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Safety concerns move Black Nazarene thanksgiving procession ahead of schedule

Thousands of Black Nazarene devotees flocked to Quiapo Church in Manila yesterday for the annual thanksgiving procession that was moved one day ahead of its original schedule in the interest of participants’ safety.

Barefoot and clad mostly in their maroon and yellow devotee shirts, the crowd shoved against each other to get near the image that was taken out as early as 4 a.m. but had to be returned to the church due to the huge number of people waiting outside.

The image of the Nazareno was taken out again at 5 a.m. and moved toward Quezon Boulevard instead of Evangelista Street due to the huge crowd.

There were about 15,000 devotees at the start of the activity that decreased to 3,000 at 10:30 a.m., Superintendent Jackson Tuliao of the Manila Police District said.

“There are usually more devotees at the start of the activity but it naturally decreases because those who have already come near the image opt to return home afterwards,” Tuliao said in an interview.

The thanksgiving procession is a prelude to the “Traslacion” procession on January 9, which is expected to draw more devotees.

Last year, there were about 11 million devotees who participated in the procession, according to estimates from the Manila Risk Reduction Management Office (MDDRMO).

Reports said church officials moved the thanksgiving procession to December 31, saying that January 1 is unfit for the activity as the streets may be filled with trash and leftover firecrackers and some participants may still be under the influence of alcohol from the New Year’s Eve celebration.