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CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines – The annual Traslacion in Cagayan de Oro on Tuesday, January 9, had a relatively low turnout, with the number of Catholic devotees dropping by around 84% compared to the previous year.
After attracting a crowd of at least 110,000 in 2023, the annual religious event saw a significant reduction, with only about 18,000 faithful participating in the religious procession.
Cagayan de Oro staged the Traslacion a month after extremists carried out a bomb attack, killing four people and injuring several dozen others attending a Catholic Mass at the state-run Mindanao State University (MSU) in Marawi City, more than 100 kilometers away.
Despite serious security concerns, thousands of devotees braved the relatively chilly morning weather to join the annual Black Nazarene procession in the city.
Although fewer compared to past years, thousands of religious devotees chanted “Viva Nazareno!” as a gesture of veneration to the life-size statue of a dark-hued Jesus Christ carrying the cross, as it was being brought to its home, the Jesus Nazareno Church in Barangay Lapasan.
Colonel Evan Viñas, spokesperson of the Cagayan de Oro Police Office (COCPO), said some 18,000 Catholic devotees joined the annual procession from the Saint Augustine Metropolitan Cathedral, where it had been brought the night before the event.
“The crowd is smaller this year compared to last year’s Traslacion, which drew more than 110,000 people,” Viñas said.
He attributed the low turnout to the non-declaration of a special non-working day in Cagayan de Oro, which, he said, would have allowed thousands of government workers in the predominantly Catholic city to join Cagayan de Oro’s version of Quiapo’s Traslacion.
Last week, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. declared January 9 as a special non-working day in Manila in time for the Traslacion.
The police in Northern Mindanao had expected 150,000 devotees to attend Cagayan de Oro’s Traslacion and had set up an elaborate security plan, deploying 1,000 policemen and soldiers to secure the procession.
The security preparation even included a bomb drill on Sunday, January 8, and the measures implemented during the procession included the jamming of all mobile communication signals for at least four hours.
Police said the security preparations were made with the December 3, 2023 Marawi bombing in mind.
“I am not scared of these bomb threats. My devotion to the Black Nazarene will protect me,” said 51-year-old Luz Torralba, who came from Panglao, Bohol, to take part in Cagayan de Oro’s Traslacion.
Torralba, a devotee since 2009, has been coming to Cagayan de Oro with her small Black Nazarene figurine and plans to join the Traslacion again next year. – Rappler.com