1 devotee dead, 1,200 hurt

Jose Rodel Clapano - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – A 27-year-old devotee died after participating in the annual procession of the Black Nazarene in Manila yesterday, while more than 1,200 others were treated for injuries.

Authorities said Alex Fulyedo of Blumentritt, Manila had a seizure as he and his friends were resting near the Manila City Hall.

“The victim and his companions had just pulled out from the traslacion and were resting in front of SM Manila when, several minutes after, he suffered a seizure,” said Vergel Reyes, a staff of the Manila Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office.

Reyes said an ambulance of the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) happened to pass by and brought the victim to the nearby field hospital.

PRC secretary-general Gwendolyn Pang said Fulyedo was unconscious and had no pulse when doctors reached him. They tried to revive him but failed, she said.

“The victim’s companion said that he has a background of liver ailment. But his death was possibly caused by a heart attack,” Reyes added.

Earlier, a 58-year-old man died before the procession started.

Initial reports said Mauro Arabit, a candle vendor from Binagonan, Rizal, suffered heart attack while attending the early morning mass at the Quiapo Church.

The victim reportedly fainted and hit his head on the ground and lost consciousness. He was eventually declared dead on arrival at the Jose Reyes Memorial Medical Center due to acute coronary disease.

The PRC said it has attended to a total of 1,253 devotees suffering from various injuries or ailments after joining the procession.

More than 494 of them sustained wounds mostly on their feet, eye abrasions and dizziness, while others suffered hypoglycemia or low blood sugar.

Five cases complained of difficulty in breathing, hyperventilation, fainting and one case of possible rib fracture, while 214 others had their blood pressure taken. 

Last year, two devotees died during the traslacion while scores of others were injured.

A 15-year-old boy, on the other hand, was rescued in the Pasig River after reportedly falling off Jones Bridge during the procession.

Cresencio Ambat, of Baseco Compound, Tondo, Manila, was rescued by Coast Guard personnel while patrolling the Pasig River during the traslacion.

Ambat later said his friends dared him to jump from the bridge.

More orderly

Unlike in previous years, the start of the traslacion from the Quirino Grandstand was earlier, faster and more orderly.

Where chaos once marred the traslacion, the transfer of the black image of Christ was done more smoothly.

Unlike last year, this time there were no mamamasans (devotees) who made a mad scramble up the stage of the Quirino Grandstand to grab the image even before the Eucharistic celebration ended.

The organizers rescheduled the send off mass earlier at midnight. 

At the end of the Liturgy of the Hours – Morning Prayers at 5:30 a.m., security men went on stage, interlocking their arms to form a human barrier to prevent eager devotees from scrambling up to the altar.

But such security measures were not needed because the devotees stayed on and just waited for the image to be brought to the andas (carriage) at 5:30 a.m.

After rigging the two 10-meter abaca ropes to the carriage, the devotees began slowly dragging the andas from Quirino Grandstand shortly before 6 a.m.

Initially there was confusion among the devotees as to where to drag the andas. They were initially pulling the image toward T.M. Kalaw Street, when it was supposed to take Katigbak Drive. But this was immediately corrected and they followed the approved route.

Quiapo Church rector Hernando Coronel attributed the better turnout of the activities at the Quirino Grandstand to being “flexible” in planning the earlier send off.

He also credited yesterday’s send off outcome to having better communications with the delegations of devotees from 270 out of the estimated more than 400 balangays (group).

“My approach was to be consultative, inclusive and participatory. We also made it a point to make the Hijos del Nazareno (Sons of the Nazarene) involved and they were given the responsibility to give instructions to their members. We guided and empowered the Hijos del Nazarenos,” Coronel said.

Police said a million devotees attended the send off at the Quirino Grandstand.

The crowd began to swell as the procession made its way to Padre Burgos then to Taft Avenue in front of the Manila City Hall.

Upon reaching the Liwasang Bonifacio at the foot of Jones Bridge in the afternoon, the number of devotees went up to 1.3 million, excluding those who waited along the route.

Most of the devotees waited at the foot of Jones Bridge in Binondo and thousands more at Plaza Sta. Cruz going to Palanca Street in the seven-kilometer route of the procession.

As of 6: 45 p.m. yesterday, the procession had reached Arlegui Street in San Miguel.

Authorities said some 70,000 people were at the Quiapo Church waiting for the procession to conclude.

It was at the right turn to the narrow Dasmariñas Street in Binondo where the procession stalled for several minutes because of the sheer number of devotees trying to scramble up to the carriage.

There were a number of devotees, mostly women, who fainted and had to be literally lifted out of the area above the heads of people jampacked in a small space.

A number of devotees could be seen literally walking on the shoulders of other people and diving onto the andas which carried the ebony image of Christ.

At the tail end of the procession, a garbage truck followed with some 600 street sweepers of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) picking up the tons of garbage left by the devotees.

The MMDA said they hauled away six truckloads of garbage from the Quirino Grandstand alone, where the traditional “Pahalik” or kissing of the centuries-old image was held the night before yesterday’s procession.

Many Filipinos believe that the Black Nazarene holds miraculous healing powers, and make lifetime vows to join the annual parade of the ebony statue. The devotees are often stereotyped to be rowdy and fanatical.

Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, however, explained that they are the people who simply wanted to express their gratitude for favors granted. – Evelyn Macairan, Sheila Crisostomo, Ghio Ong, Mike Frialde, Jaime Laude

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