(Updated; Jan. 4, 2024, 3:09 p.m.) Filipinos were reminded that there is still a prevailing coronavirus pandemic after photos of the long queue outside the Quiapo Church or Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene despite the implementation of physical distancing protocols went viral Sunday.
Catholic devotees were captured lining up outside the Parish of Saint John the Baptist, also known as the Quiapo Church, to attend the “Misa Novenario” observed on January 3, six days before the annual “Traslacion.”
Traslacion, held every January 9, commemorates the transfer of the image of the Black Nazarene from Intramuros to the Minor Basilica in Quiapo. This image is deemed miraculous by its believers.
#Traslacion2020 is not the feast of the Black Nazarene. It commemorates the transfer of the image of the cross-bearing Christ from Intramuros to the Minor Basilica in Quiapo. The feast of the Black Nazarene is celebrated every Good Friday | via @alexisbromero
— Philstar.com (@PhilstarNews) January 9, 2020
This year, the annual procession is canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, more than a dozen masses would be held at Quiapo Church that day while other parishes are urged to observe the Catholic tradition in their own communities to prevent people from flocking to Manila.
The replica of the image of the Black Nazarene was brought to the Manila Cathedral in Intramuros, Manila last Saturday, where physical distancing measures were observed.
The image was also carried to the San Lazaro Hospital as part of the religious activities this month.
Meanwhile, local media outlets shared pictures of some scenes on the ground as Filipinos filled the streets to take part in the “Misa Novenario” days before the traslacion.
Pictures taken by The Philippine STAR, Rappler and GMA News prompted social media users to remind their fellow citizens to strictly observe the minimum health standards in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The queue in Quiapo also made its way to the trending list of local Reddit, a discussion and social news aggregation website.
Where’s Waldo? Catholic devotees line up, on Sunday, January 3, to enter Quiapo Church. May apat akong nabilugan na hindi naka-mask o hindi inayos lagay ang mask. Ilan nakita niyong violators?
“Ingat po mga deboto…. may pandemya pa po,” a Facebook user wrote in response to the pictures.
“I am a devoted Catholic but please observe physical distancing, wearing of face mask and face shield and always sanitize your hands, so everyone will be free from the virus. Ingat po kayong lahat and God bless us all!” wrote another Facebook user.
Apart from concerns on physical distancing, others also noticed what appeared to be an officer in camouflage attire not wearing his own face mask and face shield among the crowd.
The Inter-Agency Task Force for Emerging Infectious Diseases last month required the mandatory use of both face shields and face masks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
— kobe (@joshuaxkobe) January 3, 2021
“Awit sa pulis na nasa chin ang face mask lol (laugh out loud). Sa buong picture siya lang walang face mask,” another Facebook user claimed with a clown emoji.
“Yung sundalo/pulis pa talaga ang hindi naka face mask,” a different online user likewise wrote.
This was not the first time that concerns about crowding near Quiapo Church surfaced amid the pandemic.
Last September, large crowds of devotees were also seen observing the first Friday mass outside the Quiapo church despite authorities supposedly doing their “best” to enforce the protocols that time.
Majority of the devotees celebrated mass outside since the church can only accommodate a limited capacity due to the guidelines on gatherings.
Photos of the incident didn’t put some Filipinos at ease since practicing physical distancing is one of the safety measures in mitigating the risk of catching the virus which is easily transmissible.
The Department of Health requires everyone to have at least a one-meter distance from everyone, which is nearly equivalent to a motorcycle’s length.
Meanwhile, the United States’ Centers for Disease Control and Protection said that individuals should observe “at least 6 feet” or “about two arms’ length” distance from each other to mitigate the risk.
“Social distancing, also called ‘physical distancing,’ means keeping a safe space between yourself and other people who are not from your household,” its website said.
“Recent studies indicate that people who are infected but do not have symptoms likely also play a role in the spread of COVID-19. Since people can spread the virus before they know they are sick, it is important to stay at least 6 feet away from others when possible, even if you—or they—do not have any symptoms,” it further said.