Friday, January 14, 2011

PAGASA expects good weather for Santo Niño fest

Except for scattered rainshowers, devotees marking the feast of the Santo Niño can look forward to good weather this weekend.

The Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said there is no major weather disturbance affecting the country at this time.

"May pag-ulan pero hindi kalakasan (Expect some rains but these will not be heavy)," PAGASA forecaster Ben Oris said in an interview on government-run dzRB radio.

He said the rains will be due to a northeast monsoon and the tail-end of a cold front.

Meanwhile, the Manila Police District (MPD) went on heightened alert Saturday morning for the festivities marking the Santo Niño (Christ Child) Feast.

Radio dzBB's Allan Gatus reported the MPD will deploy some 800 personnel to sites of the festivities, especially Manila’s Tondo and Pandacan districts.

MPD spokesman Chief Inspector Erwin Margarejo said the 800 police personnel will include uniformed and undercover policemen.

He added some police personnel will help manage traffic especially in areas where the processions will pass.

Also, Margarejo reminded residents not to engage in drinking sprees lest they cause trouble during the festivities.

Coast guard on alert

The Philippine Coast Guard was also on alert for the fluvial parade in festivities marking the the Santo Niño Feast in Tondo, Manila and in Cebu province this weekend.

In Manila, a report by radio dzBB's Carlo Mateo said Coast Guard commandant Admiral Wilfredo Tamayo appealed to devotees against overloading the boats to be used for the parade.

The report said Tamayo also ordered Coast Guard teams to keep watch over similar activities this weekend in the Visayas – including the provinces of Aklan and Cebu.

Devotees of the Santo Niño in Tondo are to board boats bearing images of the Christ Child for the fluvial parade this Sunday. The parade will be from is Pier 2 to 18 at the Manila Bay, the report said.

Tamayo said he has ordered search-and-rescue units and divers' teams to be on guard and respond quickly if any untoward incident happens.

He said he does not want a repeat of the tragedy that occurred during past fluvial parades where many devotees drowned because the boats were overloaded.

In Cebu, meanwhile, dzBB's Cebu affiliate reported the Coast Guard there has deployed teams to keep watch over some 91 vessels taking part in this weekend's fluvial parade.

The Cebu Coast Guard tightened security for boats, barring all unregistered bancas from taking part in the activities.

Final touches for Sinulog

Also in Cebu, organizers finalized security arrangements for the Sinulog Festival in honor of the Santo Niño.

The Union of Catholic Asian News reported at least two million people, including President Benigno Aquino III, are expected to join Sunday’s grand parade. 

“Having the president attend the Sinulog is a security nightmare, but we are prepared to strengthen our security plan," said Sinulog Foundation head Ricky Ballesteros. 

The Chinese-Filipino community in the city said it is also joining the festivities, adding it is already part of their lives and a chance for them to be one with the people of Cebu despite differences in traditions and beliefs.

Dickson Lim, director of the Cebu Filipino-Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said Chinese families who believe in the Christian faith have reason to celebrate.

Those who are not Christians also have their own way of celebrating, he said.

“It gives us a feeling that we are truly part of the Cebuano community," he said.

For his part, newly installed Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma called on devotees to be inspired and work to promote peace.

“I pray that our devotion to the Santo Niño may also make us work for peace…. All of us must suffer because of hatred but it is the little ones who suffer the most," he said.

Guidelines for devotees

In a bid to ensure the observance of the tradition goes smoothly, Catholic Church officials in Manila have issued guidelines for pedicabs in this weekend's processions in the city's Tondo district.

The Manila Archdiocese asked devotees bringing Santo Niño images on their pedicabs to stay at the back of the procession or join a "Pistang Jologs" on Jan. 29.

"We ask those bringing Santo Niño images on pedicabs to stay at the back of the procession, or to join the Pistang Jologs on Jan. 29 where they can bring as many images of the Santo Niño as they want," it said in its website. 

Highlighting the activities on Saturday, the actual feast day, are Masses and mass baptisms and confirmations, as well as street dancing and a Mardi Gras.

At 3 p.m. Saturday, the devotees will attend a pagoda and "Prusisyong Lakbayaw Paikot sa mga Pangunahing Kalye sa Tondo (Procession around the Streets of Tondo)."

On Sunday, a predawn procession is scheduled at 4:30 a.m. and another at 6 p.m., while hourly Masses will be held from Saturday midnight to 11 p.m.

The Tondo activities are among various religious celebrations Filipinos around the country will hold in honor of the Christ Child.

Plastic banderitas 

Meanwhile, an ecological group called on the city government and local communities not to use thin-film plastic fiesta banderitas (buntings).

EcoWaste Coalition’s call came amid intensified preparations by residents in the city’s Pandacan and Tondo districts for the event.

“The imprudent use of new thin-film plastic bags as fiesta buntings, which are surely doomed to the dump site after the festivities, is not acceptable amid the garbage and climate woes that the nation are trying to come to grips with," said group president Roy Alvarez.

Instead of the single-use buntings, the group suggested the use of eco-friendly substitutes that can be washed, stored and reused.

Also, it requested politicos to refrain from putting up “happy fiesta" banners on streets, electric posts and trees, stressing that such banners only add to street clutter and have become environmental nuisances.

Residents and neighborhoods have started decorating streets and alleys with plastic buntings for the feasts of Santo Niño de Pandacan and the Santo Niño de Tondo.

The EcoWaste, whose Basura Patrol visited Pandacan Tuesday afternoon, said some 55,000 pieces of red thin-film bags were used to decorate a 500-meter portion of Narciso St. in Barangay 848, Zone 92.

In Barangay 833, Zone 91, village councilor Rez Cabunilas said some 15,000 bags were used to decorate Pandacan and Talundon Streets.

Some 15,000 pieces were used along Adolfo Street and another 16,000 pieces in Laura Street, both in Barangay 862, Zone 94.

On the other hand, EcoWaste commended the Santo Niño de Pandacan Parish for the smart use of reusable cloth decorations that are adorning the church patio.

Parish maintenance staff said the multi-color cloth-based decors have been in use since 2005. — LBG, GMANews.TV

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