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Terror warnings fail to deter Black Nazarene following

MANILA (UCAN) : Millions of pilgrims joined the procession of the Black Nazarene on January 9, in spite of a warning from the president, Noynoy Aquino, of possible terrorist attacks.

Monsignor José Clemente Ignacio, rector of Quiapo Church which houses the famous statue, said the warning could have made people even more determined to attend the event, which began in Rizal Park and ended at the Minor Basilica.

Initial estimates put the number of participants at six to seven million.

The priest admitted that organisers had considered canceling this year’s event in view of the warning of a possible terror strike.

“But the consensus was to go ahead with the Mass,” said Father Ignacio.

The Philippine government, meanwhile, defended its decision to issue the terror warning. Deputy presidential spokesperson, Abigail Valte, said at a news briefing that as far as the government is concerned, the threat was considered credible.

“The president felt it imperative that he should warn the public,” she said, dismissing accusations that Aquino was scare mongering.

She said a temporary halt to mobile phone services in the area covered by the procession route was an additional security measure and was necessary to ensure that nothing untoward happened during the procession.

Archbishop Luis Tagle, however, thanked Aquino for ensuring the gathering was peaceful and orderly.

The new archbishop of Manila acknowledged that many among the participants came not just to celebrate, but also to bring their prayers, problems and other wishes. He also invited everyone to pray for the victims of disasters, especially those affected by recent catastrophes in Mindanao.

“The image of the Black Nazarene tells us how the power of God through the Holy Spirit can help us endure hardship in life,” Archbishop Tagle said.

The director general of the National Police, Nicanor Bartolome, said after the celebration of the feast that the next big festivity on the calendar for January would be in honour of the Santo Niño.

The most popular of these are the Sinulog in Cebu, Dinagyang in Iloilo, Ati-Atihan in Aklan and the Feast of the Santo Niño in Manila’s Tondo district on January 15.

Father Maglore Placer, parish priest of Boracay Island, said January should be declared as the month of Santo Niño.

“The declaration of January as Santo Niño month should be complimented by the Catholic Church and the state,” said Father Placer.

Jocelyn Evangelio, spokesperson of the Boracay Ati-Atihan Tribal Organisation, said the community is grateful that their practices are being integrated into the Santo Niño festivities.

“We see it as an encouraging experience, as we feel that our customs are being respected and preserved. We hope that the festivity will continue for many more years,” said Evangelio.