AROUND 250,000 devotees of the Black Nazarene remained at the Quirino Grandstand on Monday morning to participate in the traditional "Pahalik" or kissing of the Black Nazarene image, the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) said.

The estimated 435,000 devotees at 4 a.m. has gone down to 250,000 as of 8 a.m., according to the latest update of NCRPO. Meanwhile, at least 8,000 people are in the Quiapo church as they await for the arrival of the Black Nazarene.

The procession of the Black Nazarene (Traslacion) from the Quirino Grandstand going to the Quiapo Church started around 5:30 a.m. and is expected to last for 12 hours.

NCRPO spokesperson Kimberly Molitas said no untoward incident was recorded as of this posting.

Abandoned bag

In Carriedo, Manila, however, an abandoned backpack suspected to be an explosive device had brought fear to the public. But upon inspection, the police found out that the bag was only containing a Black Nazarene-printed shirt and a key chain.

In an interview, NCRPO Chief Oscar Albayalde said the public has nothing to be afraid of, maintaining that no clear and direct threat has been monitored against the celebration. But he urged the public to immediately report to the police any suspicious people and things in their surrounding so they can respond accordingly.

Albayalde said 4,760 policemen were deployed in Manila for the maintenance of peace, order and security during the Traslacion.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines, for its part, deployed 452 personnel, while the Bureau of Fire Protection fielded eight. Twenty-eight agents from the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency were also deployed.

The Philippine Coast Guard also posted 35 watercrafts along the Pasig River near Jones Bridge to respond on devotees' needs.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Red Cross said that as of 7 a.m., they have responded to 25 devotees who experienced dizziness, hypertension and minor bruises they obtained during in the event, among others. (Sunnex)