The annual procession for the Feast of the Black Nazarene, otherwise known as Traslacion, will be suspended this year after President Rodrigo Duterte appealed to the Catholic Church to forgo mass gatherings related to the religious feast to avoid becoming a COVID-19 super spreader event.
“We are complying because of the health situation,” Quiapo Church rector, Monsignor Hernando Coronel, said in an interview on Wednesday.
The National Task Force (NTF) Against COVID-19, in a resolution, ordered the temporary closure of the church from January 7 to 9, as Metro Manila was placed under Alert Level 3 due to soaring coronavirus infections.
“We are once more in another surge. We pray for an end to this pandemic. For those who passed away, we commend them to the mercy of the Nazareno. For those who are sick, a fast recovery. For those affected by economic hardships, help from a concerned community.
For those affected by Typhoon Odette, compassion from those more blessed in life. We continue responding in faith and charity as long as this pandemic persists,” Coronel said.
Meanwhile, Rev. Fr. Danichi Hui, parochial vicar of the basilica, admitted they were saddened by the government’s decision not to open the Quiapo Church to the public for three days.
“We have planned this event six months ago. We have prepared and done all the necessary protocols in order for us to celebrate the Feast Day of the Nazareno safely. There was also coordination with the police and other government agencies, and approval from our LGU (local government unit),” Hui said in a separate interview.
However, he said, they would heed the government’s call, citing that the church has a moral obligation and social responsibility to help contain the pandemic.
“We will cooperate with them and even offer our help in case they do not have plans yet to organize our faithful. But we are confident that they know what they are doing and rely on them to disseminate the info that we will close our Church and that there will be no congregation during the Fiesta,” Hui said.
On the other hand, Fr. Douglas Badong, Quiapo Church parochial vicar, appealed for the understanding of the devotees.
“To the devotees, let us try to broaden the understanding. Let us meditate, let us pray on what is the message of the Lord Nazarene in our situation. Just be careful when we go out. We know the situation, what you will face when you go around Quiapo,” he said in a virtual press briefing.
Badong, however, said the church would reopen after January 9 at 30 percent seating capacity.
Manila Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso said there would be no procession of replicas before the feast on January 9, no ‘Pahalik’ and no traditional procession of the icon itself, even as physical masses have been canceled.
Domagoso also signed an executive order for the implementation of a liquor ban in connection with the Feast of the Black Nazarene.
He said this would be “effective 6 p.m. of January 8 until 6 a.m. of January 10.”
For his part, Dr. John Wong, an expert advising the government on the pandemic, urged the government to focus on several super spreader events such as the Traslacion and the Sto. Niño fiesta this January and the Chinese New Year celebration in February.
These potential super spreaders can lead to higher surges, Wong said.