MANILA, Philippines — An official of the Quiapo Church yesterday encouraged the estimated thousands who joined the celebration of the Feast of the Black Nazarene to observe self-quarantine, and check if they developed any symptoms of COVID-19.
Quiapo Church parochial vicar Fr. Douglas Badong saw nothing wrong if the devotees who flocked to the religious event last Saturday would stay in their homes for a few days.
The Department of Health (DOH) had called on those who went to the Feast of the Black Nazarene to observe themselves for possible symptoms of COVID-19, after seeing videos and photos of devotees violating health protocols, particularly physical distancing.
“I find the recommendation OK. There is nothing wrong if they suggested that the devotees who went to Quiapo undergo self-quarantine. That is their recommendation as medical experts and we respect that,” said Badong.
“We should take care and observe because the devotees were part of the crowd, they were beside strangers, people whom they did not know. They could observe their health, if they show any symptoms in the coming days,” he added.
The church official also said he does not believe that devotees of the Black Nazarene were “super spreaders” of the virus.
Instead, he believes that they are “super spreaders of hope” especially at this time when there is no anti-COVID-19 vaccine legally available in the country, “the people are only able to cling to their faith in the Black Nazarene.”
Archdiocese of Manila apostolic administrator Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo said, “The discipline of the devotees is truly remarkable. They expressed their devotion by coming even at great sacrifice but they are very considerate of the protocols and very patient indeed. It cannot be said that the devotees of Nazareno are unruly.”
While there were instances wherein people broke the physical distancing rule such as during the sprinkling of the holy water, or when senior citizens were present, and adults brought children, Badong said the celebration of the feast day of the Black Nazarene was a success.
As for those who brought children to the church, he said these people should have been detected and stopped at their respective barangays.
“It breaks our hearts because after waiting in line for a long time, when they reach the control point (at Quiapo Church) they would only be sent home. But in the first place, the barangay officials should not have let them leave their community. Once they reach the doors of Quiapo Church, we could no longer close the doors or send them away since they are already here and we believe that they are safe in the church,” the priest added.
As of yesterday morning, the Quiapo Church’s Command Center was still gathering data to get an estimate on the volume of people who attended the feast celebration, but it was possible the number reached 400,000 since there were already people gathered along the streets, outside Quiapo Church as early as 2 a.m. of Jan. 9.
On behalf of Pope Francis, Papal Nuncio Charles John Brown yesterday expressed gratitude to everyone who made last Saturday’s celebration of the Feast of the Black Nazarene a success despite the presence of COVID-19.
“We thank God for the gift of the very successful Traslacion of the Black Nazarene yesterday. In behalf of Pope Francis, thank you volunteers who worked so hard to make sure that in this time of COVID-19 the Traslacion was done in a safe manner as possible. So may God bless you. I thank you in behalf of Pope Francis,” said Brown.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) yesterday said police officers who were deployed during the Traslacion over the weekend should monitor themselves for any symptoms as it was possible that they had been exposed during what experts earlier called a “super spreader” event.
PNP deputy chief for administration Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar said there was no need to order cops to undergo mandatory quarantine after enforcing protocols in the event as long as they wore face masks and shields.
“I don’t think (they need mandatory quarantine). They wore face masks and shields, which made them protected,” Eleazar told The STAR.
Eleazar had announced yesterday that the PNP was requiring quarantine to all cops who were not wearing face masks and shields after being exposed to a person positive for COVID-19.
While the PNP considers cops deployed during the Traslacion “protected” as long as they wore face masks and shields, Eleazar said they have to continue observing health standards and “monitor themselves for any symptoms.” – Marc Jayson Cayabyab, Elizabeth Marcelo, Neil Jayson Servallos