January 10, 2013 12:00am
A mammoth crowd waiving white towels and handkerchiefs and shouting “Viva Señor Nazareno” joined this year’s Black Nazarene procession that started at 7:12 a.m. yesterday at the Quirino Grandstand in Rizal Park.
Trouble erupted early as several devotees eager to climb the Black Nazarene, despite tight security and a double railing barrier, breached the police line before the procession started, causing injuries to some.
The procession reached the Manila City Hall at noon, five hours after it left Luneta.
At that point, at least 200 injuries had been reported by three medical teams stationed at the Mehan Garden and the top of Quezon Bridge.
An hour and a half later, the procession negotiated the MacArthur Bridge in Sta. Cruz on its way to Villalobos street, but were stopped midway by rowdy devotees.
Caritas Manila head Fr. Anton Pascual said that it has been difficult to deal with rowdy devotees during processions and understanding the psyche of the crowd is an essential requirement.
Pascual endured a 12-hour stint on top of the carriage about three years ago as he was assigned to implement crowd control armed only with a megaphone.
Initially, personnel of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and the Manila Police District (MPD) occupied the southbound lane of the bridge to cordon off the people, because the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) had earlier warned that the span, which on normal days could only accommodate 20 metric tons, could be loaded with people that could reach up to 50 metric tons.
However, the police were no match for the unruly crowd that broke the human barricade and occupied both lanes when the image of the Black Nazarene approached the bridge.
Senior Superintendent Estilles admitted that they were unable to stop the devotees from getting close to the image in an effort to grab the rope that pulled the carriage carrying the image and disrupting the Mass before the procession started.
But despite the hitches, the morning Mass was declared to have been “generally peaceful.”
Manila Mayor Alredo Lim appealed to those who may have had a drink not to join the procession and lamented that despite repeated appeals from organizers and authorities, some still opted to bring their children, unmindful of the hazards.
The Philippine National Police estimated the crowd at 10 million, two million more than last year.
At least 500,000 more waited at the Quiapo Church, the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene.
Quiapo Church rector Monsignor Clemente Ignacio said they have made security preparations no matter how big the crowd would be.
“We really beefed up on our security. We placed our marshals inside the grandstand and that is why the devotees failed to bring the railings down,” he said.
In his homily, Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle pointed out that there are people who place more importance on their material things than their relationship with the Lord.
He said the true devotee to the Black Nazarene could be known through the depth of his faith and a living relationship with Jesus.
Petty crimes, injuries recorded
As of 6 p.m. yesterday, eight cases of pickpocket were reported at the Police Community Precinct in Plaza Miranda, but officials said the number could go up.
The Fire Energy Paramedic Assistance Group stationed at the foot of Quezon Bridge recorded close to a hundred injuries, from cases of laceration to hypertension, even before noon.
The Philippine Red Cross (PRC) recorded 1,410 injuries and other health conditions.
One female devotee reportedly suffered a broken neck after she was trampled during the procession.
Several devotees were injured in front of the Mehan Garden when the rope pulling the carriage got entangled and at least seven individuals lost consciousness.
PRC secretary general Gwendolyn Pang said this year’s celebration was “more orderly” compared to last year because the organizers and other concerned agencies were able to come up with a good plan.
Authorities said the problem is the lack of discipline among devotees.
Superintendent Franklin Gacutan, who supervised security at the McArthur Bridge, said injuries could have been minimized or even avoided had the people maintained order.
The MMDA reported that 157 have been treated for injuries as of 2 p.m. and close to 120 tons or 20 truckloads of garbage, mostly plastic water bottles, were collected by students and volunteers in Quirino Grandstand alone.
The MMDA has deployed 1,240 personnel along the procession route including rescue personnel, traffic enforcers and street sweepers.
Vendors occupied the stretch of Quezon Boulevard, Taft Avenue and other thoroughfares where the procession passed, piling up garbage.
Despite all the glitches, the PNP described the event as “normal and peaceful.”
Wednesday January 9th, 2013
January 9th, 2013
1 + 9 +2+0+1+3 = 16 = Stunning. Amazing. The power of God.
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