Litter-Free Observance of Traslacion Still an Elusive Dream – Ecowaste Coalition

10 January 2024, Quezon City. The re-enactment of Traslacion after a three-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic left heaps of garbage behind for waste and sanitation workers and volunteers to sweep and clean. A litter-free observance of the mammoth feast remains elusive, the EcoWaste Coalition lamented.

“Nakamamangha ang ipinapakitang debosyon at pagsasakripisyo ng mga deboto ng Mahal na Poong Nazareno. Tunay na walang kupas ang kanilang nag-aalab na pananalig. Sa kabilang banda ay labis na nakalulungkot ang sangkaterbang basura na naiwan sa Luneta at sa lansangan ng Quiapo na tila pagpapakita ng kakulangan sa pagrespeto sa kapwa tao at kay Inang Kalikasan,” observed Ochie Tolentino, Zero Waste Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Napakailap pa rin yung pinapangarap na luntiang Traslacion. Gayunpaman, buo ang aming pag-asa na sasapit din ang Traslacion mula sa kasalukuyang makalat patungo sa maaliwalas na hinaharap sa pakikipag kapatiran ng mga deboto at iba pa,” she said.

In Rizal Park, venue for the traditional “Pahalik,” vigil and “Misa Mayor” led by Manila Archbishop Jose Cardinal Advincula, designated personnel from Manila’s Department of Public Services (DPS) and the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and volunteers from the EcoWaste Coalition and the Samahan ng mga Mangangalakal sa Capulong from Tondo, Manila found the parade grounds and adjacent streets littered with garbage despite the park’s “clean as you go” policy.

An ugly carpet of trash came into view soon after the newly-designed “andas” for the revered image of the Black Nazarene left the Quirino Grandstand for the massive procession. Among the most discarded items found were single-use plastic bags, bottles, cups, cutlery and plates, including non-biodegradable polystyrene food containers, fast-food paper packaging, leftovers, soiled diapers, improvised sleeping materials, cigarette butts and disposable vapes (the park has “no smoking/vaping” policy).

According to Manila Mayor Hone Lacuna-Pangan, more than 1,000 garbage bags were collected from the Quirino Grandstand area alone following the Misa Mayor when devotees began the procession to Quiapo Church.

The streets of Quiapo, the center of the feast, were littered with lots of PET water bottles, plastic and paper food containers, and food waste. DPS personnel untiringly picked up after the devotees, especially at the tail end of the long procession.

Aside from recognizing the hard work of government personnel, the Green Brigade Team of Quiapo Church and volunteers from the private sector, the EcoWaste Coalition also cited the role of waste pickers, many of them unorganized, who picked up discarded PET bottles to sell to junk shops.

“If not collected, these PET bottles would have ended up in landfills or in storm drains and esteros, aggravating the risk of flooding in the City of Manila and worsen plastic and microplastic pollution in Manila Bay and elsewhere,” said Tolentino.

Despite the disappointing mounds of garbage in Rizal Park and in Quiapo, the group is confident that the situation will improve in the coming years as more devotees of the Black Nazarene listen to the call for ecological conversion amid growing plastic pollution and climate change.

According to the group, “the various parishes and basic ecclesial communities (BECs) have an important role in promoting ecological conversion among the devotees, particularly in deepening their awareness and practice of the shared responsibility to care for and protect God’s creation, in line with the Laudato Si of Pope Francis, during and beyond the Traslacion.”

The DPS has yet to release the volume of garbage collected for the duration of Traslacion 2024. During the pre-pandemic Traslacion in 2020, the DPS reported collecting 68 truckloads or over 330 metric tons of garbage.

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