiapo, Secretary Francisco T. Duque III and the DOH reiterate the call for devotees to opt for the virtual masses and refrain from physically visiting Quiapo,” it said.
Asked whether or not the Feast of the Black Nazarene is a “super-spreader” event, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said, “We won’t know until cases are identified and analyzed.”
The Philippine Red Cross said they assisted 87 devotees who needed medical assistance.
They monitored the blood pressure of 69 devotees, attended to 15 minor cases, treated one devotee who had first degree burn, and gave psychosocial support to two others.
Before 12 midnight, the doors of the Quiapo Church were closed.
Devotees at Plaza Miranda were told to go home due to the 12 a.m. to 4 a.m. curfew in Manila imposed as Metro Manila was still under GCQ amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Clearing operations started as soon as the devotees left the area.
Roads which were closed on Saturday for the feast were opened to motorists on Sunday.
The image of the Black Nazarene will remain at the balcony of Quiapo Church on Sunday for devotees to view.
The January 9 feast day of the Black Nazarene is traditionally attended by thousands of devotees who attend the Pahalik (kissing of the image) and the Mass at Quirino Grandstand in Luneta before the huge procession called Traslacion is held ending at Quiapo Church.