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Pampanga braces for influx of tourists, pilgrims

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO, Pampanga — Provincial officials and residents here are anticipating some 60,000 local and foreign tourists and pilgrims to flock to four sites famous for mock crucifixions and self-flagellation on Good Friday.

Some 20 people are expected to be crucified Friday in Barangays San Juan, Sta. Lucia and San Pedro Cutud, known as the main “Golgotha” in this city, and Barangay Sto. Tomas in Angeles, City, officials said.

Ben Enaje, who portrayed the role of Jesus Christ 14 times and was nailed to a wooden cross 27 times, will again lead nine other devotees in Barangay San Pedro Cutud to reenact the passion of Christ and his death in Calvary.

With the large number of pilgrims and tourists expected, security arrangements have been put into place in the four crucifixion sites, the Pampanga Police Regional Office 3 said

Chief Supt. Raul D. Petrasanta, regional director, said officers have been deployed in other areas such as churches and transport terminals as well.

A total 1,560 PNP personnel have been tasked to man the 387 established police assistance desks and assistance centers throughout the region to guarantee public safety as well as peace and order, he said.

The PRO3 has also deployed special patrols in subdivisions and residential areas.

“The entire PNP is on heightened alert status on Good Friday, with about 90 percent to 95 percent of the police force to stay on duty,” he said.

Senior Supt. Marlon V. Madrid, Pampanga Police Provincial Office officer-in-charge said the Pampanga police will also take preemptive security measures against crime.

The office has deployed 500 police personnel to serve as security and traffic marshals in three crucifixions ites.

The reenactment of Christ’s crucifixion or “Maleldo”is a decade old yearly practice by devotees. The tradition originated in 1955 with the staging of the Via Crucis (Way of the Cross), a street play written in Kapampangan by Ricardo Navarro.

Maleldo executive committee chairman Harvey Quiwa said that as part of the city’s preparation for the crucifixion rites in the three barangays, the capitol has agreed to lend the entire compound for parking where pedicabs and calesas will be on standby for those going to the main site after the cut-off time of 10:00 a.m. It is also the main assembly area.

There are also Good Friday processions after the crucifixion rites at the San Fernando Cathedral.

Pilgrims and tourists were also expected to visit local churches for the Visita Iglesia, a Catholic tradition of visiting at least seven churches during Maundy Thursday.

Mayors Edwin Santiago and Edgardo Pamintuan of San Fernando and Angeles expressed optimitism that the observance of Good Friday will be peaceful and orderly.