​Cagayan de Oro devotees ignore security threat for Black Nazarene Traslacion

Cagayan de Oro City – Tight security amid strong possibility of a terrorist attack didn’t dampen the fervor of thousands of devotees who participated in the Traslacion of the Black Nazarene here Jan. 9.

“We are actually on threat level-3 but we did not let it deter us from celebrating the feast of the Black Nazarene here in Cagayan de Oro City,” said Police Superintendent Lemuel B. Gonda, spokesperson of Police Regional Office 10 (PRO10).

Threat level 3 under the Terror Threat Advisory System of the Anti-Terrorism Council is when a terrorist attack is a strong possibility within a short period of time.

The Traslacion- Spanish for moving something from one place to another- also known as Callejeron started at the Saint Augustine Metropolitan Cathedral at around five o’clock in the morning. People walked about two kilometres towards the Jesus Nazareno Parish.

The Cagayan de Oro Black Nazarene is a gift from the Quiapo Church in Manila.

One of estimated 200 thousand who attended the religious procession was Jesicca Ruiz travelled from Gingoog City. “We cannot afford to travel and stay in Manila just to be part of the celebration of the Black Nazarene there, so here we are in Cagayan de Oro City, “she said adding that the huge crowd was “amazing.”

“It feels great to be a part of this event and we never regretted to have travelled for several hours just to be here. We also feel secure having hundreds of uniformed police personnel within the procession and on the side of the road,” said Ruiz.

Cagayan de Oro City, being part of Mindanao, is still under Martial Law which was declared on May 23 last year and extended up to Dec. 31, 2018. The declaration of Martial Law was triggered by intense fighting between the military and the combined elements of Maute and Abu Sayyaf groups after a botched serving of the warrant of arrest to ASG leader Isnilon Hapilon in Marawi City. The military declared victory in Marawi after five months of fighting but Martial Law remained.

Gonda said “the threat level had been up months before the festivity was even planned, so we had ample time to prepare and plan adequate security preparations.”

Gonda said he mobilized some 1,000 police personnel from the PRO10, Regional Intelligence Division, Regional Mobile Force Battalion, fresh graduate on Field Training Program, station personnel from the Cagayan de Oro City Police Office (COCPO) and trainees.

“We deployed enough troops that were tasked to implement stricter security measures both in the critical areas and within the procession area just to ensure safety for the devotees,” said Captain Joe Patrick Martinez, spokesperson of the 4th Infantry Division.

Aside from the police personnel and soldiers, personnel from the Road and Traffic Management (RTA), and other volunteers groups helped secure the procession route.

Liquor ban was imposed along the 300-meter radius from the route of the Traslacion, which started at around 5:00 in the afternoon of January 8 and ended noon of January 9. Other security measures included ban on carrying backpack, wearing hats or caps and sunglasses.

The tight security paid off. No untoward incidents were reported.