Black Nazarene Devotees Asked to Have Mercy and Compassion for the Environment, Avoid Waste

Manila. As the nation prepares for the acclaimed largest religious procession in the country, the Black Nazarene translacion, a waste and pollution watchdog asked participants to show mercy and compassion for the environment and fellow devotees by leaving wasteful habits behind.

The EcoWaste Coalition, through a symbolic procession this morning in the vicinity of the Quiapo Church in Manila City, blasted this call in keeping with the theme of the papal visit, “Mercy and Compassion”, and in heralding the first commemoration of the Zero Waste Month every January of each year beginning in 2015.

Featuring the “Basura Monster”, the Coalition’s personification of the monstrosity of the country’s garbage problem, the group and volunteers from Buklod Tao assembled in Plaza Miranda while wielding placards and a huge banner with the call “Maawa at Mahabag: Kalingain ang Kalikasan, Basura ay Iwasan” (Have Mercy and Compassion: Care for the Environment, Waste Not).

“It’s but fitting that we begin the year by honoring the Creator through celebrating Jesus the Nazarene’s foremost character traits mercy and compassion by way of keeping the integrity of His Creation by observing God’s command to Adam our forefather to “dress it and keep it” (Genesis 2:15),” said Tin Vergara, Zero Waste Program Officer of the EcoWaste Coalition.

The Coalition has observed that “every year, the procession of the Black Nazarene attracts millions of barefooted devotees and enterprising food and beverage vendors who sadly leave on its trail voluminous amount of trash at the end of the day.”

Last year, reports have it that the approximated 10 million translacion participants left more than 330 tons of garbage, cleared along the procession trail after the event.

Meanwhile, the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act or Republic Act 9003 and the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Regulation No. 96-008 both explicitly prohibit littering in public places. The MMDA regulation in Section 2 even prohibited such unsanitary acts as urinating, defecating, and spitting in public areas.

To address the garbage and even sanitation issues related to the Nazarene procession, EcoWaste Coalition released a list of waste prevention and sanitation tips addressed to the devotees, vendors, and other concerned groups and individuals who will take part in this year’s massive assembly of procession participants.

“We request one and all, especially the Black Nazarene devotees, to bear the spiritual fruits of mercy and compassion as we observe the feast and take part in the translacion by way of being a part of the solution to the persisting garbage problem related to the famed procession,” Vergara said.

The EcoWaste Coalition put forward the following eco-tips to ease the waste and sanitation challenge that is expected to happen on January 9:

I.                    For the devotees and everyone else: 1) abstain from smoking to avoid cigarette butt litter and if you do, please don’t toss butts on the ground; 2) if you chew gum, put it in a bin after you’re done with it; 3) do not spit on walls and other spots; 4) do not urinate in the streets; 5) return used food and beverage containers, including bamboo skewers, to the vendors; 6) put your discards into the designated bins if available or bring them home for proper segregation, reuse, recycling, and composting; and 7) bring a reusable bag for “pasalubong” to cut on plastic waste.

II.                  For vendors: 1) refrain from using single-use disposable containers; 2) bring your own “sako” for your discards; and 3) make a final sweep of your vending area before you leave.

III.                For food and beverage givers: 1) pack meals in biodegradable packaging such as banana leaves or serve meals, as well as drinks, in reusable containers; and 2) collect all food leftovers for “kaning baboy.”

IV.                For the medical, security, fire and emergency personnel and volunteers, and the media: 1) bring your own “baon” in reusable containers and take them home afterward; 2) do not dispose of your food and beverage discards in Quiapo, next to your makeshift tents or vehicles.

The new year is ushered in by 3 important celebrations: the Feast of the Black Nazarene on 9 January; the “Mercy and Compassion” themed pontifical visit from 15 to 19 of the month; and the Zero Waste Month commemoration as per Proclamation No. 760 issued by President Benigno S. Aquino III on 5 May 2014.