The annual Traslacion, first held on January 9, 2015, has been suspended for the third straight year in 2023 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which has infected and killed scores of thousands in this largely Catholic country since March 2020.
The Traslacion—from the Spanish to mean transfer—was replaced nonetheless by a 3-kilometer “Walk of Faith” from the bayside Quirino grandstand to the minor basilica in Quiapo, home to the 17th century life-sized image of the Black Nazarene, built by the Franciscans in 1586 using bamboo and nipa materials and has survived two major fires and the 1945 bombing of the capital in World War II.
Parallel to the suspension, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., himself a Catholic, declared January 9 a special non-working day in Manila to allow devotees to join the Feast of the Black Nazarene activities.
Church officials, who decided on the replacement on January 8, have said “Even without our traditional procession, the Walk of Faith will be added to our schedule of activities in the early morning of January 8.”
Fr. Earl Allyson Valdez, attached priest of the Quiapo Church where the miraculous holy image of Jesus of Nazarene is enthroned, has said the “Walk” involves devotees who will walk from the Quirino Grandstand to Quiapo Church without the image of the Black Nazarene.
“It will be well and organized like a holy and majestic procession with physical distance, the image of the Black Nazarene will not be there, but the attendees are invited to bring candles and small images of the Black Nazarene,” Valdez said.
The Basilica and the local government of Manila have also agreed on the strict enforcement of the wearing of masks by every attendee.
On January 9, 2015, the first Traslación was held when the sacred image was solemnly transferred from the old church to the new and unfinished church building.
The Traslacion reenacts the “solemn transfer” of the Black Nazarene statue from a church in Intramuros to Quiapo Church in 1767, according to the Quiapo Church website.
The wooden statue—carved by an anonymous Mexican artist in the 16th century—was brought to the Philippines in 1606, 85 years after the islands were discovered for Europe by Portuguese navigator Fernando Magallanes or Ferdinand Magellan, who sailed under the Spanish flag and brought Christianity to the archipelago.
The icon, renowned in the Philippines, is considered by many Filipino Catholics to be miraculous; mere touching it is reputed to cure disease.
The Quiapo Church, in the heart of the capital, is along Quezon Boulevard, was built by the Franciscans in 1586 using bamboo and nipa materials.
Alex Irasga, adviser of Quiapo Church, reminded the people that kissing the image of the Black Nazarene was prohibited during the “pagpupugay” (viewing or touching) at the Quirino Grandstand in Manila which started last weekend.
“Kissing of the image is not allowed, but they can touch the image or wipe it with their towel or handkerchief,” he said.
Church personnel were near the image to ensure that no one would kiss the image during the entire event.
The “pagpupugay” started at 1 a.m. of Jan. 7 until the feast day today.
There were three lanes, separating males, females and persons with disabilities, senior citizens and the pregnant. (See full story online at manilastandard.net)
“The devotees would queue up with physical distancing and would disinfect before and after touching the image of the Black Nazarene,” Irasga said.
The image was on stage at the center of the Quirino Grandstand, site of many official government functions and where Pope John Paul II beatified San Lorenzo Ruiz in February 198
There were also first aid teams and medical stations at the venue for emergencies.
The National Capital Region Police Office also deployed 5,559 cops at Quiapo Church, Quirino Grandstand and set up law enforcement checkpoints while 175 personnel from the Bureau of Fire and Protection-NCR and Joint Task Force-NCR have been assigned as support units.
Police prohibited vendors within the vicinity of the Quiapo Church while churchgoers were not allowed to bring backpacks and colored canisters. Only transparent plastic bags and water bottles were allowed.
The airspace in the vicinity of Quirino Grandstand and Quiapo Church had also been declared “no fly zones” from Friday noon until noon of Jan. 10, while ports and waterways near these areas were secured as well.
A traffic rerouting scheme has also been enforced from 10 p.m. Friday until tomorrow, while a liquor ban is on from January 7 to January 9.
Police authorities said all permits to carry firearms outside of residence were also suspended in Manila beginning 12:01 a.m. of Jan. 5 to 12:01 a.m. of January 10.
Only members of the PNP, Armed Forces of the Philippines, and other law enforcement agencies performing official duties were allowed to carry firearms.