MANILA, Philippines - President Duterte recognized yesterday Filipinos’ unwavering fight against injustice, corruption and abuse of power in his message for this year’s Traslacion (transfer) of the Black Nazarene.
A Roman Catholic who claims to believe in God but not in religion, Duterte said Filipinos keep their faith as they strive to fight the ills of society.
“We are neither exhausted by praying constantly nor do we ever falter in expressing our religious fervor,” he said. “Despite the passage of time, we relentlessly fight against injustice and lies, abuse of power and the corruption that eats up the soul.”
Duterte described as phenomenal the expression of faith of the millions of Black Nazarene devotees – that is gratitude, petition and sacrifice.
“Good fortunes are usually borne out of hard work and perseverance,” the President continued. “Prayers are likely answered because we do not give up or get tired of asking God for the fulfillment of our heart’s desires.”
Duterte said his administration has “deep empathy” for the “core of faith” that pushes the Filipino masses to sacrifice every single day, while “still finding a piece of themselves to honor God.”
He said the Black Nazarene, “who carried his cross to redeem the rest of humankind,” embodies such faith.
“In His tears, we see our sorrow; and in His agony, we find our solace and strength to triumph against the most insurmountable odds,” Duterte said.
“Through our fervent prayers for the country, let us join the Catholic faithful in the passionate observance of the Feast of the Black Nazarene,” he added.
Duterte has had issues with the Roman Catholic Church, which has been critical of his bloody war against illegal drugs and his health department’s policy on contraceptives.
The President has labeled the Church as a “hypocritical” institution and even claimed that religion is just about collecting money from believers.
More than 80 percent of Filipinos adhere to the Catholic faith, which the Spaniards brought to the Philippines in the 16th century.
Braving the bomb scare
Despite reported bomb threats, devotees of the Black Nazarene seemed to have even increased in number this year, Quiapo Church rector Monsignor Hernando Coronel said yesterday.
Seeing an orderly, though packed, procession in Manila streets yesterday, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) said no one jumped into the Pasig River from Jones Bridge, where the procession passed. But two children did, playfully, from the nearby MacArthur Bridge.
Despite reported bomb scares, around 800,000 devotees trooped to the Quirino Grandstand to get near, carry and even kiss the over 400-year-old image of the Black Nazarene in the procession back to Quiapo Church early yesterday morning.
The Manila Police District (MPD) Station 5 said about 8,000 devotees had gathered at the Quirino Grandstand area of Rizal Park in Manila by 5 a.m. yesterday.
Earlier, the Quiapo Church in downtown Manila was anticipating an even bigger number of devotees to attend various activities over an 11-day celebration of the Traslacion from Dec. 31 to Jan. 10.
Last year, participants in the celebration were estimated to have reached millions. For this year, which marks the 411th Feast of the Black Nazarene, the church is expecting an even bigger crowd.
“It increases every year,” Coronel said. “This is probably because the Black Nazarene has touched many lives. But then we have to see the figure after the procession.”
Meanwhile, PCG spokesman Commander Armand Balilo said it saw no untoward incident when the Traslacion passed through Jones Bridge yesterday afternoon.
Balilo said two children reportedly jumped into the Pasig River from MacArthur Bridge during yesterday’s procession, but the coast guard said it was just for fun.
“We were focused on securing Jones Bridge, where the Traslacion passed,” Balilo said. “At the Jones Bridge, there was no untoward incident. In fact, the procession was moving fast when it was passing through the bridge.”
The PCG deployed10 floating assets as an emergency measure. Besides this, the Philippine Red Cross, the PCG Auxiliary, Philippine National Police-Maritime Group (PNP-MG) and the Metro Manila Development Authority deployed a total of 10 other boats.
Bato: Security so far, so good
PNP chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa said no major untoward incident was reported during the Traslacion as of yesterday afternoon.
“So far so good,” Dela Rosa reported in a press briefing at the Camp Crame national police headquarters. “We are basing it on the reports of our field commanders, and they have not encountered major problems.” – With Evelyn Macairan, Emmanuel Tupas