THOUSANDS of devotees began crowding Manaoag, acknowledged to be the biggest pilgrimage center in the Philippines, since Maundy Thursday with the crowd swelling to up to one million through Easter Sunday.
The center of devotion was the Basilica Minore of Lady of Manaoag atop a hill where the ivory image of the Virgin Mary, said to have come from Mexico, in the 1700, is enshrined.
Security was tight. The police deployed personnel in all corners of the premises of the basilica and the Virgin’s Well in Barangay Pugaro.
P/Chief Inspector Dave Mahilum, chief of police of Manaoag, said because of the big inflow of devotees, their hands have been full and could not afford to relax their guard even for a minute against potential troublemakers.
Most of the pilgrims arrived in Manaoag loaded on jeepneys, cars and buses and while hundreds came on foot since Thursday and Friday under the scorching heat of the sun.
The devotees came from various parts of Pangasinan and from the provinces of Nueva Ecija, Tarlac, Zambales and Metro Manila, including Baguio and La Union.
Anticipating the hordes of devotees to Manaoag during the Holy week, the Pangasinan Police Provincial Office augmented the police force of Manaoag with more personnel, said P/Chief Inspector Norman Florentino, chief of the police-community relations of Pangasinan.
The Philippine Army based in Camp Tito Abat in Manaoag, also deployed its reservists to help the local government maintain traffic in the streets and implement security measures for the visitors. (Leonardo Micua)