CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – About 80,000 Roman Catholics in Misamis Oriental would be leaving home on Maundy Thursday to fulfill a vow to “commune” with the Creator in “silence.”
All of them would be climbing mountains, crossing rivers and seas to reach a destination – a scene prevalent in a predominantly Roman Catholic country during the annual observance of the Holy Week.
Provincial Governor Yevgeny Vincente Emano, of Misamis Oriental, said that about 20,000 people would likely trek the stiff “Sipaka” island in Talisayan, a coastal town east of Misamis Oriental.
He said that another 20,000 devotees are also expected to climb the 200 steps staircase to reach the top of the Divine Mercy Shrine in El Salvador City, west of Misamis Oriental.
In Cagayan De Oro City, about 30,000 believers would also negotiate the rivers (now shallow because of El Nino) in a bid to venerate the “Birhen sa Guadalupe” (Our Lady of Guadalupe) in the mountain village of Balubal.
The devotee has to walk four kilometers, cross the nine rivers, and climb mountains from the village of Tablon, 13 kilometers east of here, to reach the village of Balubal.
Florencia Arbes, 60, who come from Bukidnon, said that she had been fulfilling her vow to venerate the “Lady of Guadalupe” for about 30 years now.
“I am compelled to fulfill the obligation since the Lady of Guadalupe has given all the things that we wished, like good health, and success in family endeavor,” Arbes said.
Southwest of Balubal is the Malasag Reservation Area in the village of Cugman where about 30,000 people are expected to climb to the mountain peak to have a glimpse of the panoramic view of the Macajalar Bay area.
Aware of the largest movement of people, the law enforcers in Misamis Oriental has adopted security measures to ensure the safety of the devotees.
The local government units have also deployed emergency health personnel to extend the medical needs of the devotees in various convergence areas in the province.
Chief Supt. Lyndel Desquitado, the regional police director in Northern Mindanao, has ordered the provincial police command to deploy additional police personnel to secure the convergence areas in Misamis Oriental.
Apart from Misamis Oriental, the entire regional police command had been ordered on heightened alert in observance of the Holy Week, Desquitado said.
The Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) in Northern Mindanao has also issued various fire prevention advisories to keep the house safe when the devotees leave home during the Holy Week.
“Unplug all electrical outlets at home, lock doors, and ask a neighbor the favor to take notice of possible intruders when away from home,” the BFP said.
The local police also urged the devotees to report any suspicious looking persons in the crowd, be aware of items or bags being left unattended, and refrain from carelessly throwing cigarette butts, which might start a fire.
Desquitado said that the police were always working to secure the devotees. “The police are among the “million devotees in the country who pray for a quiet and safe observance of the Holy Week,” Desquitado said. Cris Diaz / PNA / northboundasia.com